A Federal Government delegate to the National Conference, Mike Ozekhome, has defended the about N3 million monthly allowance to be paid each delegate.
He also said he would not reject his, but distribute it to the less privileged and needy members of the society. Mr. Ozekhome confirmed that each delegate would earn about N2.92million monthly and not N4 million.
Two delegates, Tunde Bakare, the Senior Pastor of the Latter Rain Assembly, and Olisa Agbakoba, a former President of Nigeria Bar Association, NBA, had earlier said they would reject the allowance.
In a statement on Monday, Mr. Ozekhome, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria, said the alert he got from his bank at the weekend was that N1.46 million was paid in, representing two weeks allowance.
He said if calculated properly, it would amount to N2, 920, 000. “If we take this as net and assume that 10% was deducted for VAT and Tax, this will bring the gross monthly take home to the N3, 212, 000,” he said. “If the deduction for Tax and VAT constitutes 5% of the gross, then the monthly net take home is N3, 066, 000.
Either way, the take home per delegates is more like N3 million, and not the exaggerated N4 million,” he said. He explained that he decided to accept the allowance rather than reject it as Messrs. Bakare and Agbakoba did, because doing so would amount to enriching the government who gave it in the first place.
He noted that the skewed Nigerian system where corruption was very rife suggested that the money could develop “wings” and fall into wrong hands within government bureaucracy.
“I will not have the means of knowing if it is really returned to them Federation account,” he said. Mr. Ozekhome, who was also a member of the defunct National Political Reform Conference, NPRC, in 2005, said the less privileged members of the society could be empowered with the allowance through scholarship and bursary awards, capacity building, skills acquisition, empowerment programmes, such as grants to local women for farming and petty trading, purchase of motorcycles and tricycles for the youth.
“I have done this annually since 1990, under the platform of Mike Ozekhome Foundation (MOF), the latest being on the 23rd December, 2013,” the delegate said. “The entire Edo North people can readily testify to this initiative which has wiped off tears from thousands of peasants since 1990. I will now redouble these efforts with this conference.”
He condemned those criticising the payment of the allowances, saying “my take on the matter is that all fingers are not equal.” Mr. Ozekhome said there were, at the conference, some old impecunious pensioners, who though credible and respected, are not financially and economically grounded.
He stressed, “There are the handicapped and physically challenged, the unemployment youth, some poor market women, and other disadvantaged minority groups attending the conference as credible delegates representing their platforms.
“I believe, however, that the N3 million paid to each delegate is not too much considering the high cost of living in Abuja, the prohibitive air fares, the dangers inherent in delegate transporting themselves with extra security from rural areas to urban centres where they can take fights, the exorbitant cost of hotel accommodation in Abuja, and the fact that conferees will converge in Abuja for three months, abandon their various business and means of livelihood, to discuss how to retool Nigeria. “For such categories of person enumerated above the allowances will be well earned,” he said.