The Coalition Against Corrupt Leaders (CACOL) has censured the Federal Government over the N7bn budget earmarked for the proposed National Conference.
The staggering amount captured in the 2014 budget estimates under the heading “National Dialogue” would take care of the upkeep of the 492 delegates that would partake in the Conference that is expected to hold for three months.
Speaking on behalf of the Coalition, its Executive Chairman, Debo Adeniran described the Conference budget as a waste of the country’s resources, insisting that the huge budget is an attempt to muzzle the voice of the delegates.
He said, “The holding of the Conference is too expensive than it is supposed to be going by the N7bn they have budgeted for it. If each delegate would be paid up to N4m per month, that accentuates the profligacy that is going on in the National Assembly where members who are doing part time job are taking more than full time salary. This is not supposed to be a money-making venture to the extent that bribery and corruption would now pervade the atmosphere. A situation whereby such a conference is monetized the way it is will make people to even compromise the stand of the section they are representing for the stand of the authority that is paying them, because he who pays the piper, is likely to dictate the tune.
It is also unfortunate that the Conference budget is even more that what has been budgeted for some Ministries, Departments and Agencies. This means in a situation where some MDAs are groaning under the pains of inadequate funds, we are putting so much into the Conference. When we also put this Confab budget side by side with the N2bn budgeted for the curbing of insurgence in the North-Eastern part of the country even when we know that the insurgents are more armed and better motivated than the National Forces. They are supposed to pump more money into combating it because that is even a physical and rare threat to the unity of the country than anything else. We are not giving adequate consideration to that as if the authority is benefiting or it has a hidden agenda to perpetuate the insurgency in the North East.
Stressing further, the human rights activist who said it is unacceptable, the way the whole Conference is being funded by the FG, suggested that every section should have been asked to sponsor its delegates to the conference.
“Every section of the society that sent representatives to the conference should have been asked to fund their upkeeps, whosoever fails to sponsor its own delegates should know that it has denied itself the opportunity to contribute to the debate at that level. This is because if delegates are sponsored completely by those sections of the country that are sending them to the conference, then they will have it at the back of their minds that the wish of those who sent them to the conference should be prioritised. They will also be afraid to return to their community if they refuse to deliver the message sent them by their compatriots back at home. But a case where the government is responsible for their upkeep, they can even snub the community wants for what the authority wants since they can always retain themselves in the conference. If the community is responsible for their upkeep at the conference, they would have had the opportunity of withdrawing their participation anytime they derail from what they are sent to do. But in a situation whereby the authority is footing all the bills, the representatives may be more loyal to who is paying them, ‘Adeniran averred.
Adeniran however called on the FG to review the funding modalities and withdraw the finances for the National Dialogue.