By Olalekan Adetayo and Sodiq Oyeleke.THE PUNCH.November 29, 2012
The Federal Government is to build a new N2.2bn banquet hall in the the Presidential Villa, Abuja.
An approval for the hall, according to the Minister of the Federal Capital Territory, Senator Bala Muhammed, was granted by the Federal Executive Council during its meeting on Wednesday.
Wikipedia dictionary defines a banquet hall as a room or building for the purpose of hosting a party, reception, or other social events.
There is an existing hall in the Villa where national events are held.
The proposed 150- capacity hall will have walk ways, security post, hall conveniences, technical room and press briefing room.
Defending the approval, Muhammed, told State House correspondents that the council did so because smaller countries had befitting banquet halls in their seats of power.
Muhammed said the contract for the construction was awarded to Julius Berger, a company that is already in charge of services in the Presidential Villa.
He said, “The second project approved by council is the building of a 150-seater Banquet Hall in the Presidential Villa.
“We noticed that it(existing hall) is inconveniencing; it is not in tandem with what is outside the country. Even smaller countries have better Banquet Halls near their Presidential residences. Of course, part of the things we are going to provide there is a 150-seater (hall) with all the facilities that will cover the walk ways, security, hall conveniences, technical room and press briefing room that are more and more enhanced so that national broadcast can be done from there.
“The contract was awarded in the sum of N2.2billion to Julius Berger because they are more familiar with the terrain in the Presidential Villa and for security reasons.”
But the approval of the contract for the hall was flayed by the Executive President, Coalition Against Corrupt Leaders, Mr. Debo Adediran, as “irresponsible and wicked.”
Adediran, who said the government did not care about the welfare of the people, added, “This goes a long way to demonstrate the weakness of our leaders. They only care for things that favour them, their relatives and their caucus.
“ This is unimaginable, it can never be done under a dedicated government. Of what use is the hall? Is it for them to deepen corruption or to legislate? Personal satisfaction must be suppressed for the country to grow.”
The first contract okayed by FEC during the meeting which was chaired by President Goodluck Jonathan is for the rehabilitation of some selected roads in Garki and Wuse Districts at the cost of N2.78bn
The FCT minister said the contract became necessary because the affected roads had exceeded their 15 years average designed life span.
He said the reconstruction work, which had been scheduled in phases, would focus on Herbert Macaulay Way, IBB Way, Olusegun Obasanjo Way, Sultan Abubakar Way, Michael Opara Way and Ladi Kwali Street.
Muhammad said that the project would be able to generate about 750 employment opportunities during its execution.
According to him, the FCT administration set aside N400m in its 2012 budget for the commencement of the project.
The minister said that FEC also approved a Revised Estimated Total Cost of the contract for the construction of Tank 1 and 6 and Associated Truck Mains for Abuja Water project from N22bn to N20bn.
Also briefing correspondents on the outcome of the meeting, the Senior Adviser on Media to the President, Dr Reuben Abati, said the Council approved N148.9m for the conduct of Fiscal Allocation and Statutory Disbursement Audit for the 2007-2011 Oil and Gas Industry Audit.
Abati and Mohammed were joined at the briefing by the ministers of the Federal Capital Territory, Senator Bala Muhammed; Health, Prof. Onyebuchi Chukwu; Communication Technology, Mrs. Omobola Johnson; Works(state), Ambassador Bashir Yuguda; Foreign Affairs I(state), Mrs. Viola Onwuliri; Power(state), Mrs. Zainab Kuchi; and Transport, Senator Idris Umar.
FEC, according to the presidential spokesman, approved a contract for the engagement of a consultant for the Nigeria Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative to conduct fiscal allocation and statutory disbursement audit of the nation’s oil and gas industry.
He said, “The assignment given is to track extractive industry sector funds received into the Federation Account as were distributed and received by the federal, state and local government councils, with special emphasis on the application and utilisation of the funds on beneficiaries of the 13 per cent derivation and relevant federal institutions that directly receive allocations from the Federation Account.”
FEC also approved two contracts totalling N6.3bn for the National Identity Management System project.
Johnson said a contract for the supply of 30 million customised blank smartcards meant for the production of the identity cards was awarded in the sum of N5.3bn.
She also said that a contract for the personalisation of the card was also awarded in the sum of N1bn with a completion period of 18 weeks.
Chukwu said the council also approved a contract for the supply of anti-tuberculosis drugs for the multi-drug resistant tuberculosis programme through the International Dispensary Association.
He said the government was requesting for drugs that would be sufficient to treat 500 Nigerians.
The minister said the government was intervening in the supply of the drugs because it would take about N400,000 to treat a patient suffering from the disease, adding that 5,000 new cases were being reported in the country annually.
Umar also said the council approved the contract for the design, manufacture, supply and commissioning of two sets of five-car diesel multiple unit trains, each with capacity of 540 passengers, and additional six 60-seater passenger coaches to be used on narrow gauge trunk in the sum of N4.3bn.
He said the DMUS would be used for mass transit train services to meet the present day high demand for inter-city passenger traffic.
The Council was informed by Onwuliri of a “landmark” diplomatic agreement between Venezuela and Nigeria to allow transit and 90-day stay, for holders of official and diplomatic passports of both countries.
The minister noted that the agreement was a show of confidence in Nigeria.