The Minister of Education, Malam Adamu Adamu, says the Federal Government will provide free internet access for library users in the country.

Adamu spoke on Friday in Abuja at the “7th Edition of the Weekend Ministerial Press Briefing.”

He said the National Library of Nigeria (NLN) had been fulfilling its mandate by expanding its branches across the country as well as rehabilitating the existing ones.

According to him, contracts for the renovation of the Lagos, Benue, Nasarawa, Imo, Adamawa and Plateau branches have been awarded, while others would come on stream in 2020.

” It must be noted that we are in a digital world. We are therefore in the process of providing free internet access for our library users, beginning with Lagos, Abuja and Enugu branches.

” New branches are to be established in Delta, Anambra, Ekiti, Kebbi, Kogi and Jigawa states. We have completed permanent branch buildings in Gombe and Katsina states.”

Adamu added that renovation of libraries would go beyond painting walls and replacing leaking roofs, but provide reading spaces for children to promote a sound reading culture among school pupils.

He further said that the service of Galaxy Backbone had been requested to increase the internet bandwidth in these branches.

” We are also expanding, completing and renovating e-libraries in all our unity schools, and each school will get qualified librarian to manage the learning resources.

“We are also working with state governments and other stakeholders to develop a public library policy for the country.”

Adamu said a national conference in this regard would take place between March 27 and March 28.

He added that efforts were on to complete the National Library Headquarters in Abuja, saying the rising cost of the project is due largely to exchange rate fluctuations, necessary upgrades and modernisation among other variables.

“You may have been aware that the project was awarded in 2006 at a total cost of N8 billion. By 2013, the project was reviewed upward to N18 billion.

” Work was however stopped by the end of 2013 due to poor funding. When this administration came into power, the contractor submitted a new bill of N78 billion to complete the project.”

The minister said that a committee which was set up to evaluate the project, submitted a bill of N50 billion, which had been forwarded to the Bureau of Public Procurement (BPP) for further appraisal.

He said the recommendation of BPP would be forwarded to the Federal Executive Council (FEC) for consideration, adding that the ministry is pursuing alternative sources of funding especially from special intervention funding window.

He also commended the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) for suspending the three months old strike, while optimistic that its polytechnic counterparts – ASUP would end theirs today.

Meanwhile, Prof. Lenrie Aina, the National Librarian, said that the country currently had no data to ascertain the number of libraries, adding that the National Policy on Education (NPE), had mandated every school in the country to have a library.

He said a contract had been awarded to take the inventory of libraries in Nigeria, adding that this would be done in the next three months. (NAN)