Senate President, David Mark
By Omololu Ogunmade and Onwuka Nzeshi
The Federal Government’s preparation for the centenary anniversary suffered a major setback Tuesday when the Senate President, David Mark, dismissed Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), Senator Anyim Pius Anyim, while briefing the senators on government’s preparation towards the programme.
However, the House of Representatives Tuesday endorsed in principle plans by the Federal Government to mark the 100 years anniversary of the nation’s existence as a country.
Disagreement ensued at the parley when Anyim told the meeting presided over by Mark that the funding of the entire programme would be private sector-driven, without any financial input from the Federal Government.
After Anyim’s presentation, senators were still asking questions when Mark abruptly cut the session short, saying the briefing was totally unnecessary if it would not by any means require government funding.
Mark believes that organising a programme of that magnitude without government funding is unrealistic.
He said: “Truly, there is no reason for this briefing if it is a commercially driven exercise. If it is just to brief us, then there is no reason for any question and answer. The youths that would be brought to Abuja, who is sponsoring them? But let it not be after we have been committed to it that we later find out that money is involved,” Mark said.
With that brief remark, Mark called for vote of thanks and forthwith, the meeting was brought to a close, while Anyim, who was apparently shocked stood behind the podium, while he was being sent off.
Before the mild drama, Anyim had told the senators that the celebration would kick off from February 4, this year and run through October 1, next year.
Nigeria will be 100 years old on January 14, 2014 following the amalgamation of Southern and Northern Protectorates in 1914.
According to Anyim, the centenary project will hold in Abuja and all state capitals, saying the essence is to celebrate Nigerians’ co-existence for 100 years and stress the need for continuity.
He listed the centenary projects to include the construction of new Abuja city gate, Abuja centenary city, unity squares in every state capital, medical diagnostic centre in each geo-political zone, ICT centres in all universities yet to have one, modern libraries and science laboratories respectively in six universities-one in each geo-political zone as well as police crime laboratory in each zone, among others.
The city, which he said would be built on a 1,000 hectares of land, will be a world class standard with focus on recreation and revolutionary approach to urbanisation in Nigeria.
He added that the city will comprise residential population of 20 per cent with the capacity to host 500,000 visitors a day adding that the city will contribute to Nigeria’s economy and its diversity in the next century.
Meanwhile, the House endorsement of the celebration came after Anyim briefed the leadership and members of the lower chamber of the National Assembly.
The opposition in the House had earlier kicked against the centenary celebrations because of its expected huge cost and the perception that it would amount to a waste of scarce resources.
In his briefing, Anyim allayed the initial fears of the lawmakers on the cost implications when he announced that the event would not cost the government a kobo.
According to him, government had already brought on board the organised private sector who have agreed to fund the project in various ways.
The Centenary Project, Anyim said, was conceived as a private sector initiative and will be self funding.
Deputy Speaker of the House, Hon. Emeka Ihedioha, who presided over the session, expressed gratitude to the executive arm of government for laying all the cards on the table.
He explained that the Federal Government would only organise a befitting commencement for the Centenary Project to capture the essence of the celebration and sustain the enthusiasm of Nigerians at home and abroad throughout the celebration.
Some lawmakers, who commented on the programme expressed relief that the celebrations were not going to be a burden and a drain on public resources.
Ihedioha said the House would study the proposal with a view to making inputs where necessary.
He also enjoined individual lawmakers not to hesitate to send their own inputs to the presidential committee handling the celebrations.