“…the abandoned national library is a reflection of the place Nigeria has for education, teaching and research.”
As TETFund takes over Sixteen years after the Federal Government awarded contract to build the national library headquarters project in Abuja to Messrs Reynolds Construction Company, the contract variation to complete the abandoned complex has jumped to N100 billion.
In 2006, the cost of the project was pegged at N8.59 billion by the government, with completion period of 22 months. By 2013, the amount shot to N18 billion and the project was stopped due to poor funding.
Two years later, the project was reviewed to N38.8 billion by key stakeholders and the construction firm submitted a new bill of N78 billion for completion, which was also agreed by all parties.
Also, in 2019, the Minister of Education, Adamu Adamu, said they were “pursuing alternative sources of funding, especially from special intervention funding window to complete the abandoned project.”
Adamu also explained that poor funding had been the challenge for the delay, in addition to exchange rate fluctuations, which necessitated regular upward review of the contract sum and to redesign the entire building among other variables.
Recently, the government approved the take-over and financing of the multi-billion library edifice by the Tertiary Education Trust Fund (TETFUND). Investigation shows there had not been any sign of activities at the site.
According to The Guardian newspaper, “the supervising ministry has forwarded the proposal to the Bureau of Public Procurement for further appraisal, and recommendations will be submitted to the Federal Executive Council for consideration. We will look for funding.
“Mr. President is worried over the delay, so TETFund was involved to take over the project. The National Library of Nigeria came into effect in the mid-1960s, with the enactment of the National Library Act of 1964, which was later replaced by Act No. 29 of 1970.”
“Prior to the passage of the National Library act, a series of educational conferences conducted in Ibadan served as the intellectual basis for the creation of a network of libraries funded by the government to provide accessibility of educational materials to citizens.
“A government advisory committee was later created in respect to the necessity to develop a local repository of knowledge. It was the first major formal body that called for a National Library as part of its recommendations. The government accepted the demands and undertook necessary steps to build a National Library.
“The committee was charged with finding a way to aid the government in bringing to prominence the intellectual foundations of its policies, creation of a national bibliographic centre and to provide an arena for the promotion of knowledge.”
The National Librarian, Prof. Chinwe Veronica Anunobi informed the newspaper that “the abandoned national library is a reflection of the place Nigeria has for education, teaching and research.”
Anunobi declared: “It is not about facilities but the way teachers and learners are exposed to available resources. One important learning facility in education parlance is the centre of the national library. It has to do with teaching and research outputs, which are housed in the library.
“The national library is what the life of congress is in the United States, United Kingdom (British Library), Alexandrian Library in Egypt, Italian Library and in South Africa, but unfortunately, the giant of Africa is not reflecting on its national library,” she said.
The National Librarian noted that “contract was awarded in 2006, but has not been completed till date.
“So, we cannot actualise our mandate, and our resources are scattered all over Nigeria. We keep our national heritage at the University of Ibadan. They are rejecting our items due to space.”
“In Lagos, Herbert Macaulay constructed library by British Council that is where we are today. We have what we called strong room where we stored documents of colonial, pre-colonial and post-independence. The environment is not conducive, and they are getting spoiled.”
She further explained that Nigerians are the most highly prolific in research projects, “We have evidence to justify this. Knowledge is produced in quantum in all parts of the country. People are coming in droves to pick International Standard Serial Book (ISSB) and International Standard Serial Number (ISSN) in thousands.”
“We give out over 1,000 ISSN and ISSB every year to those publishing books, articles and journals. Now, where are we going to store them and they are perishable items.”
“Still, we cannot afford to lose these important documents. Sadly, the national library building in Abuja, the Federal Capital, is not completed. We have prototype libraries in 33 states but we don’t have any in Anambra, Kebbi, Delta and Zamfara,” the National Librarian lamented.
According to her, “last year, we played host to four ambassadors, Public Affairs of the United States, Bangladesh, Bulgaria, and China; they came here wanting to see the giant of Africa and its national library, which is yet to be completed.
“Bangladesh has devoted a corner in their library for Nigeria’s works. In Bulgari, they have our heritage in their library, where people can watch our works. Mr. President made pronouncement on the national library and it went down well.”
She recalled: “All over the world, people are waiting and watching. People called from United States, Canada and South Africa to find out if the project is completed. President has approved TETFund to support the project.”
The Director, Library Services, Mr.Barnabas Awunandu, said though the Federal Government is interested in the completion of the national library headquarters, there has been lack of fund and this is the challenge.
Awunandu also added that Development Control under Federal Capital Territory Administration and the Federal Ministry of Education have met on the issue, saying, “we’ve made estimate for the completion of the library project.”
On his part, Comrade Adetunji Sanni, of National Library of Nigeria, regretted that the construction work, which began from N8.59 billion, now estimated to cost the Federal Government double the projected amount to complete it.
Rent for the present accommodation is N300 million per annum. Sanni stated that the money should been used to renovate parts of the abandoned structure to house some departments, adding that presently, 29 branches are on domestic strike pressuring for one year arrears of entitlement and others.
A property developer in Abuja, Adamu Kasim, said the national library is not just a storehouse of documents, publications and books of national importance, but a monument, lamenting that the building is abandoned due to poor budgetary provision and failure to meet some contractual obligations. He said that it will be difficult to ascertain what it will take to complete and stock the monument without recourse to original design and operational plans.” (The Guardian)