First Lady’s N4bn building not yet approved-Senate

First Lady, Patience Jonathan

The Nigerian first lady wants a N4 billion mission house for wives of African Presidents.

The Nigerian Senate, Tuesday, said it is yet to approve the construction of a mission house for wives of African presidents, a controversial initiative Nigeria’s first Lady, Patience Jonathan, proposed to cost N4 billion.

Senators first spotted the plan for the African First Ladies Peace Mission Building during a review of the budget of the Federal Capital Territory, FCT, for 2013. They dismissed the plan as “scandalous”, triggering intense public condemnation for the project.

Mrs. Jonathan, as well as officials of the FCT, has scrambled to defend the project as having been instituted since 1990s, under military regime, claiming the first lady’s interest was only to complete a long-abandoned project.

Officials have also said the First Lady’s passion for the job was to leave behind, a “legacy” after her husband’s tenure, as did the past First Ladies.

But the project’s huge budget-the size of the entire budget of the Federal University of Technology, Yola, or about the Federal University of Technology, Akure for 2013- has stirred even more criticisms.

The budget passed through the second reading at the senate, a mandatory step ahead of committee review.

But the Senate retains one more reading-involving clause to clause approval by all members- before the final passage; meaning lawmakers still hold one chance to block the spending, should they wish.

Spokesperson for the Senate, Enyinnaya Abaribe, said on Tuesday until the budget proposal is brought before Senate at plenary for clause by clause consideration, any report of Senate approval remained speculative.

“I think that matter is in the FCT budget and the FCT budget has just passed a second reading and they are going to bring it for the third reading, in which case we are going to go by a clause by clause analysis in the passage of the FCT budget,” Mr. Abaribe told journalists in Abuja.

“So, I will ask everybody to be patient until we pass the clause by clause of the bill. When that is done, that is when you will now know whether the Senate, acting as the House of Assembly of the FCT, would have passed such a budget or not. For now, everything that you say is mere speculation. We have not passed the FCT budget.”

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