Following a deluge last Tuesday, the roof of the National Assembly leaked so much that the entrance to the chambers of the Senate and House of Representatives was flooded. The flooding also affected the area where journalists were stationed in the edifice.
As a result, the plenary for that day was delayed as National Assembly workers were mobilised to clear the flooded entrance for the legislators to gain access to their offices and the chambers.
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The sight shocked not a few Nigerians, just as it embarrassed the nation in no small measure. No Nigerian was pleased with that sight, especially when considered against the huge amount of money spent on the construction of the National Assembly. How is it possible that a building of that status would be allowed to dilapidate to the point of leaking? This just emphasises the issue of our poor maintenance culture in the country. Public institutions and infrastructure built at great cost are left to rot without periodic maintenance as required.
At the National Assembly, it is not just the roof that is in a state of dilapidation. A visit to this national monument reveals that virtually all the facilities, services and supporting infrastructure are in varying states of decay. The walls are cracking; the paint washing off, and many other facilities have broken down. The dome of the National Assembly which can be viewed from afar and which symbolises the authority of the legislature in our democratic government is in a sorry state.
Yet huge sums of money are appropriated annually for the maintenance of the edifice, a development that is causing Nigerians to ask questions. Where did all the money go to? Why did the legislators allow the facilities and infrastructure to deteriorate to this level without taking action? What is the maintenance section of the National Assembly doing about the state of facilities in the edifice?
The explanation given by the Chairman, Senate Committee on Services, Senator Sani Musa, to the effect that responsibility for the renovation of the National Assembly had been given to the Federal Capital Development Authority (FCDA) amounts to buck-passing. The question is why was there no oversight exercise over the FCDA all these years by the National Assembly to ensure that the agency does the job assigned to it?
Oftentimes, we hear lawmakers talk about their welfare and the need to improve it. Sadly, that is not the case with the building housing them. We have not heard them complain about the state of the structure.
The National Assembly should take this incident as a wake-up call to put its house in order, especially as regards the poor state of its working environment. It is ironic that while it makes laws for the good governance of the country and performs oversight functions on how agencies under the executive arm of government conduct their businesses, the National Assembly has not found it necessary to do the same diligence on its own official working environment. This is, to say the least, not just gross negligence of duty but a regrettable example of misplacement of priority which the National Assembly would do well to rectify going forward.
The immediate task now is to repair the leaking roof as we are now well into the rainy season with more rains expected ahead which may lead to even greater flooding. This should be handled by the maintenance unit of NASS immediately while arrangements for major renovation works should also commence expeditiously. Nigerians have a lot of problems seeking the attention of their lawmakers and we would not want a situation where sitting would be suspended because the National Assembly is not habitable.
Furthermore, we call on all government agencies to maintain their structures. Tax payers’ money was used to construct them and it will not be fair to allow the buildings to rot away. That also goes for vehicles. We must imbibe maintenance culture and protect buildings and other necessary tools needed for the development of this country.