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Divergent views trail N37b budget for National Assembly complex renovation

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With controversy trailing the proposed N37 billion National Assembly complex renovations spending in the 2020 budget, built environment professionals are divided in their opinions on the desirability of the cost, amid current tight financial crisis in the country. 
 
However, they all agreed that the scope of work should be made public. While some experts posited that the depreciation in the value of money today, might have pushed up the total renovation budget, others felt that N37 billion spending isn’t the best for a nation with more pressing needs and increasing debt profile.  
 
President Muhammadu Buhari had approved N37 billion for the renovation of the complex, for a project that was built in 1999 at a cost of nearly $35.18 million. The contract was awarded to ITB Nigeria, on February 18, 1996, through the Department of Public Building, Federal Capital Development Administration, (FCDA).

 
The said amount, which was included in the 2020 budget, is however not part of the N128 billion allocated for the National Assembly spending for 2020. The money is rather; a part of the 2020 budget of the Federal Capital Development Administration as contained in the N2.5trn budgeted for capital projects by the Federal Capital Development Authority in the 2020 budget.
   
The Senate president, Ahmad Lawan, had justified the spending last week, saying that there has been no major renovation of the National Assembly building for 20 years while many parts of the property had become old.
 
“We met the president and (it was) related the condition of the complex. The president responded and said he was going to renovate the complex. The phase one renovation will commence with the chambers and committee rooms in the white house. N37 billion was sourced and was given.”

“When we are through with phase 1, we will go to phase II. It is not under the control of the National Assembly. The complex is a national asset and is for the FCDA to take care,” he said.
 
He also said that the phase one renovation will commence –with the chambers and committee rooms of the complex.
  
Immediate past chairman, Nigerian Society of Engineers, Apapa branch, Dr. Ombugadu Garba said from the face value, devoting N37 billion for the renovation of a building is quite huge with Nigeria’s finance challenges.

“Is it that the building since 1999 has not been renovated, or it is not always renovated as at when due? If not what would devalue it to that requiring spending that kind of money to renovate it. I think is not the best option considering the challenges of finances the country is going through.”

“As lawmakers there is the need for them to also lead by example. We cannot borrow money and then spend it in such a situation that would suggest something to the people. If you are spending N37b to renovate a complex and also looking at cars they said they would need, I do not that in the scale of preference, that shouldn’t be the top. But, we don’t know the state of the complex or the level of dilapidation of the complex that could warrantee such kind of spending. We need to investigate the level of dilapidation of that building, when last was it renovated and how much was spent and then look at the trend of expenditure on it and if the fact that they spend much money when it was last renovated is not guaranteed, we must have value for money in whatever, will do. That is how the government could be sustainable in the face of the economic crisis the nation has to contend with.”

“If they have built a structure in 1999, the standard is that you will always renovate, except if there are structural defects. You suppose to do minor renovation after three to five years. Going to spend that huge sum of money, although I don’t know the details of their renovation as regard whether they are adding to the construction or they are doing major adjustments. Those are information needed to guide us”, he said.
 
A past president, Nigerian Institution of Estate Surveyors and Valuers (NIESV), Joe Idudu said we should try to forget the cost of construction because the facility was built so many years ago.
   
Idudu alluded to the fact that the extent of renovation works, would only help in reaching informed judgment and determination as to the reality of the budgeted renovation cost.
   
He said, “The first thing we must remember is that the value of money today is very much lower than the value at the time the construction work was done. We must remember that today, one dollar is N360 and I think a lot of materials put into the complex were imported, especially, internal components. We really don’t know the extent of renovation and what they want to do.

“Some renovations could be superficial to the extent that it is about painting and other things. But, I doubt it because, after the years of usage, I am sure that what they want to do would be more than superficial renovation. Without the benefit of the details of the renovation, it would be quite really difficult to criticise the figure. If that complex were to rebuild today, I believe that the value of the complex would have been in trillions of naira, I imagine.”

For Mr. Joseph Olusegun Ajanlekoko, President of the Commonwealth Association of Surveying (CASLE), the furore will be justified if due process has not been followed in arriving at the cost of N37 billion.

The question to be asked first is what type of renovation is going to be carried out? Is it a wholesale overhaul? Are there new additions? In short, what’s the scope of work? And most importantly was there a Bill of Quantities (BOQ) prepared to ascertain this cost?

Ajanlekoko stated that the cost seems astronomical but what year was the N7billion used in constructing the building? “Let the quantity surveyor be involved in assessing this cost of renovation,” he added.

His views were supported by Group Managing Director, Global Property and Facilities International Limited, Dr. M.K.O Balogun, who said the Senate should make public the scope of work.

“We should demand the details of work to be done. Without the details of the BOQ or scope of works for the renovation, it will be like fishing in the dark. However, the age of building and need to replace aging items that may have been bought from abroad when dollar was N110 maybe some of the reasons for a high cost.

“However the easiest way to determine reasonability is to determine the current value of the National Assembly Complex - if we have to build a new one from scratch and the cost of renovation, should normally not be more than 15 per cent of the cost of a new building,” Dr. Balogun added.


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