Minister defends N2 BIILLION budget for Sambo’s new house

The Minister of the Federal Capital Territory, Bala Mohammed, has defended the huge allocations in the 2013 Budget for the construction of houses for Vice President Namadi Sambo and other senior government officials.
Mohammed defended the allocations when he appeared before the Senate Committee on the FCT on Tuesday. He said that the territory’s N50bn budget for 2013 included a N2bn funding for the construction of the official residence of Vice President Namadi Sambo.
“The projects that will be funded under ongoing projects include the designing and construction of the residence of the Vice President; the residence of the President of the Senate and the Deputy Senate President; the Speaker and that of the Deputy Speaker,” Mohammed told the committee members.
Our correspondent who went through the estimates reported that they contained a N2bn provision for the construction of the official residence of Sambo. Also, N300m has been earmarked for the designing and construction of the residences of the President of the Senate, David Mark; his deputy, Ike Ekweremadu; the Speaker, Aminu Tambuwal; and his deputy, Emeka Ihedioha.
The Federal Executive Council had in 2009 approved a N7.1bn contract for the design and construction of a new official residence for the vice-president of Nigeria. However, Mohammed did not say how much has been expended on the building so far.
The new official residence, to be situated in the Presidential Villa in the Three Arms Zone, Abuja, was to be handled by Julius Berger Nigeria Plc and was to be completed in 20 months.
Then Minister of Information and Communications, Prof. Dora Akunyili, had announced the FEC approval of the project to journalists, saying, “Council gave approval for the award of a contract for the design and construction of the residence of the Vice-President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria in the Three Arms Zone, Abuja, in favour of Messrs Julius Berger Plc. with 20 months as completion period.
“The Vice-President currently resides at the Akinola Aguda House, within the precincts of the Presidential Villa, which is designed as a guest house for the President.”
Ex-minister of the FCT, Adamu Aliero, had added then that due to security considerations the contract was not awarded to Julius Berger through an open bidding process.
He had said, “We did not advertise it for security reasons because you cannot subject the house of the number two man to public scrutiny. We did what we call selective bidding. Julius Berger Nigeria Plc. was selected because of their experience in constructing the Presidential Villa and National Assembly complexes.”
Explaining why the building of a residence for the VP was considered a priority in Nigeria despite the magnitude of problems facing the citizens of the country, the minister had said, “The Vice-President is staying in a guest house meant for visiting heads of state.
“It is not right, it is not befitting for the Vice-President. The former administration decided to give the house of the Vice-President to the Chief Justice of Nigeria, which was in line with what was contained in the Abuja master plan.
“It became imperative for us to provide accommodation for the Vice-President. The Vice-President has no accommodation; certainly you will agree with me that it is unbecoming for any government not to provide accommodation for its Vice-President. We will now embark on the construction of a befitting residence for the vice-president.”
Aso Rock, seat of Nigeria’s President, just last week secured the approval of the Federal Executive Council for an additional 2.2bn bouquet hall to host ceremonies by the President.
The approval was part of the N19.4 bn contracts for this year, covering road construction, rail transportation and infrastructural development in the FCT.
The new banquet hall, according to the promoters, would have a capacity to seat 150 guests at once.
However, critics have deplored the provisions arguing that they were wasteful expenditures. There is already an existing hall in the Villa where national events are held.
Minister of the Federal Capital Territory, Senator Bala Muhammed, while defending the approval said that the council approved the project because smaller countries had befitting banquet halls in their seats of power.
Meanwhile, Mohammed said his administration as FCT minister was owing contractors over N26bn for work done on various projects across the city within the 2012 fiscal year.
He told the Senators that the N50bn allocated to the ministry was inadequate to meet the task of providing infrastructure in the city.
He said there would necessarily be an intervention funding, through public private partnership initiative and statutory allocation.
In the FCT budget for 2013, the National Assembly Complex Phase III, Part II and III will also gulp a total of N500m; while the provision of water facilities will cost N5.61bn.
Mohammed also told senators that the development of a rail line for Abuja would cost a total of N1.5bn in the 2013 fiscal period.
The FCTA also intends to spend N1bn for the provision of health facilities in the city within the year and another N34.13bn for the provision of sundry infrastructure within the city.
He said a total of N46.26bn was appropriated for FCTA in 2012, but only N37.30bn was received, though N31.79bn had been expended so far.
Senators, however, expressed concerns about the effects of the renewed demolition being carried out by the FCT’s Development Control Department.
Senator Smart Adeyemi, who chairs the Senate Committee on FCT, said, “I have received petitions from the public and from some of my colleagues that the FCTA is demolishing some estates. The moral question is where were your officials when these estates were being developed.
“The officials may have compromised to have allowed the buildings to reach completion stages and you are now demolishing them.
“Don’t forget that some unsuspecting Nigerians have invested in these estates; civil servants and poor people have paid monies to developers not knowing that these were not genuine; there should be something done for them as compensation.”
But Mohammed replied, “We will demolish any structure that violates the master plan of the FCT. But we will go through the processes and if we find out that such a structure does not comply with the master plan, it will be demolished.
“That is what the law says. I know as politicians you will like to bring in sentiments, but we have to face the facts and do the right thing if we must keep Abuja clean.”
“That is what the law says. I know as politicians you will like to bring in sentiments, but we have to face the facts and do the right thing if we must keep Abuja clean.”

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