The leadership of the National Assembly might initiate a meeting with the management of the Federal Capital Development Authority on the possibility of achieving a downward review of the N37bn earmarked in the 2020 budget for the renovation of the apex parliament.
Our correspondent gathered on Friday that the leadership and management of the National Assembly have started devising fresh strategies to douse the tension created with the N37bn approval granted to the FCDA by the federal lawmakers for the project execution.
Part of the arrangement being considered, according to sources among the National Assembly members, is the possibility of executing the project in phases over a period of four years.
Most Nigerians and pressure groups who made comments on the project, have condemned the huge sum earmarked for its execution, claiming that it did not reflect the economic reality of the country and described it as an act of insensitivity to the plight of most Nigerians.
The acting Chairman, Senate Committee on Media and Public Affairs, Senator Godiya Akwashiki, had in a recent interview with our correspondent, said the National Assembly would not hesitate to reconsider the project execution following the public outcry it has generated.
Akwashiki had said, “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 had explained.
Findings by our correspondent also revealed that the open condemnation of the proposed project by National Assembly members has been creating serious concerns for the leadership of the nation’s parliament.
Several lawmakers from both chambers of the National Assembly have expressed their opposition to the project and condemned the amount proposed for its execution.
They wondered why the FCDA would spend N37bn to renovate the complex, which was constructed at a cost of N10.7bn in 1998.
Federal lawmakers who have openly expressed opposition to the project included the member representing Ede North/Ede South/Egbedore/Ejigbo Federal Constituency of Osun State in the House, Mr Bamidele Salam, who said the huge amount of money could have been used to empower small and medium-scale enterprises.
Also, the lawmaker representing Bekwarra/Obanliku/Obudu Federal Constituency of Cross River State, Mr Ochilegor Idagbo, also said he did not believe that the complex needed any renovation that would cost the country N37bn.
“We need more upgraded classrooms and hospitals to cater for the Nigerian people,” he had said.
Similarly, the lawmaker representing Egbeda/Ona Ara Federal Constituency of Oyo State, Mr Akin Alabi, has also said, “I see no reason we should spend N37bn renovating the National Assembly.”
“Yes, we need to upgrade some aspects like the electronic systems (sound system, voting system, etc) as they are outdated but N37bn? No. Let’s spend that on our schools and hospitals,” he had said.
A senator, who spoke with our correspondent on condition of anonymity said the recent legal action instituted by the Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project, BudgIT, Enough is Enough, and 583 concerned Nigerians, is also a big issue the leadership would want to avoid.
He said, “The project may be stalled with the legal action and the open opposition by some members. Just like the Senate spokesperson has suggested, the leadership may likely discuss with the FCDA to carry out the project in phases, over a period of four years.”
Attempts to speak with the National Assembly management through the Director of Information, Rawlings Agada, failed on Friday as he did not respond to the phone calls put across to his mobile phone.
SERAP had filed a lawsuit asking the Federal High Court, Abuja to restrain the President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.) the leadership of the National Assembly and others from releasing N37bn allocated for the renovation of the complex to the FCDA, until an impact assessment of the spending was carried out.
The groups are also seeking a court order to “restrain, prevent and stop the Senate President, Ahmad Lawan; Speaker of the House of Representatives, Mr Femi Gbajabiamila and the FCDA from demanding or collecting the money earmarked for the renovation of the complex.”