By Johnbosco Agbakwuru
ABUJA- MINISTER of Labour and Employment, Senator Chris Ngige, has denied report credited to him as saying that the Federal Government had committed N1 billion for the burial ceremony of the late Vice President, Dr. Alex Ekwueme.
Senator Ngige in a statement signed by his Special Assistant on Media, Nwachukwu Obidiwe in Abuja yesterday, described the report and the controversy that has followed the interview he granted to journalists on efforts of the Federal Government towards ensuring that the late Dr Ekwueme was given a befitting burial as misleading and needless.
Ngige said he did not attach any figure to what he termed “a deserving national tribute to one of Nigeria’s foremost Statesman,” adding that he only gave a summary of the number of projects the Federal Government had taken to ensure that a man who easily was Nigeria’s beacon of democracy was given a decent burial.
According to the statement, “Perhaps the Hon. Minister has prempted the rhetorics of cynics and detractors who could have easily run to town to claim the Federal Government has abandoned Ekwueme in death.”
“For the avoidance of doubt, what he did as a member of the Burial Planning Committee was to give the details of the road rehablitation projects from the Awka end of the State and from Abia and Imo State axis, all leading to Ekwueme’s home town of Oko, as well as the medical services, the Mausoleum and others. But at no time did the Minister attach a figure of One Billion Naira!
“An unedited video and audio tape of the interview as recorded by both broadcast and print reporters is easily within reach.
“The Minister is an Igbo and knows full well that just as a count is not taken of the number of children a parent is blessed with in Igbo tradition, the same tradition holds the burial rites and attendant expenses even more sacred to warrant such display of figures.
“However, it is important to add that such pieces of information in an administration such as ours that is anchored on openess, and bouyed by the Freedom of Information could be at the finger tips of any investigative reporting.”
The statement finally added that the Burial Planning Committee was satisfied with the progress of the work and looked forward to a very successful event which it stated had already kicked off beautifully and successfully in Lagos, Abuja and Enugu.
It said, “Again, perhaps, this is what detractors did not wish to see.”