JONATHAN SPENDTHRIFT: ACN, others berate Presidency over N2.2 billion party hall
Published:5 Dec, 2012
Civil rights groups and the Action Congress of Nigeria have criticised the President Goodluck Jonathan-led administration for borrowing N2.57tn in 18 months and proposing a N2.2bn banquet hall project for Aso Rock.
They said the country’s rising debt profile and the hall project in the presidency had shown that the Jonathan administration was wasteful and selfish.
The Chairman of Coalition Against Corrupt Leaders, Debo Adeniran, particularly said the proposal for the hall was a demonstration of insensitivity by the government.
He stated, “The absurdity of the reasons given– that the present hall is two kilometres away from the Villa, and that it’s inferior to that of other similar countries – further demonstrate how frivolity governs the mindset of our leaders when taking serious decisions on our behalf.”
According to him, the exorbitant cost of the project demonstrates the way Nigerian leaders misplace priorities and engage in reckless spending.
He said, “We can just imagine how many businesses N2.2bn can save, lives that can be saved and sustained, and infrastructure that can be provided or upgraded.”
The Executive Director of Anti-Corruption Network, Dino Melaye, said the debts and the banquet hall, demonstrated the unpreparedness of the government to promote a pro-people’s spending.
He asked, “What is wrong with the present banquet hall? Can’t it be upgraded? If the President can be going to Transcorp Hilton, International Conference Centre and Yar’Adua Centre, what is the problem?
“The N2.2bn capacity hall is anti-people; the National Assembly must not pass it. If they do, we will occupy them. That amount will provide pipe-borne water for over 100 communities.”
The President of the Campaign for Democracy, Dr. Joe Okei-Odumakin, also said the debt is a sign of a presidency that is detached from the people.
She said, “This is the height of insensivity in a country where 72 per cent of citizens live in absolute poverty. The people are in fast and the emperor is feasting. A sign that these people have totally lost it. We no longer have selfless but selfish leaders. What a colossal waste?”
The ACN described the government as reckless and extravagant, warning that it could plunge the country into bankruptcy if left unchecked.
In a statement on Tuesday by its National Publicity Secretary, Lai Mohammed, the party said the high debt was totally unacceptable.
It said it was shameful that a government that had not made a positive impact on Nigerians would engage in such wastage.
The party said the government had beaten its record of profligacy by its decision to build a N2.2bn banquet hall.
The ACN said “It is interesting that a Minister of the Federal Republic of Nigeria is comparing the country with ‘smaller countries’ when it comes to justifying a project that will only benefit a few elite.
“Does the Minister know that the citizens of the so-called smaller countries enjoy uninterrupted electricity supply? Does he know that the citizens of those countries don’t have to queue up endlessly for petrol and kerosene; that they don’t have to depend on Okada for transportation and that they have no road as terrible as Lagos-Ibadan Expressway?”
The party said the project could not be justified in a country where “many go to bed hungry most nights, where youth unemployment is at a high 46.5 per cent and where there are no projects that could make Nigeria to achieve the MDGs, less than three years to the target date.”
The ACN also condemned the decision by the Petroleum Minister, Mrs. Diezani Alison-Madueke, to spend N6.5bn for “sensitisation’’ on the Petroleum Industry Bill.
According to the party, the President’s propensity to travel to international meetings with a bloated entourage and the continuous allocation of huge funds to purchase aircraft for the presidential fleet are parts of the profligacy of the Jonathan administration.
It said, “One would have expected that a government headed by a man who himself has publicly acknowledged his humble beginnings will be less profligate and more inclined to allocate funds to developmental projects that will uplift the standard of living of his compatriots, including ensuring better security for them. Sadly, what we are witnessing under the Jonathan administration is the exact opposite.”
The ACN advised the administration to retrace it steps by spending the nation’s scarce resources only on projects that could benefit the masses, rather than a few elite.