No plan to sell Nigeria House in New York – Mission

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The Permanent Mission of Nigeria to the United Nations (UN) in New York says there are no plans to sell the Nigerian Estate in Tarrytown, New York,

The clarification contained in a brief by the mission dated Nov. 22 and made available to newsmen in Abuja on Thursday, came on the heels of the decision by the House of Representatives to conduct a probe into the alleged plans by the mission to sell the property.

The estate, located on 548 S. Broadway, Westchester County Village of Tarrytown, New York, has served as the official residence of Nigeria’s Permanent Representative to the UN since 1961.

The mission, currently headed by Prof. Joy Ogwu, Nigeria’s Permanent Representative to the UN, wrote that the estate was still in its full possession.

“The Nigerian Estate in Tarrytown remains the property of the Federal Government and in full possession of the Permanent Mission. It has not been sold, neither is there contemplation of doing so as being falsely and mischievously peddled.

“The estate requires extensive strategic renovation and upgrade to bring it up to the standard of similar properties in New York and befitting of Nigeria’s international image.’’

The mission argued that there were well established Federal Government procedures and regulations governing the disposal of public properties.

It noted that the regulations were even more stringent in respect of properties abroad.

“The sale of property abroad would involve transfer of ownership which must be registered with the host country for proper documentation.

“Above all, it is not in the mandate of missions to negotiate the disposal of public property’’, it said.

The estate, which sits on 16.6-acre land, was built in 1906 and purchased by the Federal Government from Phillip M.H. Savory and Gladys G. Savory on June 14, 1961 at the cost of $234,000.

However, the mission claimed that since its purchase, the estate had not undergone any major renovation and remained in a deplorable condition.

In 2009, the mission said it obtained the Ministry of Foreign Affairs’ approval for an independent evaluation conducted by a team of architects and engineers to assess the condition of the estate.

“The independent evaluators recommended two options for the upgrade of the property namely: new design and development and renovation of existing structures.

“While the preliminary estimated cost for the first option is $16.9 million, the estimated cost of the second option is $12.8 million,” it said.

The mission said it settled for the first option following the recommendation of the independent evaluators, adding that the details of the upgrade of the property would include extension works in the grounds, including construction of a new guest wing and addition of a presidential wing.

The building plan also included the construction of an all season access road leading from the estate to the city road.

In 2011, the mission said the federal government appropriated the sum of $1.6 million dollars as capital allocation to the mission to commence Phase 1 of the project.

However, out of this amount, only $1.11 million dollars representing 65% of the appropriated amount was received by the mission.

“The money available was therefore grossly inadequate for the purpose as initially estimated by the independent evaluators.

“However, in compliance with headquarters’ directive, the Ministerial Tenders Board (MTB) awarded the contract for the first phase of the renovation project to Messrs Grace Homes Construction LLC, at the budgeted sum of $1.6 million.

“As the final amount that was received fell short of the initial figure, Messrs Grace rejected the contract offer. As a result of this, the MTB was mandated to source for a replacement,” it said.

According to the mission, the second and third bidders, when contacted to undertake the project, also declined for the same reason.

“From the foregoing, it is clear that the mission has not been complacent on this matter or negligent of its responsibilities. On the contrary, the MTB had advertised in May 2013 for a consultant for the project and is currently re-assessing the project with a view to recommending a reputable company to undertake renovation of the Estate.

“The remitted sum of 1.11 million dollars, although far from sufficient to cover the first phase of the work, would be utilised to commence the project pending the appropriation of more funds to complete it,’’ the brief explained.

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