The latest of such fiscal brigandage is the N4bn ($27ml) allocated for the building of an office for Nigeria’s First Lady, Patience Jonathan’s African First Ladies Mission Initiative. The allocation, which is provided for in the Federal Capital Territory’s 2013 Budget, is an affront to Nigerians and should be vehemently resisted by all right-thinking members of the society. Even in an era where fiscal irresponsibility is the norm, and not the exception, the allocation is an extraordinarily egregious insult on Nigerians.
To budget such a humongous amount of public funds for a ceremonial office that is not recognized by the 1999 constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria is a resounding slap on the collective visage of the majority of Nigerians at a time when tens of millions live on less than a dollar per day.
To do so when the majority of Nigerians are the unwilling patients of a poverty pandemic deriving from criminally poor leadership is tantamount to spreading salt on an open wound. The office of the First Lady is not a creation of the constitution. Rather, it is the despicable child of the whim and caprices of our nation’s cruel elite.
It is instructive that it acquired its notoriety in the prodigal Ibrahim Babangida years, where the military dictator’s wife, Maryam wasted billions on the titular “Better Life for Rural Women” programme.
This culture of rampant wastage has since been embraced by the spouses of successive heads of government, particularly under the current democratic dispensation.
We fervently maintain that a government with an appropriate sense of responsibility and an eye on posterity would utilize the resources to be wasted on Mrs. Jonathan’s flight of fancy on critical infrastructure. To do otherwise, is to be insensitive and irresponsible.
Four billion naira could help millions of school age children to get better education, equip rural clinics with drugs and do society a lot of other good.
Therefore, as responsible citizens and mothers of the nation, we demand the following:
1. The President must direct the FCT Minister to withdraw this budget allocation and sack him for this attack on public morality.
2. The unconstitutional office of the First Lady should be scrapped, and spouses of elected officials to do no more than ceremonial roles.
We ask all honest women and men in our country to support these demands with concrete actions.
Dr. Joe Okei-Odumakin
Women Arise for Change Initiative
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