By Christiana Ekpa and Ikechukwu Okaforadi
Senate yesterday urged Federal Government to prioritise the funding and completion of the permanent site of the National Library of Nigeria in order to mitigate losses accruable to the project.
The Upper Legislative Chamber equally mandated its Committee on Education to meet with the Ministers of Education and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) and the National Librarian/Chief Executive Officer of the National Library of Nigeria.
It also advised the Federal Government to be more strategic in the award of contracts with a view to embarking on only projects that could be adequately financed to the tune of its budgetary appropriation.
This, it said was with a view to adopt an appropriation strategy that would ensure the completion of the project starting from the 2018 Appropriation Bill.
This was sequel to the adoption of a motion sponsored by Sen.Olugbenga Ashafa (APC-Lagos) on “The Preventable Economic Loss and National Embarrassment Arising from the Failure of the Federal Government to Complete the National Library after 11 years” .
Ashafa noted that the National Library Building project was conceptualised by the Federal Government in 2002 but awarded in 2006 to Messrs Reynolds Construction Company (RCC) at the sum of N8.590 billion with a project timeline of 22 Months.
“While the company commenced work on the project in April 2006, it could not proceed due to the failure of Government to release sufficient funds for the completion of the project, leading to its being revised 3 times over the period.
“Despite the importance of this National Library, the project has been poorly funded since its inception,” he said.
The lawmaker said the continuous failure to properly fund the project within the specified period would cause the government losses modestly estimated to be in the range of N40 to 50 billion.
“If this failure to fund the project expeditiously continues, it might cost the Government even more in the long run.”
He further raised concern that 57 years after the birth of Nigeria and with trillions of naira sunk in the development of Abuja, the National Library of Nigeria still operated from a rented building.
This, he said was because the library did not have a permanent site.
Ashafa, however, said that the National Library was of critical importance to the country because it would serve as an important intellectual monument representing the value placed on information, learning and culture.
“In View of the population explosion taking place in Nigeria, we no longer have the luxury of relegating knowledge and information amongst the populace.
“In the world that we are living in now, knowledge is the new black gold and we must not only diversify our economy into agriculture and solid-minerals but most importantly migrate wholly into a knowledge based economy.”
He further said that in achieving this, government must be focused on providing public access to quality knowledge and information.
“This failure of strategic planning is not peculiar to the National Library Project alone but has become the bane of various capital projects across the country, amounting to a significant number of abandoned projects and preventable economic loss.”
Contributing, Sen. Emmanuel Paulker (PDP-Bayelsa) said the completion of the library was of utmost importance to the future generation.
He urged the committee on education to interface with the agency with a view to knowing the extent of work done on the project.
The motion was unanimously adopted by the lawmakers after a voice vote by the President of the Senate, Dr Bukola Saraki.