The move to renovate the National Assembly Complex with a whopping N42 billion is causing some stir among members of the National Assembly and stakeholders in the built sector, among others.
This especially so considering that the project can be executed for N15 billion less after the original builders of the complex bid N26.9bn but was overlooked in favour of a firm with no traceable address and with record of having handled such a project.
LEADERSHIP findings revealed that some lawmakers have expressed discontent over both the value of the contract and the capacity of the contracting firm, Messrs Visible Construction Limited, to handle the work.
The contract for the building of the National Assembly complex was awarded to ITB Nigeria on February 18, 1996, by the Federal Capital Development Authority (FCDA) during the military regime of the late General Sani Abacha at the cost of $35.18 million.
The first phase was completed in the 90s and the second phase was executed between 2007 and 1999.
For over 20 years, the structure has not been renovated. In 2019 when the new leadership of the National Assembly – Senate President Ahmad Lawan and Speaker Femi Gbajabiamila – came into office, they approached President Muhammadu Buhari to request the renovation the complex. There were media reports to the effect that some parts of the roof leaked during rainfall.
The Federal Capital Development Authority (FCDA) was mandated to send a budget to the National Assembly for the renovation of the complex. The National Assembly building, which is one of the national monuments, is maintained by the FCDA.
A budget of about N37 billion was approved for the renovation of the National Assembly complex but a loud outcry by Nigerians caused the project to be put on hold.
With the outbreak of the Coronavirus in 2020, the budget for the renovation project was further reduced to N9 billion without cash backing.
Speaking on the issue, the chairman, Senate Committee on Services, Senator Sani Musa said the lawmakers had been calling for the renovation of the National Assembly but that people who apparently had no idea of the decay in the complex opposed it.
Also, the spokesman of the Senate, Ajibola Basiru, had said that contrary to the widespread falsehood being peddled both in the mainstream and online media as a fallout of the reported incident of the leaking roof of the National Assembly Complex after a heavy downpour on Tuesday, June 21, 2021, the National Assembly and its leadership were not responsible for the maintenance and renovation of the National Assembly Complex.
He added that they never received the sum of N37 billion or any amount for the renovation of the complex.
Senate President Ahmad Lawan, while speaking on the issue, said the leakage of the complex was a vindication on their part.
“The fact that there was a leak, to me, is a clear testimony, confirmation and vindication of the position the National Assembly took initially,” Lawan had said.
However, the latest stir is not about the propriety or otherwise of the renovation, but about the amount earmarked for the renovation and the capacity of the firm mandated to handle the contract.
Some members of the National Assembly expressed misgivings about the capacity of the company to deliver quality jobs even as they insisted that the sum approved for the project is too high.
The sum of N42, 414,917,272 (N42.4 billion) approved for the project represents a N5 billion increase from the initial sum of N37 approved for the same project.
Those raising concern about the renovation said there was no justification whatsoever for the N5 billion increment.
Speaking to LEADERSHIP on condition of anonymity, a high-ranking member of the National Assembly wondered why the contract was awarded to Messrs Visible Construction Limited.
“Why was ITB not selected, for instance, since the first phase of the complex was built by it? One is tempted to assume that the Federal Capital Development Authority (FCDA) may have been put under pressure to select Messrs Visible Construction Limited.”
The source alleged that ITB Nigeria Limited quoted N26.9 billion for the renovation work.
“Why not give them more work as they have experience, having handled the first phase,” he asked.
The lawmaker urged the Federal Executive Council (FEC) not to award the contract to Visible Construction Limited as doing so, according to him, could necessitate another maintenance in no distant time.
Meanwhile, it appears it is not only the lawmakers and some stakeholders in the built sector that have some misgivings about the cost of the renovation and the capacity of the firm, as sources said some members of the Federal Executive Council also raised questions when the FCT minister tabled the memo before them.
It was gathered that one of the ministers asked why the FCDA decided to award the contract to Visible which, he allegedly said, might not have the capacity to execute such a big project.
But sources disclosed that the FCDA handed the job to Visible Construction, a Lagos-based firm, following a strong recommendation by a principal officer of the House of Representatives.
However, an official of the Bureau of Public Procurement (BPP) said the duo of Visible Construction and Rockbridge Construction Limited met the criteria for consideration as stipulated in Section 16(6) of the Public Procurement Act 2007.
A credible source listed firms that bid for the contract to include Rockbridge Construction Limited (N55.8 billion); ITB Nigeria Limited (N26.9 billion); Julius Berger (N101.1 billion); Gilmor Engineering Limited (N61.2 billion) and Visible Construction Limited (N45 billion).
“Although Visible quoted N45 billion, the BPP cut it down to N42.4 after assessment,” a source conversant with the transaction revealed.
But in his reaction yesterday, the special adviser on media and labour to the clerk to the National Assembly (CNA), Austen Adesoro said Nigerians who know the state of the complex will want such renovation to be carried out.
