BY EMMANUEL AZIKEN, POLITICAL EDITOR, CLIFFORD NDUJIHE & DAPO AKINREFON
Senator Bala Mohamed’s devotion to the well being of President Goodluck Jonathan had in the past not been doubted. As Minister of the Federal Capital Territory, FCT with concurrent duty as landlord to the president, he had rustled not a few feathers when he named a new layout in the federal capital after President Jonathan.
Now, the minister is the subject of criticisms following his avid support support for the construction of a new N2.2 billion banquet hall in the presidential villa. It is an issue that may not die soon.
The decision to go ahead with the construction of a new banquet hall, or party hall as was widely reported by newspapers last Thursday, followed the approval of the contract by the Federal Executive Council, FEC, the day before.
Justifying the construction of the new hall, Senator Mohammed had said: “We noticed that it (existing hall) is inconveniencing; it is not in tandem with what is outside the country. Even smaller countries have better Banquet Halls near their Presidential residences.”
It was an argument that has stirred stern reactions from the critical elements in the civil society and some opposition politicians. Remarkably, normally steadfast apologists of the president belonging to the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP have been mute on this issue preferring not to defend the administration in what some agree is a wasteful venture.
The contract is insensitive — Aturu
Human rights activist and lawyer, Bamidele Aturu flayed the decision of the administration saying “It is unbelievable really that the Federal Government would be talking about spending such a huge amount of money on a hall or enjoyment for owambe kind of partying, hall at this time.
I think it is quite insensitive, it does not demonstrate that the government wants Nigerians to believe that the economy is not boyant and that the government cares about the welfare of the majority of Nigerians given the immediate needs that Nigerians suffer in other areas of life given the general decay of infrastructure, the lack of good roads, the fact that our educational system has collapsed and the miserable wages that workers are paid. And this gives a lie to the kind of comments made by people like CBN governor, Sanusi Lamido that they should reduce the size of the workforce. This shows that Sanusi lives in the moon, he does not know the problem with our economy, he does not know that the problem with our economy is waste and corruption and this kindof extravagant, reckless spending by government. I am expecting his own comment on this kind of spending.
So, it is wrong, it is unacceptable, this government must listen to Nigerians and suspend this kind of indefensible expenditure with immediate effect.
Govt is visionless — CPC
A situation where many Nigerians are hungry and you are constructing a N2.2 billion
I think this government has more or less gone out of order .
I think they just wake up in the morning and think of what to do. They don’t seem to have any plan, when you deal with plan less people, visionless leaders these are the kind of plagues that can envelop any nation.
Govt has beaten its own record in profligacy —ACN
Speaking through its national publicity secretary, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, the Action Congress of Nigeria, ACN said the government has beaten its own record in extravagance.
“It is interesting that a Minister of the Federal Republic of Nigeria is comparing the country with ‘smaller countries’ when it comes to justifying a project that will only benefit a few elite. Does the Minister know that the citizens of the so-called smaller countries enjoy uninterrupted electricity supply? Does he know that the citizens of those countries don’t have to queue up endlessly for petrol and kerosene; that they don’t have to depend on Okada for transportation; and that they have no road as terrible as Lagos-Ibadan expressway?
“In any case, nothing can justify the decision to spend such a huge amount of money on a Banquet Hall in a country where many go to bed hungry most nights, where youth unemployment is at a high 46.5% and where projects that could make Nigeria to achieve the MDGs, less than three years to the target date, are almost non-existent.’’
It’s a wasteful project — Sagay
Constitutional lawyer, Professor Itse Sagay described the proposed amount for a banquet hall at the villa as a wasteful project.
According to him “I am shocked because right now, the impression we have is that the government is short of money. And you know there is this big debate going on now on whether the civil service should be reduced so that there will be more money for development. So, I would have thought if we have N2.2 billion, we will use it either for roads, hospitals, universities or other developmental projects rather than a banquet hall. In my view, it is a wasteful project for now given our tight financial circumstances.”
It’s a big time fraud — Usman Bugaje
On his part, Alhaji Bugaje, a former National Secretary of the Action Congress of Nigeria, ACN, lampooned the Federal Executive Council saying “do you even need to hear my reaction? To me, it is reckless, senseless and it is a big time fraud.”
The President is insensitive —Adabanjo
Afenifere leader, Chief Ayo Adebanjo said the move “shows the insensitivity of the president if at this time he is budgeting N2.2 billion for a banquet hall when everybody is shouting about the high cost of living and poverty in the land. What special function will it perform that will warrant the new one to cost that much? All our roads are already dilapidated. Instead of building roads for us, he is busy looking for money to build a new banquet hall. It shows the insensitivity of the president.”
It’s embarrassing and scandalous — Uko
National President of the Igbo Youth Movement, IYM, Evangelist Elliot Uko said at a time the country was facing huge socio-economic problems the N2.2 billion contract for a banquet hall was embarrassing.
“It is very embarrassing. The country is sick; we are being bombed everyday and Nigerians are in despondency. For us, the contract is embarrassing and scandalous because there is frustration in the land with a large army of unemployed people roaming the streets and nothing is being done to provide them a source of livelihood.’’