National Assembly renovation, a misplaced priority

he planned N37 billion renovation of the National Assembly complex is a misplacement of priority and a daylight robbery of national wealth, especially, taking into consideration the huge number of Nigerians crying for a better life and other critical issues begging for financial attention.Based on the explanation of the Senate President, Senator Ahmed Lawal, on December 16, 2019, the N37 billions provided in the 2020 Appropriation Act is designed to take care of the already dilapidated complex which has suffered a major neglect since 1999.This amount, according to Senator Godiya Akwashiki, was earmarked by the Federal Capital Development Authority (FCDA) and not the lawmakers. However, whether “the hand is the hand of Esua or the voice is the voice of Jacob”, the fact remains that the renovation is not justifiable looking at the number of critical sectors begging for financial attention.Just few months ago, the Minister of Works and Housing, Babatunde Fashola (SAN), while lamenting the paucity of funds in the ministry, stated that the amount of money the federal government is owning contractors working on her roads is N306 billion. Though, this seems to be small but it goes along way in doing a thorough job.This is not to talk of other ministries dying in silence because of lack of funds. In 2017, for instance, the wife of the president, Mrs Aisha Buhari, was moved by the deteriorating state of public hospitals to the extent that she berated the Aso Rock Clinic publicly when she discovered that the X-ray machine there was not working.Most of the senators who approved N37 billion for the renovation of a complex cannot deny the bad state of medical facilities in the country. That is the reason most of them prefer to go abroad for medical treatment.

This includes the president who assented the bill without complaint. President Muhammadu Buhari in 2017 spent over 90 days in London, where he received treatment for an undisclosed ailment.The same narrative could be said of the education system. In 2019, there was jubilation every where when one of the daughters of the president graduated from a university abroad. Similar story is told of the children of some prominent personalities both in APC and the opposition camps. Though, there is nothing wrong in sending children abroad for study or treament, but it becomes abnormal when the money that ought to help ameliorate people’s suffering or improve the standard of education is diverted to avoidable expenses.As it is today, the renovation of the National Assembly complex is an avoidable expense. It is not as urgent as the rot in the education system, medical sector, transportation system, among other.

Most road networks across the country are daily becoming death traps due to lack of funds. This so while the level of unemployment continues to accelerate at an unprecedented speed including the under-employed people. No wonder, the country was named by the World Poverty Clock as the world poverty capital in 2018.This is not to talk of 13.5 million of out of school children and 9.5 million of the Almajeris roaming the street based on the data released by the UNICEF in 2014.Despite all these, those who claim to be the representatives of the people in the hallowed chambers of the National Assembly still find it worthy to approve such humongous amount in the name of renovation. 

In an ideal society where people are well represented, such amount of money taking into consideration the numbers of projects begging for financial attention would not have even surface at all not to talk of becoming a public discourse because they will be sensitive to the needs and aspirations of the people.Being sensitive to people’s aspirations is not by paying lip service to things or making promises that seem to make heaven on earth. But, by making sure that both actions and inactions of the government response to the aspirations of the citizens. So, the proposed renovation of the National Assembly complex with N37 billion at this time when the country is passing through trying times in her history seems to negate the mantra of next level Nigerians are thirsting for especially, considering the numbers of sectors begging for financial attention.For instance, the N37 billion can be used to empower 37000 people to start up a business with a capital of N100, 000 each if pumped to small and medium scale enterprises (SMEs). 

And if the government wants to intensify its effort in the agricultural sector, the money can help boost the productivity of not less than 10, 000 farmers in each state of the federation including the Federal Capital Territory (FCT). This is not to talk of the number of lecture rooms it can build in the federal universities across the federation. That is if a maximum of N1 billon is given to the university management as a support fund.Taking into consideration all these peculiarities, there is no other word to describe the proposed N37 billion than ‘putting the cart before the horse’. This can only be interpreted as a compensation for a job done or about to be done, especially with the rumour of “third term agenda” spreading around the political sphere.
Femi Oluwasanmi, from Ibafo, Ogun state.

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