Free Passage: Insecurity Heightens As Body, Bag Scanners In National Assembly Stop Working

The body and luggage scanners at the National Assembly Complex entrances have stopped working. The equipment stopped functioning during th...

The body and luggage scanners at the National Assembly Complex entrances have stopped working.

The equipment stopped functioning during the parliament’s two-month annual recess, our correspondent learnt.

Our correspondent observed that while the body scanners have since ceased to function, the luggage scanners stopped working before the House of Representatives resumed on September 17 and the Senate a week later.

Before the devices broke down,  persons except the lawmakers and their aides were usually asked to pass through the body scanners, dropping their bags and other items on the luggage scanners for security checks.

However, workers and guests entering the building now do so freely without checks. The two aluminium bars placed at the point where items are dropped on the devices indicate they are not available for use.

There is a pair of body and luggage scanners at each of the two entrances to the White House section of the complex, which houses the Senate and House of Representatives chambers.

Scanners are also placed at the three other entrances to the building, one at the Senate’s New Wing and two at the House’s New Wing.

As of Friday, our correspondent observed that these other scanners were not working, though it could not be confirmed if they had also become faulty.

Meanwhile, President Muhammadu Buhari is billed to present the 2020 Appropriation Bill to a joint session of the National Assembly on Tuesday.

Vehicles abandoned on the  premises

Several abandoned superbikes of the BMW brands used for escorting presiding officers are on the premises of the Annex building.

Meanwhile, the National Assembly has acquired 10 new ones. The superbikes, of the BMW R1200RT/R1250RT series, were parked close to the Senate’s New Wing, close to where Senate’s presiding and principal officers park their vehicles.

Also on the Annex premises, opposite the Federal Fire Service office are 12 new electric tow tractors and golf cars (also known as golf buggy) of different sizes and models covered in dust.

Some Toyota Coaster buses were also abandoned at a space between the National Assembly Complex and the Annex.

Scanners difficult to maintain – NASS

The Director of Information, National Assembly, Mr Rawlings Agada, who spoke to our correspondent on Monday, said he was not aware that the scanners had not been working.

He said, “I think the equipment has a lifespan. What we should consider is that the poor performance of this year’s budget is affecting everybody. Most of these equipment you are talking about, we don’t have the money to maintain them.

“The body scanners should be upgraded from time to time. The software of some of the machines has to be upgraded and it takes time. And you cannot call anybody on the streets to come and service those things; they are under the supervision of  the security agencies.”

Agada also said since the devices were being manned by security officials, they might have reported the development to the maintenance department.

He added, “But I know that these things are what the management and the leadership (presiding officers) are talking about when they were putting out their concerns about the need for them to upgrade most of the facilities we have here. They are within the contemplation of the management. It has been reported that the management and the leadership met and talked about the facilities.

“There are so many things that are not in place, and like we keep saying, most of the things you see that we do there are from the little budget that is available to the management. Those things are manned by the security officials. With this observation (by our correspondent), maybe they are being prepared for maintenance, but I will find out; I have to get my facts right.”

Speaking on the abandoned superbikes, the director said they were not serviceable. While admitting that the motorcycles were expensive, he said they would remain there until they were auctioned.

Agada said, “We don’t have any other space to keep those things. By regulation, you cannot just throw them away. What is done most of the time is that they are either sold through auction to people who can fix them – and they are very expensive.

“I know that some of the machines (superbikes) started with the National Assembly (in 1999). Some of them were involved in accidents while some of them broke down. Most of those that are not serviceable are kept there and if they are not auctioned, they will remain there.”

The director, however, said the electric vehicles on the premises were displayed by a firm that sought a contract from the National Assembly.

He said, “Those things have been there for over three or four years. Yes, they are new. But if a contractor comes with an item that they want to sell and you don’t have the money to buy it, what happens? The best is to give it back. I heard, I cannot confirm,  that a contractor brought the vehicles for display but they didn’t buy them, and they were left there.”

The Speaker of the House of Representatives, Femi Gbajabiamila,  on July 1 when the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Mr Boss Mustapha, visited him in his office, lamented the level of infrastructural decay at the National Assembly Complex.

He said,  “Part of the sundry list again is that we are going to be asking that we hand over the maintenance of this building to the Federal Capital Territory because as it is today, the building is almost collapsing. The maintenance is at zero level and that is because those who are supposed to maintain it, funding has been a bit of a problem.

“So, we believe it should be handed over to the FCT where it will be a lot easier for them to maintain it.”

The PUNCH  reported on December 9, 2018 and January 11, 2019, how security officials lamented the failure of the Closed Circuit Television cameras to capture the thieves who stole vehicles or vandalised some.

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