A former Minister of Petroleum Resources, Prof. Tam David-West, has faulted the ‘jumbo pay’ set aside as allowance for delegates to the ongoing National Conference, the delegates’ acceptance of the jumbo pay as well as the huge population of the delegates.
David-West, who spoke in Ibadan, Oyo State yesterday, likened the size of the conference to a village.
He expressed disappointment in both the government and the delegates for offering and accepting the huge amount of financial rewards, despite the economic crunch confronting the nation.
Prof. David-West said it was a source of concern that President Goodluck Jonathan could offer each delegate N30, 000 as feeding allowance per day when his administration can barely meet the N18, 000 minimum wage for workers.
The distraught former minister said: “At last, President Jonathan has inaugurated the jamboree of 492 Nigerians for his so-called national conference. Like a number of Nigerians, I am not enthusiastic about the outcome of the Abuja jamboree. I am not only skeptical; I am cynical about the whole charade.
“Why 492 people? It is like a village. What is even more obscene and disturbing is that each one of them will have N30, 000 for food per day in a country where the government cannot pay N18,000 minimum wage per month. Now, it is giving N30, 000 per day to selected Nigerians. In addition, they have N4 million each as housing allowance per month. Government has not faulted these figures.
“The statistics show unseriousness on the part of the government and members. No doubt, some of the members are very eminent Nigerians, but I am surprised that they did not refuse the huge pay. Why should any responsible and patriotic Nigerian receive any money from government to come and discuss the national question of how the country can be better governed or better exist? None of them has deemed it fit to reject the pay in view of the crunching economy of the country, just on moral grounds. They have lost the moral ground to discuss the national question. This is very disastrous”.
The former minister further argued that the present crop of delegates could not produce anything better than what has been done before within the three months given them.
He also faulted the listing of discussing true federalism as a priority for the conference, saying it shows poor understanding of the concept.
According to him, true federalism is already enshrined in the 1979 constitution, but it is only achieved when the masses press the government to practise it. “A country does not become a federation by mere paper pronouncement but by the people believing in it and defending it”, David-West said.