On the day that former president Olusegun Obasanjo’s letter to the current president, Mr Goodluck Jonathan, was pasted in several newspapers across the country, there was another story that seemed to take the opportunity to fly just under the radar.
This other article, titled “FG to Close down National Assembly for Renovation” says, in a nutshell, that the Federal Capital Territory Administration (FCTA) announced the closure of the two chambers of the National Assembly for 12 months “to allow for expansion, upgrading and renovation of existing structures estimated to cost N40,238,899,499.85.” For those never developed a good relationship with math, that’s N40.2 billion. According to the FCT Minister, Senator Bala Mohammed, the work, to be carried out by Julius Berger, means the members of the national Assembly had been relocated to the large committee and conference rooms within the premises until its completion. He also said the project was under the national priority of the government and that it was in the Abuja master plan as well as the budget. The minister explained that the project was specifically for the construction of Phase 3 Part 3 and upgrading of the two chambers of the NASS complex, and that it would serve to provide a library, budget office, printing press, clinic, restaurants, banquet hall, places of worship, auditorium, TV/radio/press facilities, fitness room, administrative offices, technical rooms, and meeting rooms, not forgetting that it would also mean the installation of new electronic voting systems.
Sound impressive to you too? That amount translates as roughly US$253, 873, 252.77, if you convert at the very conservative (out-dated, even?) rate of N158.50 to the dollar. Yet the amount is still nothing to sneeze at. But we see numbers every day and, as long as it doesn’t directly impact you, it’s hard to tell exactly what it means, so let me try to put it into perspective a little bit. I’ll be even more generous and give away the $3million plus change, leaving it at a round figure of $250m.
First of all, for $250m you can have a Hollywood movie made. And not just any Hollywood movie; you can hire Johnny Depp to star in it, Gore Verbinski (Pirates of the Caribbean) to direct it, and Jerry Bruckheimer to produce. Whether that movie becomes a success or not is an entirely different thing.
But maybe you’re not that big on movies. What about philanthropy, is that more your style? Well, I’ve got just the thing for you. Back in March 2013, United States’ Secretary of State John Kerry announced that the US would provide $250m in assistance to Egypt after the Egyptian president at the time, Mr Mohammed Morsi, promised to engage in negotiations with the International Monetary Fund over economic reforms. This package was to consist of a $190m infusion for Egypt’s budget, as well as $60m for the creation of a fund to support small businesses, with a focus on Egyptian entrepreneurs and young people.
In other, unrelated news, incoming US presidents are given a budget of $100,000 to cover renovation costs. Barack and Michelle Obama, however, have taken a rather different approach in their second term. In recognition of the fact that a sizable number of US citizens are having trouble keeping their homes, the Obamas have opted not to use taxpayers’ money for the White House renovations, instead preferring to pay for it out of their own pocket. For this reason, they have declined to specify exactly how much the renovations are to cost, and I am not one to speculate on such things. What we do know, however, is that they have hired Hollywood decorator, Micheal S. Smith for the job. Mr Smith is well known for his work, including jobs for the likes of Steven Spielberg and Rupert Murdoch.