N37bn: Senate raises alarm over possible collapse of NASS structure, tells Nigerians right action to take

The Senate Monday slammed critics of the N37 billion earmarked for renovation of the National Assembly Complex, declaring that the dilapidated structure may soon collapse if not urgently attended to, by way of structural reinforcement.

It also admonished the critics to direct their criticisms to Federal Capital Development Authority (FCDA), that is saddled with maintenance of the structure being the government agency that supervised the construction of the complex in the first place more than 20 years ago.
The federal government had in the already approved N10.594trillion 2020 budget, earmarked N37billion for renovation of the structure as part of proposed capital expenditure profile of FCDA in 2020 fiscal year.

But since the approval of the proposal by the National Assembly by way of Appropriation through passage of the entire budget and Presidential assent given by President Muhamnadu Buhari, concerned Nigerians have been kicking against, allegung that the federal lawmakers were being insensitive to other pressing needs in the country .

The height of the protest, was the reported litigation already slammed against the Presidency and the National Assembly by officials of Socio Economic Rights and Accountability Projects ( SERAP), praying the court to stop execution of the planned renovation work by the defendants.
However, in it’s reaction to the outcry and litigation, the Senate through its spokesperson, Senator Godiya Akwashiki (APC Nasarawa North), said both were uncalled for and misdirected. 
Fielding questions from select journalists in his office, Akwashiki declared that neither the Senate nor the House of Representatives made the proposal since maintenance of the structure was not under their purview but that of the FCDA .
According to him, as lawmakers using the structure for the various legislative activities and official offices , its dilapidation was observed and reported to FCDA for the required action which necessitated the earmarked N37 billion as proposed by the FCDA. 

“What’s the outcry for? That they should not renovate the National Assembly or what?  I have said this before that this issue has nothing to do with the National Assembly. 
“It is  all about the Federal Capital Development Authority.  The building belongs to the FCDA, which built it. The FCDA management knows how much it needed to fix the complex which is in a dilapidated condition. I read it online that SERAP and some groups are threatening to take the National Assembly to court over the N37bn earmarked for the renovation of the complex.

“I don’t know why they should take us to court because the National Assembly complex belongs to the FCDA and its management is in charge of its renovation. 
“The only responsibility of the leadership of the National Assembly is to inform the President about the condition of the building which could collapse anytime if not immediately renovated. The President will then asked the owners of the complex to send their technical officers, the architects, structural engineers to investigate the conditions of the building. 
“How the team from the FCDA arrived at a cost of N37bn is not the business of the National Assembly. It is purely the issue of the FCDA. It is the FCDA that will award the contracts.

“A single naira from the N37 billion will not come to the National Assembly accounts, everything is going straight to the FCDA. In the past 20 years,  the structure has not been renovated. I don’t know why we are being dragged to court. Is it an offence to draw the attention of the owners of the complex to the fact that their building needed an emergency attention to avoid disaster?.
“If SERAP and others take the National Assembly to court, what will they be telling the judge?  We have no role to play in the project at all. I think if the Civil society groups are not satisfied with the N37bn project cost,  they should rather take the FCDA to court and not the National Assembly.

“We only approved the project like any others contained in the 2020 budget,  which is our responsibility.
 “The technical officers of the FCDA should be in the best position to explain how they arrived at the project cost. I am not an engineer and there is no way I could know that the amount is too much for the execution of the project”, he said.
He however added that as Representatives of the people, If majority of Nigerians kick against it, so be it but what is required of them as users of the structure, have been done.
His words: “If they say that we should not renovate it, so be it. Our prayers is that,  the day the structure will collapse, it should not claim the life of anybody. 
“Anybody who wants reaction to why the federal government budgeted N37bn for the renovation should direct all enquiries to the FCDA. It is the FCDA that would award all the contracts and also carry out necessary supervision.” 

He explained further that based on the outcry the issue has generated, it is possible for the National Assembly to suggest that the renovation be done in phases over a period of time.

” If Nigerians who voted us to office prefer that we spread the amount into subsequent budgets, it could be done.

” The leadership of the National Assembly and the management of the FCDA could consider such possibility and execute the project in phases. 

“We could start from the two chambers which are terribly dilapidated at the moment”, he said .