The House Representatives Committee on Basic Education & Services has declared the National Library of Nigeria (NLN) headquarters in Abuja, an embarrassment to the nation.
The Chairman of the Committee, Hon. Zachary Mohammed made the declaration during its visit to the National library, yesterday.
Mohammed said the state of the national library is an embarrassment for an oil rich country which labels itself the giant of Africa yet has no national library since the federal government’s move from Lagos to Abuja and the library.
Among the many problems of the library which include a dilapidating headquarters, inadequate funding, negative effects of single treasury fund, and an unwieldy contractor, it was the N2.5bn arrears in ISBN/ISSN, which led to subscription agency’s halt of ISBN/ISSN sales to Nigeria, that added more pressure on the library’s CEO, Professor Lenrie Aina. The N2.5bn arrears is equivalent to €5,000.
Professor Aina who had lamented that the state of the Nigerian library as the worst he had seen in the world, said the situation had brought more shame to him since he became the library’s CEO. He reiterated the state of the library prevented him from inviting his counterparts from other parts of the world to Nigeria for collaborative projects.
Delighted by the committee’s visit said, Aina said he had to pay €1,000 to receive some subscription numbers from the ISBN/ISSN agencies to sell to authors and publishers, however, he said the agreement with the agencies was to pay up the €5,000 by the end of 2017.
Without ISBN/ISSN, Aina said tertiary institutions cannot get funding from TETFUND to publish their journals, which also affects the library’s revenue.
In addition, the library is further underfunded. According to Aina, about N40m per month is the budgeted cost for running the national library and its 27 branches across the nation, but only N15m is made available to the institution.
The single treasury account only added to the problems of the library. “Whatever money that goes into the TSA, because we are fully funded, we cannot access at all to pay off our obligations to the ISBN, ISSN agencies in Poland and the UK; and so we owe €5,000 worth of subscription; because of that they stopped giving Nigeria publication numbers,” explained Aina.
“TSA must have a human face,” said Hon. Mohammed. “To say the NLN is looking for N2.5bn to offset a particular obligation and cannot source that is embarrassing. This is the bad side of TSA. Certain agencies must be allowed to keep some percentage of what it earns.” decried Mohammed.
Dismissing the library’s N1.8bn 2018 budget inadequate compared to its challenges, Mohammed tasked the library to return to the drawing table and to think outside the box, before its appearance before the House for its 2017 budget defense. He also insisted that contractors of the library’s permanent site appear before the house at the defense.
He said the committee will seek every means possible to ensure the library moves to its 11 feet permanent site within 12 months, since its current repository of books is no better than a secondary school library.
“In 2018, we are going to take quick measures to rectify this embarrassment. We are going to step on toes, but we are bothered about that, what is important is our service to the people, and saving the face of Nigeria. This is not enough, it is below standard for a country like Nigeria,” Mohammed concluded.