Seventeen years ago, Nigeria embarked on a very ambitious project, to build the largest library in Africa. Located between the National Mosque and the National Ecumenical centre, the National library was to be a grand edifice in the heart of Abuja where scholars, researchers and the general public would visit to consult and refresh their faculties for nation building and development.
Contract for this multi-billionaire edifice was awarded by the Federal Ministry of Education in 2006 to Reynolds Construction company, RCC, to the tune of 8.590,226, 393.00 billion naira. On April 6, 2006, the engines revved, and men and materials moved to site. A signpost right at the front of the imposing edifice in Abuja indicates that some of the finest architects, engineers, quantity surveyors and development consultants like Oduleye International Associates, BQC Consultants Limited Ltd, TechJob Associates, Mekon Associates, Etteh Aro & Partners, McAdog Associates and Odeleye Associates were to be part of the project. Thereafter, the problems started with revision of the costs for the completion of the project from 8.590,226, 393.00 to N17billion, to N38billion, and now to nearly 100billion as at today’s prices.
But while the National Mosque and the Ecumenical Centre have been completed and have been up and running several years ago, the National Library of Nigeria is abandoned. When we visited the complex in Abuja recently, we found it completely over run by weeds. Various construction materials like a giant crane remains in limbo, suspended in time and space. Rain water has eaten deep into the sensitive parts of the building and it is only a matter of time before the building goes down.
Word around indicates that during the administration of President Muhammadu Buhari, he put in a strong argument in favour of the completion of the National Library Complex. Sources at the Federal Ministry of Education told us that it was the Education Minister who appeared slow with revving interest with the construction of the Library.
Our investigations reveal that the issues with the funding of the project range from exchange rate fluctuations, and other variables. Consequently, the project was stopped in 2013. Our sources told us that in 2019, the Minister of Education, Adamu Adamu, said the Federal Government was “pursuing alternative sources of funding, especially from special intervention funding window to complete the abandoned project”.
There has been some talk that Buhari Administration approved the take-over and financing of the multi-billion library edifice by the Tertiary Education Trust Fund (TETFUND). Yet, as at October 26th 2023, the National Library building lies very fallow, very abandoned and is an eyesore on the Abuja skyline.
This investigation has contacted key parties involved with the construction of the National library to find out if there is an update on the project. A representative of the RCC Mr Sunday from the Ibadan office of the company did not show up at the time he fixed for our scheduled interview. The company did not respond to our interview questions sent to their email, at the time of concluding this report. All the other companies associated with the construction of the National library were silent on the matter as well.
Our AI sources said that libraries play a crucial role in national development. They are essential in promoting literacy, fostering a love for reading, and serving as inclusive spaces where individuals can gather, explore, and enrich their lives . With their mission to empower and educate communities, public libraries are vital pillars of lifelong learning and social development Libraries provide a network of delivery sites for government programs and services, advance digital inclusion through access to ICT, and dedicated staff to help people develop new digital skills.
The inclusion of library communities in the development of national strategies will offer them the opportunity to contribute towards the advancement of development priorities. Libraries are essential in preserving and providing access to the world’s culture and heritage. Libraries are essential in promoting literacy, fostering a love for reading, providing access to information, supporting literacy and ICT skills, providing community space, preserving culture and heritage, and contributing towards the advancement of development priorities.
An analysts told me that there are vested interests with the construction of the National Library of Nigeria. Tony Osauzo, journalist, said that prior to his disengagement from power, former president Olusegun Obasanjo brought in several multinationals seeking their help with donations towards the development of the National Library of Nigeria. The amount realized was close to N6billion. ‘What did he do? The man channeled the monies to the construction of his own library in his home state in Ota in Ogun state’, Mr Osauzo said.
A development expert Tony Abolo said that one of the reasons libraries are not accorded much attention in Nigeria is failure of ‘intellectualism’. According to him, those in authority hardly prioritize the reading of books, or focus on research activities like other countries do. Mrs Salami Eberhiemen 52, is a mother of 4 children. Three of those children are in the university and one of them recently graduated as an environmentalist. The other three in universities in Nigeria are pursuing careers in mass communications, medicine and food technology. ‘I wonder why our parliament is buying cars worth $160,000.00 for each member when that library is the way it is…those cars are the products of research done in the libraries abroad. If you calculate the entire sum needed for this library, my guess is that the monies would equal what is going to be used to buy these extremely expensive cars for these people’, Mrs Salami said.