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Friday, February 23, 2024

Controversy surrounds N30bn boost in renovation budget for National Assembly Complex

Lawmakers allocate an additional N30bn for the ongoing renovation, bringing the total budget for the National Assembly to an unprecedented N344.85bn, raising questions about accountability and project completion

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In a move that has stirred debates and raised eyebrows, lawmakers in Nigeria have included an extra N30 billion in the 2024 Appropriation Bill for the renovation of the National Assembly Complex. This allocation is part of the overall N344.85 billion budget designated for the National Assembly, marking the highest ever allocation of funds to the legislature, with N197.93 billion initially proposed.

The additional N30bn brings the total expenditure on the ongoing renovation to a staggering N60bn. Despite the ambitious budget, the National Assembly Complex’s renovation, initially slated for completion in August 2022, has faced multiple delays, with the most recent promised date set for December 2023.

Contrary to expectations, as of January 2024, the renovation remains incomplete, with visible construction work still underway on the premises. The construction firm responsible, Visible Construction Company, cites a lack of released funds as a significant hindrance to the project’s swift completion.

During an oversight visit by the Senate Committee on Federal Capital Territory, the site engineer, Tajudeen Olanipekun, pointed to fluctuations in the Naira-to-US-dollar exchange rate and the need for additional funds from the FCDA as contributing factors to the delays.

The Head of Public Relations at the Federal Capital Development Agency, Richard Nduul, revealed in June that N19bn had been disbursed to the construction company. However, the conflicting statements and lack of transparency surrounding the project’s financial details have raised concerns about accountability.

Efforts to obtain an update on the expenditure from Richard Nduul and the site engineer, Olanipekun, were met with obstacles, with Nduul citing sickness as a reason for being unavailable. This adds another layer of uncertainty to the already contentious issue, leaving the public questioning the allocation and utilization of these substantial funds earmarked for the National Assembly Complex’s renovation.

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