The Senate on Tuesday advised the Federal Government to prioritise the funding and completion of the permanent site of the National Library of Nigeria to mitigate losses on the project.
The advice was sequel to the adoption of a motion by Sen. Olugbenga Ashafa (APC-Lagos) on “the preventable economic loss and national embarrassment arising from the failure of the Federal Government to complete the national library project after 11 years”.
The Upper Legislative Chamber, consequently, mandated its Committee on Education, to meet with the Ministers of Education, the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) and the National Librarian/Chief Executive Officer of the National Library of Nigeria.
The senate said the meeting was aimed at adopting an appropriation strategy that would ensure the completion of the project with the 2018 appropriation bill.
It also advised the Federal Government to be more strategic in the award of contracts.
The senate said that the Federal Government should embark on projects that it could adequately finance within the limit of its budgetary appropriation.
Moving the motion, Ashafa noted that the national library building project was conceptualized by the Federal Government in 2002 but awarded in 2006 to Messrs Reynolds Construction Company (RCC) at N8.590 billion with a project timeline of 22 months.
“While the company commenced work on the project in April 2006, it could not proceed further due to the failure of the government to release sufficient funds for the completion of the project, leading to its being revised 3 times over the period.
“Despite the importance of this national library, the project has been poorly funded since its inception,” he said.
The lawmaker said the continuous failure to properly fund the project within the specified period would cause the government to continue to lose funds modestly estimated to be in the range of between N40 billion and N50 billion.
“If this failure to fund the project expeditiously continues, it might cost the government even more in the long run,” he said.
He further raised concern that 57 years after the birth of Nigeria and with trillions of naira sunk in the development of Abuja, the national library of Nigeria still operated from a rented building.
He attributed the development to the inability of the library to have a permanent site.
Ashafa underscored importance of national library to the country, which he described as important intellectual monument, representing the value placed on information, learning and culture.
“In View of the population explosion taking place in Nigeria, we no longer have the luxury of relegating knowledge and information among the populace.
“In the world that we are living in now, knowledge is the new black gold and we must not only diversify our economy into agriculture and solid-minerals, but most importantly, migrate wholly into a knowledge based economy.”
The lawmaker further said that to achieve this, government must be focused on providing public access to quality knowledge and information.
“This failure of strategic planning is not peculiar to the national library project alone, but has become the bane of various capital projects across the country, amounting to a significant number of abandoned projects and preventable economic losses.”
Contributing, Sen. Emmanuel Paulker (PDP-Bayelsa) said the completion of the library was of utmost importance to the future generation.
He urged the committee on education to interface with the agency with a view to having adequate assessment of the extent of work done on the project.
The motion was unanimously adopted by the lawmakers through a voice vote by the President of the Senate, Dr Bukola Saraki. (NAN)