by Stanley Azuakola
As criticisms continue to mount against Bala Mohammed, the FCT minister, and his ministry’s inclusion of N4bn in the 2013 budget to the build the First Ladies Mission office complex in Abuja, the minister has come forward to defend the decision.
Now, it is important to remember that the African First Ladies Peace Mission for whom this house is to be built, is privately registered. It is not an initiative of the federal government. Also, the group meets only periodically, meaning that any structure meant for their use is most likely going to lie fallow very often.
Now here’s the Minister’s explanation through his Senior Special Assistant on Information Management Systems, Hajiya Jamilah Tangazah.
The Minister launched his defence by delving into history. He said that Decree No. 6 of 1976 which created Abuja, simultaneously created the Federal Capital Development Authority with duty and responsibilities to plan, design, provide the infrastructure and construct public buildings as well as services to the entire 8,000 square kilometers of the FCT.
Also, the African First Ladies Peace Mission was created in 1996 to promote peace and harmony in Africa after the 1995 Beijing Conference on Women and its subsequent declaration in Zimbabwe during which the Organization of African Unity (now African Union) keyed in. Since its inception in 1996, the organization has been debating issues of relevance to African women, children and youths, such as social justice, the environment, and human rights, especially gender equality.
The Minister said that the Federal Government, as part of its obligation to international organisations, hosts and accommodates certain international bodies just like it is done across the globe. The costs of rents and accomodation when this happens, he said, tends to be above one billion Naira, and in Abuja, these obligations are transferred to the FCT administration.
Consequently, the argument of the ministry is that it is a more efficient option for the FCT administration to build the proposed headquarters of the African First Ladies Peace Mission. This would save costs by using the building to serve multiple roles in providing office accommodation as well as housing not just for the African First Ladies Peace Mission but to other international bodies as well.
Mohammed said the FCT administration was acting in accordance with its duties and responsibilities in the law by its proposal to build the edifice of AFLPM, a publicly-listed building.
Is anyone convinced?