N9b extra vote stalls project
It was meant to be a worthy edifice housing the Vice President and one of the former President Goodluck Jonathan’s administration’s star projects. But, with N7billion already spent, the number two citizen’s official home now seems abandoned, subdued by weeds.
The Federal Capital Development Authority (FCDA) has abandoned the project, following the refusal of the 7th Senate to accept the inflation of the contract sum by N9 billion.
The builders have not been fully paid despite the release of the N7billion, The Nation learnt. Why they were shortchanged was not clear yesterday.
The project is yet to reach 80 per cent completion, contrary to the facts presented to the Senate by the FCDA.
The contract was awarded in 2009 at N7billion. But in 2012, a former Minister of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) Sen. Bala Mohammed, came with a request for N9billion more to complete the project.
The variation was expected to accommodate a helipad. There was public outrage.
FCDA Executive Secretary Adamu Ismail later told the Senate Committee on FCT that the proposed additional N9 billion was slashed to about N6 billion by the Bureau for Public Procurement (BPP).
He said the variation was also meant to provide furniture, fencing, two additional protocol guest houses, a banquet hall and security gadgets.
The then Senate Committee on FCT, led by Senator Smart Adeyemi, however, rejected the request for the variation, which was more than 100 per cent.
Adeyemi said either N13 billion or N14 billion or N16 billion for the project was “indefensible”.
The abandoned residence has been overtaken by weeds.
Reptiles are moving freely at the site.
Although the weather-beaten red gate was under lock at the weekend, it was learnt that no fresh work had been done on the site since 2013.
A source said: “The construction of the VP’s residence has been abandoned by the FCDA since the Senate turned down the demand for variation.
“Despite the Senate Committee’s position, the former FCT Minister presented a memo to the Federal Executive Council (FEC) but ex-President Jonathan said the nation cannot afford 120 per cent variation.
“The former FEC resolved to complete the project within available budget. This is why the project is stalled. Definitely, we have a case of abandoned contract at hand.
“The same abandonment is applicable to the new residences of the President of the Senate and the Speaker of the House of Representatives.”
A representative of the construction company, Julius Berger Plc, refused to speak with our correspondent last night.
The source said: “Go to those who gave out the job please.”
A presidency source, said: “The uncompleted residence of the Vice President was not included in the handover note on the pending issues at the Presidential Villa.
“I think it might be part of the report of the FCDA. But it is sad that we have to cope with an abandoned project even at the seat of power.”
The Jonathan administration left N8.185, 575,211.50 debts at the Presidential Villa.
The report said the N8.1billion liabilities were outside the expenses on the renovation of the Defence House, the main residence/ president’s office, Aguda House/ Vice President’s office and guest houses under the transition programme.
The report said: “The primary challenge facing the State House has been the inadequacy of successive budgetary appropriations. The State House annual appropriations do not match its actual activities, thereby leading to regular recourse to additional funding from Intervention Fund from the Federal Ministry of Finance.
“About 283 of the temporary staff not found eligible for regularisation were with the approval of His Excellency, the President given contract appointments renewable annually, based on performance and fitness.
“However, payment of their salaries (an average of N8million per month) is from State House overheads provision, which remains a huge challenge to State House.
“The existing infrastructure for mechanical, electrical and associated components have aged and are performing well beyond their design lives.
“The proposal for their replacement/ upgrade has been reviewed and certified by the Bureau of Public Procurement in the total sum of N3,647,793, 305.76. However, due to paucity of funds, phased implementation is being adopted for the most vital and critical works, starting with Phase I in the sum of N693, 119,509.55.”