Presidency’s N2.2 billion party hall not listed in budget

Fec meeting Abuja

The proposed banquet hall will breach federal anti-corruption regulation.

 

The building of a new banquet hall at N2.2 billion for the presidency is nowhere listed in the State House’s budgets, qualifying the contract as an “un-budgeted project” in violation of a key federal rule, a review of the budget shows.

The construction is not listed amongst new or old projects for the current fiscal year, 2012; and is not in 2011 and 2013, both years scrutinized for added certainty.

There is also no mention of the project under the Federal Capital Territory Administration budget, authorized to execute similar projects at times, a recent example being the National Assembly’s new offices.

For the three years examined, where the banquet hall is mentioned in the budgets, the allocations are merely to address specific repairs and rehabilitation within the hall, subheads costing no more than N60 million each.

Even so, same repairs within the hall have maintained a constant showing in the budget for successive years.

Under the 2012 budget, new sets of “presentation equipment” were to be purchased for the hall at the cost of N116.7 million, while rehabilitation of the roof of the banquet dome was to cost N62.2 million.

Electrical installation for the building was proposed for N34.6 million too. Coincidentally, same “electrical installation” appeared for 2011 and 2013 at N45 million and N30 million respectively.

A further “rehabilitation of the dome” for the 2013 budget, a proposal not yet approved by the National Assembly, is also set at N81 million.

In all, no costs were allocated for fresh construction as approved by the federal government on Wednesday.

Presidential spokesperson, Reuben Abati, could not be reached for comments for this story. He did not return calls and is yet to respond to our e-mail enquiry.

Budgets examined were obtained from the Budget Office of the Federation website.

The observation, made after examinations by PREMIUM TIMES within 24 hours of the contract announcement, casts a troubling twist to an already controversial project.

It tells a story of how the federal government deviates from its own budgets, a theme rigorously reported by this paper; and more importantly, how it unilaterally deploys public funds to projects that critics consider frivolous.

The announcement of the job to construction firm, Julius Berger, came after the Federal Executive Council, FEC, meeting chaired by President Goodluck Jonathan.

The Federal Capital Territory Minister, Bala Mohammed, who addressed reporters after the meeting, said the huge contract, comprising a 150-seater facility with conveniences, walkways and allied utilities, will bring the unit nearer to the president’s residence.

Mr. Mohammed said the existing banquet hall is about two kilometers from the residence of the president.

A new one close enough, he added, will accord the country a due pride of place since “smaller countries” own similar structures.

“We notice that it is inconvenient, it is not in tandem with what is outside the country, even smaller countries have better Banquet Halls near the Presidential residence,” the Minister of Federal Capital Territory, Bala Mohammed said.

The announcement has been met with fierce criticism with many calling for its suspension, accusing the government of displaying insensitivity when the nation is bedeviled by unemployment and poverty.

“Is the hall now the problem of Nigeria? Why do we continue to waste public funds when millions of people are wallowing in abject poverty,” said Lanre Suraj of the Human and Environmental Development Agency.

Critics have also questioned the cost of the project and claims by the minister that the exigency of the project was to reduce the distance of a banquet hall for the president.

“If a banquet hall alone is constructed at N2.2 billion, one wonders how much hotels spend to build their entire structures,” Mr. Suraj said.

Bala Mohammed lies on distance

Distances in Aso Rock - Google Maps
Distances in Aso Rock Villa – Google Maps

On radio and television discussions Thursday, past news reporters who covered the presidency and visitors to the sprawling compound versed with the details of the villa, also picked holes in the minister’s two kilometers claim.

For hours, PREMIUM TIMES examined the distances and spread using imaging and mapping tools. The farthest, having to be the diagonal stretch from an end of the villa to the other, was 1.2 kilometers.

Distances from the president’s residence or office to where the current banquet hall is, averaged at about 500 metres.

But of all the shortcomings of the contract, it is the no-mention of the contract in the budgets, a crime punishable by three years and a fine of N100 thousand, that stood most prominent.

  • Hickey

    if the so called FEC set itself only to approving contracts Wednesdays, i tell you the quantum of horrific roads around this nation is enough to occupy them till 2015…but our president wants fun…

  • FreeKick

    Is theBoko Haram threat so real the president is troubled covering mere 500meters for a well-deserved dance downtown?

    • Ofehe Simon

      Freekick……Boko Haram is not the reason, in my opinion for the need to build a banquet hall. it is borne out of the need to have a befitting structure that can become a state building. So many countries around the globe has such structures which have become a landmark…..It is not everything that the north should look at it from the angle of the problem they have deliberately created for this nation.

      • NAGODI_1

        AND OUT OF ALL THE THINGS NIGERIAN LEADERS CAN COPY FROM ABROAD, ROADS, PUBLIC TRANSPORTATION, SOCIAL SECURITY, … BANQUET HALL TOPS THE LIST? I AM ALSO LIKE YOU IN THINKING THAT SINCE THE EVIL NORTHERNERS HAVE DESTROYED NIGERIA, THIS IS A TIME WHEN A HIGHLY INTELLIGENT, PURPOSEFUL AND UPRIGHT LEADER, THAT EMERGED FROM THE SOUTH-SOUTH WITH A PHD, WILL FIX IT!

  • Fatrick Luu

    The writer of this article or so called investigation has failed to point out that, the said banquet hall belongs or is the personal asset of Mr. President. It is idiotic to think or write evil of such conceived state structure…….

    • pronto

      i haven’t seen anywhere in the article where it is claimed the banquet hall is the private property of the president. I think the point the article attempts to raise is it is extra-budgetary…why not repudiate that..

    • Ebere Nwadibia

      Paid pipers like “Fatrick Luu” are like prostitutes being raped by their fathers. Pity the soulless man!

  • mr. Myle

    I wonder how some Nigerians think about this government excess spendings with no results, and yet are applauding them for a job well done. So far no major project have been commissioned by this government and yet 5trillion Naira have already been Looted out of the country’s treasury with no trace of what was done with it. Now Dezieni is Accusing Ngozi for not giving her money to do project. Bala Mohammed still remain the most unproductive FCT minister ever.Bolaji Abdullahi is spending 1.2billion for 21 on olympics Para-, or is it the Agric minister who always have a beautiful manuscript of policies but no result yet, or or or… Now a Hall for 2.2 billion. Amazing government is Nigeria’s GEJ

  • Innocent

    Out of all the begging issues in this country, it is a banquet hall that will make us look like the Jones’ that we are spending 2.2billion on.

  • Lanre

    Nothing is going to happen. Continue screaming. After the Yorubas and Hausa/Fulani have finished the country, you don’t want the Igbos to improve it. Chinua Achebe has already told you. “There was a Country”. The deep thinker has already spoken. Chief Awolowo and Yorubas are to blame for all the corruption in Nigeria. Continue with the idle criticism.

    P.S. Premium Times. Thank you for your reports and detailed analysis. I am beginning to regard you guys as my first stop for news. Hopefully you will not be run over by the ethnic bigots that have taken over otherwise successful online media.

  • UBAS_Brother

    Only in animal kingdom will leaders go abroad to copy only the proximity of banquet Hall to the state house. What about good roads, health and security.

    “Mr. Mohammed said the existing banquet hall is about two kilometers from the residence of the president.

    A new one close enough, he added, will accord the country a due pride of place since “smaller countries” own similar structures.”

    I wonder if Mr. Mohammed knows that more than 20 million Nigerians are in diaspora and know that there better things that will affect the lives of Nigerians than project like this.