By Vincent Ujumadu
AWKA — THE Federal Government yesterday reiterated its commitment to complete the abandoned Zik’s Mausoleum in Onitsha with a reviewed contract sum of N185. 06 million.
Minister of Lands, Housing and Urban Development, Ndueze Essien, who visited the Mauseluem, yesterday, reiterated President Goodluck Jonathan’s commitment towards completion of the project at the Inosi Onira Retreat, near the Army Barracks in Onitsha.
He said government decided to review the contract holistically to accommodate the mausoleum, a conference/administrative block, residential/guest houses, external infrastructures, swimming pool, boys’ quarters, landscaping and horticulture, against the piece-meal approach of the previous contracts.
He said that on completion, the mausoleum will be 30 metres above the ground level and equivalent to a 10-storey building, adding that government had found that the complexity, risk content and sensitively of the building required expert touch, which was why the Federal Government was making funds available for its completion in the 2011 Appropriation Act.
He described the Mausoleum project as “one grave and commanding presence that Nigerians will for all times recognise, for the life of the great Zik has become a part of our common history and story of our triumph over the forces of oppression and injustice.”
Tracing the history of the project, he said it dated back to 1996, shortly after the death of the foremost nationalist, recalling that the Federal Government set up a Central Planning Committee to organise his internment and build a befitting burial chamber in his honour.
Vanguard recalls that the committee, which operated within the Presidency, appointed a consultant architect, Messrs Frank Mbanefo & Associates, to design and supervise the Mausoleum.
Precisely in November 1996, the government awarded contract for the construction of the burial chambers to Messrs Lemmy Akakem Construction Company Limited at the cost of N350, 497,316.60, unfortunately, the contractor abandoned the job shortly after.
The Presidency in 2000 transferred the project to the then Federal Ministry of Works, Housing and Urban Development. The Ministry made some efforts to resuscitate the project in 2001 and got the approval of the Presidency to re_award the contract again to Lemmy Akakem Construction Company at the initial contract sum, but the company again failed to deliver the job and the contract was terminated in 2002.
The demand for the firm to refund an outstanding sum of N29,578,749 to the government led to litigation that was later settled out of court in February 2006. By this time, what could be seen of a dream Mausoleum was the foundation and some columns at the ground floor.
In 2006, the then Minister of Housing and Urban Development Dr. Olusegun Miniko sought and got the approval of the presidency to engage a fresh contractor to handle the project through a selective tendering procure, the contract was awarded to Beton Bau Nigeria Limited at the sum of N121,412,998.54 and the site was handed over in November 2007, but work was delayed due to disagreement over the request for inclusion of rehabilitation work on some part of the main building allegedly destroyed by members of MASSOB.
In 2010 a total of N252 million was appropriated for the project and efforts were made to resuscitate it and the contractor was invited to mobilize to site but he requested for the revision of the rates for contracts in 2010.
The firm submitted a revised Bill of Quantities based on prevailing market prices which amounted to N335,684,380 in Febuary 2010, but the sum was negotiated down to N185,026,940.54 by officials of the Ministry and on March 17 2010 the contractor officially wrote indicating his acceptance of the offer.
The first son of late Azikiwe, Chief Chukwuma Azikiwe commended the Federal Government for the review of the contract and the concern the president has shown the family.
He wished that the new zeal of the Federal Government to complete the project should not be another dashed hope.