Friday, April 18, 2014

President Jonathan under fire over plan to spend N5.5b on ex-leaders


President Goodluck Jonathan laying the budget before the National Assembly in 2012

Some prominent Nigerians, on Thursday questioned the Federal Government’s proposal to spend N5.5 billion on former leaders of the country in the 2013 budget, describing the move as “unjustifiable”.

Those, who spoke with the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN), in Lagos, added that spending such amount was “unjustifiable” due to the economic hardship faced by majority of Nigerians.

NAN recalls that in the provisions of the budget, President Jonathan plans to spend the money on the emoluments of former Presidents/Heads of State, Vice Presidents and Chiefs of General Staff.

A constitutional lawyer, Prof. Itse Sagay, said it was an anomaly for the government to spend such amount on people who had no financial problems.

“It is one of the greatest anomalies of Nigeria. These past leaders are people who are already very rich.

“These are people who had access to our resources. Many of them and their families have no financial problems.

“It is, therefore, ironic that the government prefers to spend billions on these privileged few, while over 70 per cent of Nigerians are living below one dollar per day,” he said.

Mr. Sagay advised government to reduce its expenditure on past leaders, stressing that such monies could be used for the provision of basic infrastructure across the country.

Wale Ogunade, President, Voters Awareness Initiative (VAI), a non-governmental Organisation (NGO), said some of the former leaders were responsible for the country’s current socio-economic and political woes.

“Some of these past leaders siphoned the wealth of the country and the money they have is so much that their generations yet un-born cannot exhaust it.

“So, it is quite scandalous for the country to be budgeting such amounts for their upkeep, Mr. Ogunade said.

Adebamigbe Omole, former Chairman, Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), Ikeja branch, said some of the former leaders were retired army generals who were still collecting their full salaries as pensions.

“Something is fundamentally wrong with a system where somebody who only occupied an elected position for a few years is entitled to millions of naira.

“A civil servant who had served the country faithfully for 35 years is being paid peanuts as pension,” he said.

Mr. Omole, therefore, urged the National Assembly to expunge the proposal from the budget or order the executive to reduce the amount.

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