June 27, 2011 12:11AM
With the National Assembly quarters in Abuja retained by their outgoing counterparts, the 343 new lawmakers at the National Assembly are to draw between N3 million and N5 million for new houses as they resume work this week.
The Assembly leaders said the amount is to cover annual rental cost for new accommodation for each legislator, after a controversial government monetisation policy transferred titles for the Abuja Apo legislative quarters to former lawmakers who were not reelected.
The ownership rule has drawn the condemnation of some legislators as they face a raft of uncertainties, as the Senate and the House of Representatives resume legislative duties. Each new Senator is receiving N5 million for a new place in the federal capital territory after an initial demand for N7 million (and an upward rental fee for three years) were reportedly rejected by the senate leadership.
The 264 new members of the House of Representatives are getting between N3.5 million and N4.5 million, sources say. But the new entrants into the hunt for houses have already caused a surge in real estate value in choice areas within Abuja, complicating the accommodation controversy, with some legislators urging a reversal.
Within the city centre, for instance, houses that went for N1.5 million a year ago, are reportedly now being let out at N3 million.
“The major problem we are facing now is the problem of accommodation for the new senators. Many of them may not be able to concentrate in legislative proceedings because for now they do not have a place to stay,” Smart Adeyemi, a returning senator from Kogi state, said.
Mr Adeyemi spoke last week as both chambers faced the prospect of a tardy resumption with many of the new members without houses ahead of Tuesday’s reopening.
“We cannot even talk about hotels because where is the money for that. That is why the Apo legislative quarters should not have been sold in the first place. If the houses were to be there now, they will just pack in and start work, even if with ordinary mattress.
“Those behind the monetisation policies should have known that new senators are elected every four years, so there should be provision for that so that the new senators can move in. I think the proper thing to do is for government to reverse the sale of Apo and return monies back to those that bought the houses,” Mr Adeyemi added.
The three-week break was announced by both chambers shortly after inauguration to allow for the provision of home and office accommodation for the members.
The House has said office spaces for members will not be ready until August ending as contractors had announced a longer delivery time than expected. The deputy dpeaker, Emeka Ihedioha, said the House would however proceed with the June 28 resumption while improvised arrangements were made for the members as they resume.