By Ignatius Okorocha
The Senate has protested a media report by Channels Television alleging that its leadership approved the sum of N37 billion naira for the renovation of the National Assembly.
Leading the protest, the Deputy Whip, Senator Aliyu Sabi Abdullahi, while relying on order 14 and 15 of the Senate Standing Rules, declared the report as contemptuous and a breach of his privileges and that of members of the upper chamber.
The lawmaker lamented that the falsehoods contained in the report by the television station was intended to denigrate the image of the National Assembly and incite Nigerians against lawmakers on the various social media platforms.
He said, “Mr. President, Distinguished colleagues, yesterday, Abuja experienced rainfall. And the issue of the rainfall as it happened yesterday which was heavy was reported in various media.
“However, when I listened to the reportage on the Channels Television yesterday, there were many issues that were raised in their report that I felt has impinged upon my privilege and, perhaps, the privilege of my colleagues.
“In that report yesterday, Mr. President, Distinguished colleagues, three things were reported which were very inaccurate: that there was heavy downpour or leakage even in the chamber. That was not correct.
“There was leakage of course around the premises, outside the chamber and, also, it was reported that because of that leakage it delayed our sitting. That, also, was not correct.
“The leadership had house keeping matters and, of course, until the leadership comes into the chamber, sitting will not begin.
“Thirdly, Mr. President, Distinguished colleagues, and the most critical was that they reported the leadership as approving the sum of N37 billion for rehabilitation of the complex. This is farther from the truth.
“As well all know, the leadership of course, noticed the level of dilapidation and the need for rehabilitation of the National Assembly complex.
He explained that the leadership of the Senate and House of Representatives approached the President on the matter.
“At the end of the day, like we all know, when the sum of N37 billion was made as provision in the shared 2020 of the budget, the media went to town castigating and calling the National Assembly members all kinds of names.
“Now, at the end of the day, the pandemic came and that amount was reduced to about N9 billion so that they can take the rehabilitation in phases.
“As we speak, nothing has been done until yesterday, like we all saw, the leakages across the complex.
“This is a vindication of what the leadership and, indeed, the Senate and members of the House of Representatives saw with respect to this edifice which is a national monument.
“This is the house of Nigerians, and I believe it is also the face and symbol of our democracy. [And] I believe as responsible tenants – because we are all tenants here, we have our time to leave – we have a duty to report back, in this case
“If you follow what was been reported or comments being made in the social media arising from that report alone – they would just tell you what in 2020 last year, the leadership approved N37 billion, then they will show rain falling.
“The entire report was done to denigrate our integrity and to actually impugn on whatever it is that we stand for”, Senate Abdullahi said.
The Senate President, Ahmad Lawan, in his remarks described the report as irresponsible, adding that the media should seek clarification on matters of interest through proper investigations before filing reports.
He said, “The Channels Television corespondent or reporter here may not be responsible for that, because I know that our press corps members and reporters are in tune with what we do here and what happens around us.
“And they are very patriotic, very genuine and committed to democracy and, therefore, the Senate correspondent of the Channels TV couldn’t have sent that report.
“Let me advise the media, this is irresponsible, I must say, because seek the truth, investigate properly.
“Come to us, or go to those who you think should know better before you compile and send your reports.
“The fact that there was a leakage to me is a clear testimony, confirmation and vindication of the position the National Assembly took initially.
Fielding questions from journalists, spokesman of the Senate,SenSenator Surajudeen Ajibola Basiru,said that Contrary to the widespread falsehood being peddled both in the mainstream and online media as a fall out of the reported incident of the leaking roof of the National Assembly Complex after a heavy downpour on Tuesday, 21 June 2021, the National Assembly and its leadership is not responsible for the maintenance and renovation of the National Assembly Complex and they has not received a sum of 37 billion naira or any amount for the renovation of the Complex.
He also explained that while it is true that an initial appropriation of the above stated sum was made due to the decaying nature of the National Assembly Complex which has not witnessed any major maintenance or overhauling since construction, the said amount was reduced to 9 billion naira after the breakout of COVID-19 pandemic.
” the lawmaker added,”Even with this reduction, the sum of 9 billion or any amount is yet to be cash backed or released to the National Assembly. None of this amount is even appropriated for the National Assembly bureaucracy or its leadership.
“It must be reiterated that the National Assembly Complex is a National Monument which falls under the purview of control of the Federal Capital Development Agency. In essence, the FCDA is responsible for its maintenance as well as renovation and not the Leadership of the National Assembly as being falsely bandied about.
“The leakage witnessed at the foyer of the National Assembly yesterday justifies the apprehension of the leadership of the National Assembly and the FCDA and further underscores the need for an urgent intervention in revamping the dilapidated structures within the complex before it falls into further dilapidation with the attendant huge cost of possible replacement.”