The vertical tower is the key feature of an uncompleted Nigerian Cultural Centre. The sad tale is that the project, initiated 12 years ago, has been abandoned, reports Olawale Ajimotokan

 
The three cylindrical pillars along Independence Avenue are the signature identity of Abuja, the capital city of Nigeria.
The monolithic structures dominate the skylines like gallant sentry, watching the city from any incursion by its adversaries.
They are prominent icons in the Central Business District and immediate draw for residents and visitors to the city in like manner tourists are attracted to Eiffel Tower in Paris, Tower Bridge in London and Cristo Redentor in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
At night, they are brightened by the neon bulbs that illuminate the environs and add to the aura of the city.
The tallest of the towers stands at 170 metres (560ft). Presently they are regarded the tallest structures in the city.
The columns are surrounded by stainless steel wings, wrapped delicately but protectively around the base of the tower. They gradually open outwards as they extend up the height of the tower.
At the summit, accessible by an escalator, visitors can have conspicuous view of the city including iconic structures like the National Assembly, the Presidential Villa, National Mosque, Ecumenical Centre, the National Secretariat, Police Headquarters, and the Millennium Park, among others.
On top of the tower is a revolving restaurant, where dinners can take a panoramic view of the city and feel its pulse during the rush hour.
The Italian Manfredi Nicoletti designed the tower as part of the integrated National Complex project.
The extensive project was initiated in 2005 by the Olusegun Obasanjo administration. It incorporates the National Library, the National Square, International Auditorium and the Nigerian Cultural Centre.
The Managing Director of Salini, the Italian firm constructing the project, Dr. Piere Capitanio, describes the cultural centre as a ‘city in a city’.
It is equipped with a museum, indoor swimming pool, galleries, commercial centre, luxury hotel, coffee shops, children sports section and boutiques.
The cultural centre is a wide-shaped steel glass structure, containing several multi-storey buildings. It is shaped like a pyramid when viewed from the tower.
The exhibition of arts will make the museum a veritable institute for arts and culture, while the auditorium, surrounded by conference rooms, has a sitting capacity for 1,250 guests and is dedicated to performing arts.
The National Square, the Cultural Centre and the Millennium Tower and International Auditorium are linked by an underground basement that houses a parking space for 1,200 vehicles. The measurement of the basement is 7,000 square miles.
Unfortunately, the federal government is stalling on the project completion arising from inadequate funding.
Capitanio informed the FCT Minister, Malam Musa Mohammed Bello, when the latter toured uncompleted federal projects, that government made no budgetary provisions for the complex in 2016 and this year.
He regretted that the development had warranted the Italian firm to suspend construction work which was only 38 per cent completed and over N35.7 billion already sunk into it.
The construction firm said the construction had been suspended pending the allocation of adequate budget and resolution of contractual issues.
The company has also submitted to the Federal Capital Development Authority (FCDA) the extension of time claims to the tune of N4.9 billion for 36 months.
Capitanio said an additional sum of $500 million (N38.2 billion) would be required for the project to be completed.
The estimated amount required is N35.6 billion at official rate of 1 EUR to N385, while variation of prices and extra amount required is N1.2 billion. When government signed the contract for the project, it was designed to cost N69.3 billion.
“I know the idea is to attract private investment but what I think personally is that this project is bound to attract core investors as we move ahead. It is too much on the cost but we have to do more,” Capitanio said.
Capitanio said the centre is supported by high profile facilities that will make Abuja the cultural capital of Africa in view of its uniqueness.
The Nigeria Cultural Centre occupies a total surface of 192,000 square miles.  
According to Salini Nigeria Limited, about 3,690 tonnes of steel reinforcement and total concrete of 133,600 million cubic in addition to 563,000 million cubic of total excavation will be required for the project.
The Cultural Centre is touted as a “city in a city.” It boasts of the national library, museum, indoor swimming pool, offices, luxury hotel, coffee shops, boutiques, auditorium and an underground parking space for 1,200 vehicles.
Bello promised to address the issues raised by Capitanio’s that the project was abandoned because of no budgetary allocations in 2016 and 2017.
The minister described the National Cultural Centre and Millennium Tower as one of the expensive and ambitious projects embarked upon in Abuja by government.
He said the project was strategic as it would make Abuja an international city and boost tourism and culture upon completion.
“You will not appreciate the magnitude of the project until you see it. Obviously, it is a task we want to complete subject to the availability of fund. By the time it is completed, it will edify the beautiful landscape of Abuja,’’ Bello said.
 
He noted that the car park will also solve the issue of indiscriminate street parking in Abuja if the car park is managed and put into use.
 “From what I have seen, the car park is large and can conveniently contain 1,200 vehicles. It will ease the problem of street parking you see in Abuja, when it is put into use. This is a solution and it will be a priority. May be what we need to do is to ensure that the access road that will allow vehicular traffic is in place. We should also bring the citizens here to the cultural arcade,’’ Bello said.
Capitanio recalled that the project presentation was approved by President Obasanjo to attract tourists to Abuja that lagging in international tourism.
He said: “It is nice to have a place like this where the population can come during the week and weekend and have something to do. The facilities will encourage people not to go out of Abuja during weekend. This is a way to build a city within a city. It is nice to have a place like this for cultural millage and where people come and relax.’’