CASH CRUNCH HITS NATIONAL CONFERENCE

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…drivers, aides, others threaten to disrupt sitting
Delegates ejected from hotels
The ongoing National Conference may be disrupted today, following threats by aides of the delegates to forcefully halt proceedings to press home demands for an enhanced welfare package.
The planned action highlights the severe cash crunch that has hit conference delegates with many of them evicted from their hotels, following the failure of the secretariat to pay allowances for over six weeks.
Some of the delegates have also accused civil servants of seeking bribes to release funds approved for their upkeep. The situation came into the open during proceedings yesterday when the deputy chairman of the conference, Professor Bolaji Akinyemi, read a petition written to the Inspector General of Police, Mr. Mohammed Abubakar, by the aides who had resolved to stage a peaceful protest today. The aides had also written to the conference leadership expressing their dissatisfaction with the way they were being treated, urging the leadership to intervene.
While insisting that the conference leadership will not allow any form of disruption, Akinyemi also explained that the aides were not factored into any monetary package for the delegates.
A sum of N7bn was proposed for the conference, which would cover accommodation, feeding and sitting allowances of the delegates and initial reports suggested they would earn N12m.
However, some delegates have since confirmed that they got N1.46m for the first two weeks. This implies that each delegate would get N2.92m each month. The total bill would likely increase as the conference has been extended by four weeks.
Akinyemi said: “We have a letter referred to us by the IGP because the aides and drivers of delegates have petitioned the IGP. “The IGP has referred this to us. Now, the Honourable Chairman appealed to delegates to appeal to their aides and drivers.
We don’t want an unpleasant situation. If you can’t control these aides and drivers, the security men will. “So, please talk to your aides and drivers, don’t give the impression that they are doing this with your connivance. The Police now are under instructions to ensure that nothing disrupts our work here.
“We’ve explained we didn’t draw up our budget. Government drew up this budget and gave it to us and made no provision for your aides and drivers, so, please we are appealing to you to help us avoid any ugly incident that may happen”, he said.
Responding to the letter when debate was opened on it, a Labour Party delegate, Chief Dan Iwuanyanwu said the protest plan may have been masterminded by the aides of the secretariat. He said: “The last time you gave us notice of the intended protest, I personally did my own investigation.
It may also shock you to know that you may also talk to your aides and drivers, because they are behind it. They are complaining about their own welfare. “I expect that the secretariat should also make provisions for them.
Maybe they are not aware that you have not paid us here for accommodation and transport for six weeks and yet we are coming. “Some of the empty seats you see here, they’ve driven them from hotels because hotel bill is paid up front. It is not in arrears, but those of us committed to this cause, we are here. Six weeks, you have not paid the delegates in this house.
“Maybe the drivers and the security men should also be told that everything is not about money but we advise you also talk to your security men, your own staff because they are complaining that you are not taking care of them.”
Akinyemi however rejected claims that the secretariat aides were behind the planned protest pointing out that the Federal Government was yet to release funds for the delegates. “Now that this issue is on the floor, let me also say that even the presiding officers have not been paid because government has not given us money.
We have done it for six weeks. Every day, you would notice that the Assistant Secretary, Finance and Admin is not here. Every day, he reports to the office of the Accountant- General of the Federation.
A paper must be signed by somebody. It is not that the money has not been approved. It is a letter to authorise the release. So, it is not under our control. We also have not been paid. “I don’t want to take up the issue with Dan Nwanyanwu but it cannot be true that the drivers in the secretariat are behind this because we made sure that they are paid from our own funds. So, they can’t be behind this.
They are paid”, he explained. A delegate representing the Association of Market Women, Chief Felicia Sani, described the failure to pay allowances as irresponsible, saying it was wrong to gather delegates without paying them.
She said: “I am here for a very, very serious business. Because of this payment and no payment, I have decided to accommodate all my women from the six geopolitical zones. “You see, this is the problem in this country and this is the corruption we are talking about. You assembled very responsible people here. They left their homes and you are telling them that… I know what they do in the ministry.
If you bring your file and you don’t give them money, they will be hiding them under everything they see. Mr. Chairman, this is part of the corruption we are talking about and we are trying to eliminate in this country. Economic sabotage.
These people are here without food and you want them to perform well. It is very wrong. “I support Nwanyanwu. It is the people you put. They are grumbling and from the beginning you told us that there is no money for our aides and drivers and we have been able to accommodate our aides and our drivers. I pay them. So, check in your house. There is a rat in your house. That is corruption. It is in your house.
So, deputy chairman, don’t say you don’t know; I have heard it. They are complaining.” Mr. Lanre Ogundipe, a delegate from the Nigeria Union of Journalists, NUJ called for an executive session to trash out the matter but his suggestion was turned down.
He said: “Sir, I think this kind of discussion should be in an executive session. We have had enough blackmail as to what delegates earn and I feel that when an issue of this nature is being raised on the floor, the conference secretariat should have done us a favour by going into an executive session to discuss it.
Most of us are not here because of the money that is being given out and if people are complaining that money is not being paid as and when due, yes, they have every right to do so. But it must not be to the ridicule of members, “he said.
Source: National Mirror

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