FCT Minister, Nyesom Wike has countered Senator Ireti Kingibe for saying that some projects in the FCT budget were not priorities to the people of the nation’s capital.
During Wike’s presentation of the FCT supplementary budget to the Senate, Kingibe tackled the Minister’s plan to resume the construction of the Millennium Tower project, which was abandoned by previous FCT administrations and the provision of alternate form of transportation.
She had described them as wasteful, adding that the provision for the projects in the budget could be put to better use.
Kingibe said “Honorable Minister, I commend your efforts so far and your boldness, but I also think that your priorities are not people friendly. Number one, and also certain things. I was on the board of Abuja investment, of which Abuja Mass Transit is a subsidiary.
“Those buses, we have done them before, and within a few years, by the time your tenure finishes, all those buses will be dead. In the last six years, it was worked on to concession Abuja Mass Transit back and forth, back and forth, FCDA board sat on it,I don’t remember the name of the company.
“They created a committee that recommended to the board to concession those buses and those people, from what we gather, were going to put smart buses and they were going to be using CNG.
“Now, I think that, that 3 billion could be better used some other way than putting them back in reviving those debts.
And truthfully, we assessed those buses and we “were told just a fraction of them can actually be repaired, so you would actually need to buy fresh buses, which it doesn’t make sense to do, to buy petrol buses or diesel buses at this point in time, That’s one of my observations.
“Now, the other one, I want to go to the construction of the Millennium and Cultural Center. Sir, I understand that it’s a laudable project, if we had the money, but I think that right now, where we are in this country, in terms of where the people are, they need more intervention.
“When these projects are seen being built, it just does not sit well with them because they don’t benefit from it, they just see it as things we, the elites, do for our own self aggrandizement or satisfaction or whatever.
“I really feel the budget finishing all those other roads. I commend you, but those two projects, the cultural center and rehabilitation of the buses, I would like you to do a rethink on them.
Responding to Kingibe’s criticism, Wike said “We did not award this job. We cannot allow projects awarded by government to be abandoned, that’s a waste of funds itself.
“You mean we started the project, spent about 40 billion and then we abandoned the project, The cultural center for tourism is a priority, for even your own children to go and visit.
“Most of us will travel overseas and go to the mushroom culture. I think that it’s a priority for this country. It’s a revenue source for the country, it’s a level of choice for the country, i do not agree that this is not a priority.
“If we go and spend 40 billion naira, starting a project then midway, it is abandoned. That’s not correct.
It’s not only rich people that will go and visit those areas. School children will also to go and have fun, learn in those areas. Some of them will tell their parents we want to go there and see this and look at this.
Anything that will create money for government cannot be something that is not a priority. I have that capacity that it will work. if another person comes, it doesn’t work, it’s the person’s business.
I don’t like being theoretical, i want to be practical. We are not doing this that it is sustainable, we are going to enter a private agreement with people who will probably run it as a business, but at internal level you have to do something, We say we are going to remove Keke napep, how do you remove them when there’s no other alternative?
You will provide alternative first, then move them out. Our provisions cannot be enough but we must do something before the private public partnership succeed.
Madam, everything cannot be taken at the same time now. We have also taken renovation of schools in the national budget into that 5 billion. What we have done now was to select about 20 to 30 schools to renovate and it and put it in order.
Watch our 2024 Project, look at the funding in education, look at the funding in health and security then you need to know really, we are thinking about the people. What can we achieve now is what we are talking about from now.”