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National Assembly Broke, Can’t Maintain Facilities

The National Assembly may have been hit seriously by cash crunch given the traits emerging from both chambers of the Senate and House of Representatives.

Indications from the Senate have shown that the operations of its various committees are seriously being hampered, just as facilities in the lower chamber are steadily collapsing.

The bad economic situation of the senate came to the fore Wednesday when Senate President Bukola Saraki sought to know why majority of the committees given special assignments to conduct public hearings have not been turning in their reports.

However, with the exception of the Senate Committee on Health, which held a public hearing on Monday, the rest of the committees said openly that they have been hampered from holding the essential public hearings because they do not have the resources to do so.

All of the committees read out by the Senate President in his verbal query said on the floor that they had written to seek for fund from the Senate as provided for in the statutes, but that not a kobo has been released to them.

That was the excuse given by all the committees called by the Senate for explanations on the slow pace of work noticed in their activities.

Each committee is entitled to the sum of N2 million for a day public hearing.

However, Deputy Speaker of the House of Representatives, Hon. Sulaiman Lasun Yusuff has attributed the poor state of facilities at the National Assembly to inadequate budgetary provision for the legislature, making it difficult to maintain critical facilities such as the air conditioning and elevator system within the complex.

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Hon. Lasun stated this upon mounting the podium whilst observing the mood and countenance of participants at the investigative hearing on the accounting procedures of the Federal Inland Revenue Services who apparently appeared dissatisfied with the temperature within the hall.

He said: “I can see that your stay here is not comfortable due to the condition in which you have operated here. It’s because we are unable to keep the air conditioning system in working condition as a result of inadequate budgetary provision.

“So, that’s how poor we are at the National Assembly. So when people talk outside with the intent of painting us black as those sitting on the budget of this country, you here can understand better what we go through”, he said.

Before Hon. Lasun made the remark, some staff of the National Assembly had actually accused the Salisu Maikasuwa-led Management of negligence.

The accusation, which the staff discussed in hushed tones over what they termed “sorry state of infrastructure within the complex” was heightened when guests invited for the investigative hearing openly complained about the hot temperature in the hall.

A guest sought to know from a staff why people had to endure the heat for hours, and the bewildered staff responded saying, “I can only provide what’s within the budget of the Committee at this sitting, but if you ask me why the air condition is not working, that’s beyond me. You can direct such question to the Clerk of the National Assembly whose responsibility it is to make all these things work”.

“This is how we have been suffering here. Even most of the offices are like that and nobody seems to care anymore. And the annoying thing is that we the staff always feel embarrassed each time outsiders come in and complain about these things”, the staff whose name can’t be mentioned stated.

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Reacting to the assertion, another visitor who is an Auditor with a construction company and who refused to give his name chipped in, saying that “maybe the budget for putting the air condition on has not been approved for the Ad-hoc committee which explains why it’s not working”.

An unnamed German working with Julius Berger Plc who also attended the hearing and suffered the heat had to call somebody on the phone to complain about the hotness of the temperature in the hall.

He said: “I’m in the National Assembly for an investigative hearing which is likely to start way behind schedule. The worst part is that we are in serious heat because the air conditioner is not working and I’m really suffering here”.

He complained about the late-coming attitude of the lawmakers who fixed time for the hearing but can’t honour their own time as stipulated.

Recall that this Newspaper reported the same scenario regarding the failure of the central air-conditioning system which began gradually in parts of the “White House” complex which houses both legislative chambers and later spread to the inner recesses of the Green Chamber where lawmakers engaged in the laborious process of fanning themselves using their order papers as proceedings went on.

The faulty systems which failure was noticed in the offices has finally spread to the new building where most of the public hearings take place with many visitors trooping in and out thereby further exacerbating the current heatwave.

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The development has been described as a manifestation of the collapse of managerial responsibility within the National Assembly bureaucracy accentuated by the attitude of politicians who rather endure than complain about the situation.

To this end, another staff who over-heard some visitors complaining retorted that, “maybe when the Speaker enters and experiences the heat, he might do something about the situation by speaking to the Management”.

As at present, only a few elevators are left functioning in the House of Representatives wing of the complex with the last maintenance work on the facilities said to have taken place in August of 2015.

The situation is not different with other ‎facilities such as the water system convenience, Internet connection all functioning in an epileptic manner.

Just like members labour to cool themselves down in the chamber, visitors who attend public hearings on invitation also make their stay a bit comfortable by fanning themselves to reduce the debilitating effect of heat in a hall packed full of people.

Many who came in suites sometimes had to pull off their jackets and make do with the inner shirts

Investigation by our correspondent had revealed that facilities at the House of Representatives wing of the complex started deteriorating when the maintenance contract which was hitherto handled by Julius Berger Plc (which built and installed the facilities) was revoked by the Management and given to indigenous companies linked to some senior officer in the National Assembly Management. The German company still maintains the facilities in the Senate wing, which seem to function a little better.