THE Senate in dismissing the N4 billion that was proposed as First Ladies’ Mission House, a project that Mrs Patience Jonathan, the President’s wife was promoting, was so polite it missed an opportunity to make a point the growing appetite for opportunism.
Mrs Jonathan wanted a facility for activities of African first ladies. It was her pet project, a private venture, under a non-governmental organisation she runs.
How did the concerns of a private organisation become an item in the budget of the Federal Capital Territory, FCT? What gave the authorities of the FCT the audacity to imagine they could expend N4 billion of public funds on a private facility?
We find the FCT’s effrontery terrifying. If the amount was not big to draw attention, would it have passed? If it was concealed on a less prominent heading would the Senate have noticed?
Who initiated the inclusion of the project in the budget? Does the Senate not think it should investigate the attempt to mismanage public funds?
The proposed N4 billion expenditure would have been only 1.14 per cent of the FCT’s N350.73bn budget which the Senate passed, but that is beside the point. Whether it was N1 or N1 billion, public funds should be used for public projects and for the benefit of the public.
Appropriateness of the proposed expenditure had been an issue since last February when the FCT presented the budget to the National Assembly. Various civil society groups, political parties and the public were against the project. Their argument was simple – it was a private project.
Chairman, Senate Committee on FCT, Senator Smart Adeyemi, said “It is worthy of note that the proposed appropriation for the construction of building for the African First Ladies’ Peace Mission house has been distributed to meet pressing needs in the area of engineering and satellite towns.” He failed to mention that public opinion counted in that decision.
Abuja is decaying, but like the President of the Senate, David Mark said, the authorities tend to see the dilapidation in physical terms, not in the lives of people, especially outside the developed municipality.
“There is a lot of traffic congestion. The streets are not being kept in very good condition; the gardens and the lawns are not being maintained; I think there are a lot of areas where the city has to work very well,” Mark said at the session.
Water, electricity, transportation, roads, housing, hospitals, schools are in shambles in FCT, in areas without lawns, streets or gardens. The saved N4 billion should be used to improve the lives of ordinary people. Governments are about the welfare of the people, ordinary people too, not just projects.