Politics

NASS: Furore over leaking roof

CHUKWU DAVID reports how last Tuesday’s heavy downpour led to leakages in the roof of the National Assembly complex and the attendant public reaction that trailed the matter

There was a heavy downpour in the nation’s Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Abuja, last week Tuesday, June 22, which lasted for several hours. The rainfall, which started in the early hours of that day, persisted till noon, causing serious flood in some areas with poor drainage system within the FCT and its environs. At the National Assembly, the impact of the downpour was very severe as it caused multiple leakages in the roof of the legislative complex, leading to water dripping seriously on the floor of the central lobby of the White House, which houses the Senate and the House of Representatives. However, the official cleaners to the institution were on hand to instantly scoop and dry up the water.

Incidentally, that was the first time such multiple leakages would occur within the legislative edifice, which existence has spanned over two decades without proper renovation being done on it. The development, however, started generating controversy and heating up the polity a day after the incident as some media organisations including the social and conventional media chose to go sensational, exaggerating the actual propensity of what happened.

For instance, while some online platforms reported that “flood overrun the National Assembly”, a major electronic media platform reported that the downpour and concomitant flood at the National Assembly disrupted plenary, forcing the lawmakers to wait till the end of the rain.

The same media organization also insinuated that the sum of N37 billion was approved by the leadership of the National Assembly for renovation of the legislative complex. Knowing full well that since the nation’s return to civil governance in 1999, the public is always focusing, especially on activities of the National Assembly, the reports expectedly provoked negative criticisms from the various strata of the country against the federal lawmakers. Irked by these exaggerated media reports, the Deputy Senate Whip, Senator Aliyu Sabi, on Wednesday, raised a point of order during plenary, drawing the attention of his colleagues to the development, which alleged that flood disrupted legislative activities at the National Assembly during the heavy downpour.

He cited orders 14 and 15 of the Senate Standing Orders, arguing that the report was contemptuous and a breach of his privileges and those of other members of the Senate. Sabi lamented that the report was intended to denigrate the image of the National Assembly and incite Nigerians against lawmakers on the various social media platforms. His words: “There was leakage of course around the premises, outside the chamber and, also, it was reported that because of that leakage it delayed our sitting. That was not correct.

“The most critical was that they reported the leadership as approving the sum of N37 billion for rehabilitation of the complex. This is farther from the truth.” He explained that the leadership of the Senate and the House of Representatives approached President Muhammadu on the matter, and the sum of N37 billion was made as provision in the 2020 budget.

“As well all know, the leadership of course, noticed the level of dilapidation and the need for rehabilitation of the National Assembly complex. “At the end of the day, like we all know, when the sum of N37 billion was made as provision in the shared 2020 of the budget, the media went to town castigating and calling the National Assembly members all kinds of names.

“Now, at the end of the day, the pandemic came and that amount was reduced to about N9 billion so that they can take the rehabilitation in phases. As we speak, nothing has been done until yesterday, like we all saw, the leakages across the complex. “This is a vindication of what the leadership and, indeed, the Senate and members of the House of Representatives saw with respect to this edifice which is a national monument.” he said. The President of the Senate, Ahmad Lawan, in his remarks, urged the media to always cross check their facts before informing the public, to avoid creating acrimony in the polity.

While narrating the circumstances which led to President Buhari approving the renovation of the National Assembly complex, he dismissed insinuations that the National Assembly was responsible for the implementation of the renovation of the complex. He said that the National Assembly represents the house of the citizens of Nigeria, noting that the institution is also the symbol of democracy. “This is the house of the citizens of Nigeria, and this is the symbol of democracy. If this complex leaks, the interpretation is we are not holding our democracy with the respect that it deserves.

“This symbol of democracy must be protected, must be promoted and supported. In fact, the institution of parliament must be supported by citizens, and we expect the press to take a lead in informing the public properly and appropriately.” Addressing journalists on the matter after plenary, the Spokesman of the Senate, clarified that no money was released for the renovation of the National Assembly complex, and that the FCDA has the responsibility to maintain the place.

He said: “Contrary to the widespread falsehood being peddled both in the mainstream and online media as a fall out of the reported incident of the leaking roof of the National Assembly Complex after a heavy downpour on Tuesday, 21 June 2021, it is pertinent to inform the general public that the National Assembly and its leadership is not responsible for the maintenance and renovation of the National Assembly Complex and they have not received a sum of 37 billion naira or any amount for the renovation of the complex.”

 

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