|Mrs. Patience Jonathan|
The Senate on Wednesday dropped the controversial African First Ladies’ Peace Mission House project when it passed the N259.65bn budget of the Federal Capital Territory for the 2013 fiscal year without approving the N4bn appropriated for it. In February when the budget proposal was brought to the National Assembly, it contained N4bn vote for the construction of the mission house in Abuja, a development that attracted a lot of criticisms from members of the public.
The Senate, during the second reading of the bill, questioned the rationale of committing scarce resources to prosecute a less important structure. Civil rights groups and political parties had also berated the Federal Capital Territory Administration for budgeting N4bn for the construction of the building for a non-governmental body headed by the wife of the President, Mrs. Patience Jonathan.
They had contended that since the Federal Government had earlier declared the mission as a non-governmental organisation, it would be inappropriate for the same government to spend public funds on it. Presenting the budget report on Wednesday, the 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 has been distributed to meet pressing needs in the area of engineering and satellite towns.”
A breakdown of the budget showed that N48.03bn was approved for personnel matters; N49.5bn for overhead; N97.54bn for recurrent expenditure; and N155.66bn as capital expenditure.
Adeyemi said the budget was predicated on a projected revenue of N259.698bn with a fiscal surplus of N645,666. He also said that in carrying out its oversight duties, the committee identified critical areas of need for the development of the territory and to ensure improved standard of living for its inhabitants.
“Therefore, the committee jostled with the budget estimates, deploying funds to meet areas of critical needs like roads, water, health, education and development of satellite towns within the territory, city maintenance and cleaning, recreational facilities, construction of rehabilitation centres, agriculture, transportation, security services and rehabilitation of the ECOWAS Parliament Building,” he said.
After passing the budget, the President of the Senate, David Mark, called on the committee to rise up to its responsibility by discharging its oversight functions effectively.
He said the city was dilapidating and receding in its development with traffic congestion and ill maintained streets and gardens depicting the decay. Mark said, “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.
“This is where we have to implore your oversight functions. It is our responsibility to ensure that things work properly.”