…Project on hold after gulping N6bn
A new propose official residence of the Vice President of Nigeria is yet to be completed and put to use almost a decade after construction started. Findings show that apart from the presence of a few security personnel at the site, the building has now been overtaken by weeds and reptiles.
The Federal Executive Council (FEC) had in 2009 approved a N7.1bn contract for the design and construction of a new official residence for the vice president. Announcing the FEC approval for the project to journalists, the then Minister of Information and Communication, late Prof. Dora Akunyili, said, “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 new edifice was designed to comprise the following: VP’s house, VP’s ADC’s house, his Chief Security Officer’s (CSO) house, a mosque, a chapel, security quarters, boys’ quarters, gate house, among others.
Explaining why the building of a residence for the VP was considered a priority, the Minister of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) at that time, Adamu Aliero, said, “The vice president is staying in a guest house (Aguda House) meant for visiting heads of state. Aliero said, “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 (CJN), 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.” Daily Trust reports that at least N6bn has already been spent on the edifice which the incumbent Vice President, Yemi Osinbajo, had once described as misapplication of funds. Our correspondents who visited the site saw that work on the project had reached advanced stage before it was stopped.
It was gathered that if nothing is done urgently, some of the facilities that have been fixed, including the split air conditioning system some of the structures, may develop technical faults, thereby rendering them unusable. Vice President Osinbajo had in 2016 said the project would not be abandoned despite being a waste of resources. Osinbajo, who said the N6bn already spent on the project was a misapplication of funds, added that with the level of construction already done, it would be completed and considered for other use.
“There is no need for a new residence for the vice president as the current one, called Aguda House, is up to standard with enough space and well managed. “There is no need for a new vice president’s house; it is a kind of waste; we are now in a situation where we cannot abandon it; it has to be completed and used for a different thing,” the vice president said in February, 2019, while responding to questions at the Pastors and Leaders Retreat of the Fountain of Life Church, Ilupeju, Lagos. Daily Trust gathered that the Federal Capital Development Authority (FCDA) abandoned the project after the refusal of the 7th Senate to accept the inflation of the contract sum by N9bn.
A former Minister of the FCT, Sen. Bala Mohammed, was said to have brought a request for an additional N9bn to complete the project in 2012, while the edifice was awarded in 2009 at N7bn. The request was greeted with condemnation when the variation was expected to accommodate a helipad. The then FCDA Executive Secretary, Adamu Ismail, was quoted to have told the Senate Committee on FCT that the proposed additional N9bn was slashed to about N6bn by the Bureau for Public Procurement (BPP). Ismail said the variation was meant to provide furniture, fencing, two additional protocol guest houses, a banquet hall and security gadgets. The then Senate Committee on FCT, led by Sen.
Smart Adeyemi, however, turned down the request for the variation, which was more than 100 per cent. Sen. Adeyemi said N13bn or N14bn or N16bn for the project were “indefensible”. Also, a former Chairman of the House Committee on FCT, Herman Hembe, was reported to have said his committee was disappointed at the way the contract was being managed. Hembe had said, “In all, about 87 per cent of the contract sum has been paid. You can go and take a look and see for yourself if the work done is commensurate with the funds so far paid. The committee has severally expressed disappointment over this very sad situation.”
It was gathered that no fresh work has been done on the site since 2013. When contacted on why the work on the site was stopped, the Executive Secretary of FCDA, Engr. Umar Gambo Jubril, said the ongoing construction at the residence of the vice president did not stop, but was suspended because of budgetary issues, and added that there had been no allocation in the budget for the continuation of the project. “Anytime we have budget provisions for that project, work will continue,” he said.
When asked for how long work had stopped at the site, the executive secretary said work stopped since 2016 as there had been no budget for it. He explained that the work done was over 80 per cent and that what was left to complete it was not so significant. He said, “We are in a new regime of government, so we expect that something can come up certainly, and contractors will be mobilised back to site for the completion of the project.”