Tuesday, June 3, 2014

We've Been Thrown Out Of Hotels In Abuja––Confab Delegates Cry Out

Several delegates at the ongoing National Conference in Abuja say their activities are gradually grinding to a halt because the Federal Government had failed to pay their allowances. Some of the delegates said they had been thrown out of their hotels because, with their allowances unpaid, they could not afford to pay bills.
 One of the delegates, Felicia Sani, who is the president of Market Women Association of Nigeria, was one of those who expressed dismay on the unpaid allowances. She said she had been compelled by circumstances to offer shelter to other market women delegates unable to afford their hotel bills any longer.“I have accommodated six women from the [different] zones,” said Ms. Sani. She added: “You assemble us here and you cannot pay [us]. It is wrong and this is part of the corruption we are facing in this country. Just show me the man who is keeping the money and I will go and get it. Please deputy chairman, check your house.”
Another delegate who asked for anonymity stated that he had packed out of his hotel room. “I have not been paid, so where will I find the money to pay the hotel?” the delegate stated. He added that he had moved into a friend’s apartment in Abuja, Nigeria’s capital.

Many of the delegates milled around in groups today after the matter of their unpaid allowances was extensively discussed at the plenary. One of the delegates disclosed that he and others had complained bitterly over the failure to pay their allowances. The government had budgeted an allowance of N4 million per month for each of the more than 400 delegates. Numerous Nigerian individuals and groups had criticized the allowance as extravagant, especially in a country where more than 70 percent of the populace lives in abject poverty.

In a related development, a protest scheduled by the aides and drivers to the delegates could not hold following a letter to the conference leadership by Inspector General of Police Mohammed Abubakar. In the letter, Mr. Abubakar asked the delegates to address the plan by their aides and drivers to stage a protest over unpaid stipends.

Bolaji Akinyemi, the deputy chairman of the Conference, read the inspector general’s letter to other delegates. He stated that the police boss had sent to the secretariat the letter from the drivers serving notice of their intention to stage a public protest over their unpaid salaries. The police boss asked the secretariat to act on the complaints of their aides and drivers in order to avert a demonstration.

Mr. Akinyemi, a professor and former diplomat, however added that even principal officers of the Conference were yet to be paid. He urged the delegates to call their aides and drivers to order, warning that the conference should not tolerate any protest.

Mr. Akinyemi stated that the government did not account for the drivers and aides in the budget drawn up for the conference.

“Don’t tell me that you cannot control [the drivers and aides]. But if you cannot, [the] security will control them, I can assure you of that,” said Mr. Akinyemi.

He claimed the money for payments of delegates’ allowances was available, but had not yet been released.

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