Austen said the project is that of the FCDA, adding that it is not within the purview of the National Assembly to award the contract for its renovation.
“The FCDA is in charge. It is not within the purview of the National Assembly to award the contract for the renovation of the complex. It is completely within the purview of the FCDA.
“If anybody has an issue with the contract as you said, the FCDA is in the right position to speak.
“You are also a stakeholder within the National Assembly. You and I spent at least a minimum of five to ten hours every day at the National Assembly. You are also an eye witness to how rain flooded that place close to your press centre and you did that story.
“Renovation of the National Assembly complex is what every Nigerian will wish for, but you and I know better whether the National Assembly needs renovation or not,” Austen added.
Reps Deny Underhand Dealing in Contract Award
Efforts to get reaction from the office of the speaker, Hon. Femi Gbajabimila, were unsuccessful as phone calls as well as text messages to his special adviser on public affairs, Lanre Lasisi were not answered.
However, the chairman, House Committee on FCT, Hon Garba Idris Abdullahi, denied that there was any underhand dealing in the contract award.
Abdullahi noted that about five companies bid for the contract and the company that won the bid is a Nigerian company certified by the FCT team and the BPP.
“It is not true; the speaker is not the chairman of the National Assembly, it is the president of the Senate, and this job we are talking about, there were companies that bid, Julius Berger did a quotation of over N100 billion, Gilmor gave a quotation of over N60 billion.
“This company that won the job is a Nigerian company, and all the speaker wants is for the beauty of the National Assembly to be like Capitol, like what they have in the USA. Remember the last time it rained at the National Assembly, everywhere was leaking. Some people are just trying to blackmail the speaker by saying that he’s enforced the company. You know who the minister of FCT is, not even his own brother or his own wife will show interest in something like this and it will pass.
“When they went to the council and they wanted to find out more about the company, they went to check the project he had done in Oyo and Ogun states and they came back and went to the BPP. So, anybody saying that the company is not competent is not telling the truth. And this thing went through the FEC, the company that came with a bill of about N47 billion, that is realistic,” he said.
Abdullahi insisted that neither the speaker nor any principal officer recommended any company.
“The speaker was not even part of the meeting, it was me, the chairman of House Services, the CNA and the Senate Chairman Committee on FCT and the FCT team. When they did their due process, we were not there because it is their work, but from the word go, the speaker or anybody else has no interest in any company,” he added.
NASS Complex Renovation Contract Not Yet Awarded – FCDA
Meanwhile, following the controversy surrounding the award of the contract by the Federal Capital Development Agency (FCDA), the agency has said that no contracts has been awarded to any company for maintenance.
Director of information, Department of Public Buildings, FCDA, Richard Nduul, told LEADERSHIP he was not aware of a contract for the maintenance of the National Assembly complex awarded to Visible Construction Nigeria Limited.
“I spoke with the executive secretary, Engr Shehu Hadi Ahmad, and he said that no contract for the maintenance of the National Assembly has been awarded to any company by the FCDA. When the contract is awarded, it will be made public, it cannot be a secret. Even if the contract is in the 2022 budget, that does not mean that it has been awarded.
However, a senior staff member of the agency in the department of Public Buildings, who preferred anonymity, explained that although people may think that the contract was awarded based on just the recommendation from a higher authority, all contracts awarded during this administration have been done based on merit.
He said that other companies which quoted lower amounts might have bid for the contract to maintain the National Assembly complex, but the company that the agency and other stakeholders would be comfortable with, following their antecedents, would be awarded the contract.
“The FCT minister, Malam Muhammad Bello, is too careful enough not to allow his image to be tarnished when it has to do with projects execution or maintenance of government structures. That is why he makes sure that before contracts are awarded to any company, due diligence and thorough investigation would be carried out.
“However, if you are saying that the contract might be awarded to that construction company because it was recommended by the Speaker of the House of Representatives, that is what I cannot talk about. But, in Nigeria, anything is possible, mostly when you are in the ruling party.
“But, like I said before, the minister I know, and have worked with, will never award a sensitive contract to any company because of recommendation or favoritism. I know he is a politician, but he has a name to protect. So, if people are saying that they want to use it to siphon money, that is their business, they know where they got their information from,” he said.
LEADERSHIP checks showed that no office like Visible Construction Ltd exists in the house known as N0. 1 Ashabi Cole Street, Opposite old Dailly Times Headquarters, Agindigbi , Ikeja, Lagos.
A tenant in the two-storey building who spoke to LEADERSHIP on condition of anonymity said, “We don’t have any office like Visible Construction Ltd in this building. Did you see any signpost like Visible Construction Ltd here around the building?
“Maybe they were here before. Most of the old tenants have relocated from here. In both the front and back buildings we only have offices like Ojedele Makinde and Co. Restaurant Calabar Food, Tobak Engineering Ltd. Most of the office spaces in the building are vacant. These offices you see opened are new offices. “