Groups condemn alleged 600-man delegation to UN
Foremost political economist, Prof. Pat Utomi, and civil rights groups have faulted the alleged 600-man Nigerian delegation to the United Nations General Assembly in the United States.
The groups are the Campaign for Democracy and the Coalition Against Corrupt Leaders.
There were reports that about 600 persons, including Jonathan, his wife, Patience; two governors, public servants, ruling Peoples Democratic Party chief and ex-Niger Delta militants, were in Nigeria's delegation to the 68th edition of the assembly last week.
While speaking to our correspondent in an interview on Thursday, Utomi said, 'I am not sure of who is paying for it because when the British Prime Minister (Gordon Brown) travels, all the businessmen that go with him pay their bills.
'I hope that is the case here. If not, it will be a disaster, given the state of the economy; states can't even pay salaries. It will be tragic, if they (members of the delegation) are not footing their bills.'
National Coordinator, CD, Joe Okei-Odumakin, described the trip as 'needless, outrageous and a colossal waste of our resources.'
She said the expenditure on the delegation came at a time when the government could not reach an agreement with the striking Academic Staff Union of Universities.
She added that while the rate of poverty, maternal mortality and insecurity remained high, the country could not afford to waste national resources on such a huge entourage.
Okei-Odumakin said, 'Anyone who wants peace, progress, stability and dividends of democracy to be actualised in the life of the citizenry will not engage in such needless waste and ventures.
'This is a wake-up call to Nigerians to be ready for harder days ahead.'
In his reaction, the Executive Chairman, CACOL, Mr. Debo Adeniran, said such a large entourage was a sign of government's insensitiveness to the plight of the masses.
He noted that the display of wealth by the Nigerian contingent before participants at the meeting contradicted the country's claims on its finances.
'Apart from the cost of transport and accommodation, which would run into billions of naira, it has shown to the world that we are improvident,' Adeniran added.
While denying the reports through a statement last Sunday, the Special Adviser to the President on Media and Publicity, Dr. Reuben Abati, said, 'The truth is that less than 30 persons arrived in New York with the President as members of his entourage.' Punch