By Chinelo Chikelu, Abuja
A group of civil society organizations has urged the National Assembly to hold a public hearing on the state of the ongoing national library building in the FCT.
The library has been under construction for the past eleven years.
In a new campaign tagged #FundNationalLibrary, the group made up of nine CSOs also demanded that the project currently allocated N567m in the 2018 appropriations bill be increased to N1.5 bn. In addition, it urged government to prioritize education by exploring various options to raise required funding for the completion of the building.
According to Rotimi Olawale, Executive Director of Youth Hub Africa, the campaign’s convener, the state of the library indicates Nigeria’s successive governments priorities which placed more interest in other issues over education. “According to NASS, the money spent on renovating Aso Villa, and for buying vehicles for the ministry of works in 2018, N800m is more than the N567 million that is appropriated to the national library. If you claim to support education and you don’t devote resources to it, you definitely do not support it,” Olawale stated.
Reviewing the history of budgetary allocations to the national library project, Olawale said monies allocated to the building since 2008 were never fully released. For a project cited to cost N78bn in 2015, government’s latest release of N7m is inadequate.
Citing several options for government to expedite funding for the project, he said government should establish specific finance capital schemes as it did with Sukuk Bonds for the Ministry of Transport, and the Green Bonds by the Ministry of Environment, for funding environmental sustainable projects.
“Education should become a priority for Nigeria because we have about 10 million out of school children in the country, and every investment we make towards education is an investment to grow human capital in Nigeria. The national library will have impact on young people. I know how important books are because they help change the lives of children and young people. We think it is important that the National Library is completed and the people have access to it,” added Olawale, who compared his family library to having access to the internet in the 1990s.
The campaign aims to see funding to the building project increased and the library operational within three to four years. It also demands that the Ministry of Education ascertain the real cost required to complete the project.
A week earlier, the House of Representatives, Committee on Basic Educations & Services had declared the temporal library a national embarrassment, vowing to do whatever necessary to ensure the completion of the permanent library in 12 months from 2018.
The group which also called on Nigerians to join the campaign include CSOs such as , YouthHubAfrica, Connected Development (CODE), Youth Initiative for Advocacy, Growth and Advancement (YIAGA), Dean Initiative, Devatop Center for Africa’s Development, HipCity Hub, Skills Outside School (SOS) Foundation, Library and You and Read 2 Success.
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