Nearly half a billion naira debt owed contractors has forced a shutdown of some parts of the central air conditioning system at the National Assembly building in Abuja, The PUNCH learnt on Monday.
The worst-hit section is the New Wing of the House of Representatives, where several key hearing and committee rooms have been without a reliable cooling system since the first quarter of 2016.
Investigations indicated that as of October, maintenance debts of “over N466m” for vital AC components remained unpaid.
Among the affected hearing and committee rooms are 2.31; 0.28; 0.19 and 4.29.
Findings by The PUNCH showed that the “customised” AC system was installed by a foreign construction company between 2009 and 2011, when the firm completed the construction of the New Wing for occupation by lawmakers.
Findings revealed that the failure by the management of the National Assembly to meet with the foreign firm’s service costs led to the latter reportedly pulling out its maintenance services in 2013.
A source stated, “When there was a contractual disagreement, the management resorted to engaging other contractors to maintain the AC and provide other routine services.
“However, the requisite expertise was lacking due to the customised nature of the system.
“The new contractors made efforts to keep the system running but mounting debts forced them out too.
“The result is that some sections of the New Wing have their cooling system shut down for months.”
The PUNCH gathered that with the current situation, it is a dramatic sight lately to see lawmakers and invited guests battling heat in halls during hearings.
One legislative official said, “The heat in the halls can be unbearable; it causes so much inconvenience.
“It is also embarrassing when visitors see us dragging standing fans from the offices to the hearing rooms just to make members and guests feel a bit comfortable.
“You will hear side talks on why a “whole” National Assembly is unable to service the AC system at the House of Representatives.”
When contacted, the management of the National Assembly did not deny knowledge of the problem, but claimed that it was inherited.
The Director of Public Affairs, Mr. Yahaya Dan-Zaria, however, told The PUNCH that efforts were on to pay all contractors, while some had been settled already.
According to Dan-Zaria, the current management, led by the Clerk, Mr. Mohammed Sani-Omolori, inherited the “challenges” noticed within the National Assembly Complex and has been addressing them.
He stated, “You are aware that a committee was set up when he assumed office in August (2016) to look into all these issues.
“They are being addressed with priorities. I am not saying everything will be done this year because 2016 is almost over.
“It is only fair that for someone, who assumed duties in August, that there is a lot on the ground that will require time to be fully addressed,” the director added.
The Chairman, House Committee on Media and Public Affairs, Mr. Abdulrazak Namdas, also told The PUNCH that the House was aware that the cooling system in some offices and hearing rooms had failed.
He explained that the responsibility to maintain the building lied with the “bureaucracy” (management) of the National Assembly and not the leadership of the House.
Namdas also confirmed that there were “maintenance disagreements,” which would be better addressed by the bureaucracy.
“This particular case of maintenance has nothing to do with the standing Committee on House Services,” he added.
The National Assembly and its affiliate institutions received a yearly budget of N150bn from 2010 to 2014. It dropped to N120bn in 2015 and N115bn in 2016.
Investigations showed that up to N1bn was set aside for maintenance services from the bureaucracy’s share of the budget.
The PUNCH learnt that many services and equipment, including cleaning services, were either insufficient or poorly-delivered over the years.