The Senate yesterday faulted the decision by the Socio-Economic Right and Accountability Project (SERAP) and some civil society groups to institute a legal action against the National Assembly over the N37 billion voted for the renovation of the legislative complex in the 2020 Appropriation Act.
It also defended the projected renovation, saying the repair of the edifice is long overdue.
The Chairman of the Senate Committee on Media and Public Affairs, Senator Godiya Akwashiki, who spoke on telephone, wondered why SERAP and other groups would sue the National Assembly over an issue that does not concern the legislative body.
According to him, the building belongs to Federal Capital Development Authority (FCDA), which has the right to determine when repair works should be carried out on the complex.
“What’s the outcry for? That they should not renovate the National Assembly or what? 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 N37 billion 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.
“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 N37 billion 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,” he added.
The Senate spokesman explained that the legislature only informed the executive about the deteriorating situation of the Assembly complex which led to funds being voted for its repairs.
Said he: “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 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 N37 billion 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.”
Akwashiki added that in the past 20 years, the structure has not been renovated wondering why the National Assembly was 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 they say that we should not renovate it, so be it. Our prayer 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 N37 billion 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 stated.
According to him, based on the public outcry on the issue, the federal legislators may revisit the matter with a view to executing the project in phases upon their return from Christmas break in January.
“Based on the outcry that 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.