The Ministry of Foreign Affairs has denied allegations that the federal government was planning to sell the Nigeria House in Tarry Town, New York, United States.
The ministry while testifying before the H ouse of Representatives’ Committee on Foreign Affairs investigating the matter, through its Permanent Secretary in the ministry, Ambassador Dr. Martins Uhomoibi, said there was no time the ministry contemplated selling the mission house.
Also, the representative of the Bureau for Public Procurement (BPP), Ayo Aderigbibe, who is a director in the agency, said they are not aware of any such plan, adding that the ministry of foreign affairs is a procuring agency, which can also dispose of any property.
The permanent secretary said the house, which was purchased at $234, 000 in 1961 during the time of the late Nigeria Prime Minister, Tafawa Balewa, has not undergone any major repair since 1989, which is why the Nigerian Mission to UN proposed for its renovation.
According to him, the house became dilapidated due to lack of repairs, saying there was need to invest money into it to salvage it. He said in 2009, independent valuation was carried out by an American company which gave two suggestions, the first of which was to have a fairly new structure at $16.9 million or to carry out some repairs at $12.8 million, with the first being agreed upon.
According to him, $1.6 million was allocated for some repairs in 2009 by the Federal Government with $1.1 million released for that purpose, adding that directive has already been given for work to start based on what is available at hand.
He said since its purchase, the house has been occupied by different permanent representatives of the country to the United Nations such as Alhaji Muhammadu Ngilarima, Simeon Adebo, Lesly Harrymon, Akperode Clark, Maitama Sule, Major-General Joseph Garba (rtd), Ishaya Audu, Prof. Ibrahim Gambari, Aminu Wali, among others.
A member of the committee, Hon. Sekonte Davies (APC-Rivers), however, raised concerns on the choice of $16.9 million work when there was a lesser amount, saying there was no bill of quantity to show for the amount.
But the permanent secretary said he relied on the documents from the Nigerian Mission to the United Nations. Hon. Yakubu Dogara, who moved the motion that led to the investigation about a fortnight ago asked the permanent secretary on whether the ministry has the power to buy or dispose any property it deems fit.
In his response, Uhomoibi said the ministry could only act based on a request from a mission after which it will forward a memo on same to Mr. President, who will then give approval for any such transaction.
Present Nigerian ambassador to the United States, and his Chinese counterpart, Prof Adebowale Adefuye and Aminu Wali, who could not attend the hearing sent letters advising that based on their experiences, selling the house would be a great mistake.