Rich Nigerians rush to acquire plots near the proposed official quarters of the four presiding officers of the National Assembly.
While flagging off the provision of engineering infrastructure worth N23.65 billion for the district in March last year, Mr. Mohammed announced the change of the name of the district to Goodluck Jonathan District, saying the president has brought good luck to him and the country.
“May I suggest to the Executive Secretary of FCDA, who has the Abuja Master Plan and the Coordinator of Abuja Metropolitan Management Council to rename this place as Goodluck Jonathan District,” he said.
“This is because we have not named any district after any president in the past. The president I know is President Goodluck Jonathan and the president I know that is bringing good luck to me and to Nigerians is President Goodluck Jonathan.
“Therefore, by the power conferred on me I change the name of this district to Goodluck Jonathan District.”
The minister’s action did not go without resistance. The opposition Action Congress of Nigeria, ACN, in its swift reaction described it as a “poisoned chalice” and asked Mr. Jonathan to reject the gesture. The president did not.
Also, the Original Inhabitants Development Association, OIDA, complained that it was not consulted on the matter, adding that there were some ministers who did well to develop the Territory but did not “honour their principals” as Mr. Mohammed had done for his principal, Mr. Jonathan.
But despite these criticisms, the minister stuck to his gun even as his media handlers explained that his action was “spontaneous and altruistic.”
The presiding officers
Plots of land have been apportioned to build official residences of the presiding officers of the National Assembly, though it is not certain if the current occupants of the positions will live in them since their tenure expires in May 2015, unless re-elected.
The accommodation of the officers is not covered by the monetisation policy of the Federal Government which came into effect in 2003.
The move to relocate the presiding officers from the Apo Legislators’ Quarters was initiated by the immediate past FCT Minister, Adamu Aliero, during the Umaru Yar’Adua administration. Because of this initiative, some land speculators initially named the district after the former minister.
While unfolding the plan, Mr. Aliero told the Senate Committee on FCT that the Federal Government had voted a total of N1.5 billion out of the N124.11 billion of the Territory budget for 2010 to design the new official residences of the four presiding officers and another N2 billion for the vice president’s official residence.
The contracts for the construction of the residences were subsequently awarded on December 21, 2010 to four firms – Bussdor & Company Limited, Parsons Science Engineering Co. Ltd, Shelter Development Ltd, and Independent Service Nigeria Ltd.
While defending the ministry’s budget before the House of Representatives in February 2011, Mr. Mohammed who succeeded and inherited the plan justified the relocation of the residences, explaining that it became necessary because the presiding officers were being exposed to the dangers of the society at Apo Legislators’ Quarters.
“The National Assembly is the highest democratic body we have apart from the Presidency,” he said.
“And the National Assembly complex at Apo (District) has been sold out to the public. The place is being inhabited by all sorts of people (and so) leaving them there will expose them to the vagaries of the society.
“And anybody can be principal officer, so whoever is there and you leave them there you are not being fair to him.”
In both 2011 and 2012 Budgets, a total of N1.5 billion was earmarked for the design and construction of the four residences. In the current year, the budgetary proposal has been upped by N800 million bringing the total amount for the design and construction of the quarters to N2.3 billion.
The additional sum of money, according to the FCT ministry will be used to construct guest houses for the four residences, which were not part of the original plan.
However, more than three years after the contracts were awarded; none of the residences has been completed.
When PREMIUM TIMES visited the Goodluck Jonathan District, only the site for that of the Deputy Senate President’s residence had been cleared, but work stopped since.
A staff of Mangrovetech Construction & Engineering Nigeria Ltd, the company developing the infrastructure in the district, said work on the residences was suspended in order to complete the provision of infrastructure.
Mangrovetech, allegedly wholly owned by a top government official, was engaged to provide infrastructure for the district at a total cost of N35 billion for five years while another one year will be used to maintain the infrastructure.
Due to the delay in the construction of their official residences, the four presiding officers live in alternative residences since they assumed office in June 2011.
Where they live
Currently, the Senate President, David Mark, lives in the former official quarter meant for the Senate Presidents in Apo, a building purchased, while the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Aminu Tambuwal, lives somewhere in Maitama District.
The official quarters of the Senate President and the Speaker were reportedly sold to Mr. Mark and the then Speaker, Dimeji Bankole, in 2010 following the approval given by Mr. Jonathan.
There had been controversy over the plan by Mr. Bankole’s predecessor, Patricia Etteh, to renovate the residence with about N628 million before she could move. The plan led to her forced exit in October 2007.
It could not be confirmed if Mr. Bankole’s deputy, Usman Nafada, moved into the official quarters being constructed for the occupant of that office, located opposite the residence of the Senate President in Apo, before he left office in 2011. It was also alleged that he bought over the residence, which was why his successor, Emeka Ihedioha, had to make alternative arrangement.
On his part, the house that the Deputy Senate President, Ike Ekweremadu, lives on Jim Nwobodo Street, Apo Quarters, is believed to be owned by him. Mr. Ekweremadu was occupying the same position when the official quarters were sold to the four presiding officers of the National Assembly.