N4bn First Lady’s mission house “mind-boggling misappropriation”-Soyinka

First Lady, Patience Jonathan

The women said the money can be put to be better use for Nigerians.

Nobel laureate, Wole Soyinka, has condemned the federal government’s plan to spend N4 billion for a purported First Lady Mission house, describing it as a “mind-boggling misappropriation” of public funds.

The government should ensure the plan is suspended, Mr. Soyinka said on Thursday, at a protest organized by a nongovernmental body, Women Arise, in protest against the spending.

Scores of women led by Lagos lawyer, Festus Keyamo, joined Women Arise, to protest the allocations for the construction of a First Ladies’ Mission House in Abuja.

The proposal, part of the Federal Capital Territory Administration budget for 2013, has generated criticisms since it became public a fortnight ago.

Besides the N4 billion for the First Lady mission house, the N253 billion budget stipulates other controversial costs including N150 billion for the rehabilitation of commercial sex workers and destitute people.

The protesters, who marched through Ikeja to the Governor’s Office at Alausa, called on the government to halt the project.

“I have elected not to lend my affection to any one individual, but the entire bevy of first ladies of the African continent – and that include first male spouses,” Mr. Soyinka said in a speech read by President of the Wome Arise group, Joe Okei-Odumakin.

“Four billion naira, no less! …the money should be removed from the 2013 budget.”

Mr. Keyamo described the proposed mission house and the amount allocated for it as “ridiculous’’.

“It is important that women are leading this protest and have put patriotism above gender, and so, it will not be seen as male chauvinism,” he said.

“There are so many better uses to which N4 billion could be put to in Nigeria,’’ he told the protesters.”

The group presented a protest letter addressed to President Goodluck Jonathan to Governor Babatunde Fashola.

Mrs. Odumakin urged the president to prevail on the Abuja Minister to withdraw the N4 billion allocated for the project.

She called for the scrapping of the office of the first lady at all levels.

Abosede, wife of the late human rights activist, Beko Ransome-Kuti; and the Executive Director, Gender and Development Action, Ada Agina, were among the protesters.

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