OrderPaperToday – For Olayemi and other ladies who work in the White House of the National Assembly, using the toilets in that part of the complex is risky business. When they need to relieve themselves, they have to weigh their options whether to walk the long distance to the new extension building or risk getting infection from the poorly maintained toilets. Many times, there is no water to flush the toilets and the stench from the waste already deposited can be perceived from the corridors that lead to offices.
One would have imagined that an institution that gets an annual budget of an average of N125billion annually would be able to maintain facilities as basic as toilets but what is clear here is that money is not the problem but a poor maintenance culture which is a common feature in public institutions.
This same National Assembly is to spend N37 billion to renovate its complex, a development that is generating anger across the country.
On social media, Nigerians are constantly expressing anger over the decision to spend such an amount on renovation of just one institution while Nigeria seeks for billions of dollar of loans to fund the 2020 budget.
To fully contextualise it, the N37billion for the renovation of National Assembly complex is more than the entire capital expenditure of Ministry of Interior at N35 billion, Ministry of Niger Delta Affairs at N24 billion, while it is just N9billion lesser than the entire capital budget of the Ministry of Health (excluding the N44.5 Basic Health Provision Fund).
Judging from the condition of the National Assembly buildings, it does not need more money to renovate or do any such projects, what it needs is to improve on its poor maintenance culture. Failure to do so means it would not be long before Nigerians are asked again to bring out another billions for renovation.
The management that runs the institution also seems to be suffering from a case of acute misplaced priorities.
Recently, the administration of the National Assembly built two water fountains at the entrance of the main building, a project that begs a simple question, what is the need of the fountain when a basic thing as a decent toilet is lacking?
Porous security posts
It is not just the toilets that are suffering neglect. For the past 6 months, the security scanner has stopped working, which means anyone could walk into the assembly with a gun or even a bomb.
Even more troubling is that the attention of the security personnel stationed at the entrance to the National Assembly are on more fixated on preventing unauthorized people from gaining entrance and and pay little attention to what people are carrying inside their bags.
The X-Ray baggage scanners at the entrance to the White House do not function, the metal detectors do not work and cars are allowed into the complex without a bomb detection scanner. In simple terms, Transcorp Hotel is far safer than the National Assembly.
In 2018, following the dramatic carting away of the mace of the Senate, there was a knee jerk reaction to the porous security of the National Assembly, leading to the closing down of restaurant at the White House and removal of snacks vendors at the general car park.
That’s not all. Journalists have applied for identity cards for the past 6 months but the Identity cards are not ready. Hence, there is no uniform identity card, what you have is all shades of identification.
The abysmal security is further compounded by the lawmakers themselves, whose security details carry firearm within the complex, contrary to the laid down directive that all firearms are to be submitted to the armoury of the sergeant at arms.
Looking beyond the surface
While one would be tempted to argue that the myriad of issues affecting the National Assembly structure is a justification for the National Assembly’s request for the N37billion to fix the dilapidating infrastructure, however, considering the fact that on a daily basis there is one renovation work going on, one may argue that what ails the place lies beneath the surface.
A clear example is the case of the fountains versus the need for functional scanners. What is the function of the two water fountains recently constructed? Could the funds for them have been channelled to procuring new security scanners? The National Assembly equally painted the interior of the new annex, while basic things in the White House continue to rot away.
The situation is so bad that while the outer appearance of the legislative buildings is being touched and retouched consistently, getting chairs to sit on in the Committee Rooms means war. During the last budget defence exercise, people who came from Ministries, Department and Agencies had to stand because the chairs in the halls were not sufficient.
Electricity blackout is now a regular occurrence at the complex and the generators powering it that would usually automatically come on when there is a power outage do not function anymore.
Yes, the National Assembly complex suffers from a myriad of problems but pumping more money into it will not solve them. What it needs is a maintenance culture and proper placement of priority projects. Like these Nigerians say in the video below, the lawmaking institution does not need a whopping N37billion to fix its complex.