The Senate Committee on Federal Character maintained its position not to lobby funds for them in the 2011 Budget. The committee, headed by Senator Smart Adeyemi, maintained that such an allowance for Obasanjo and others would be a wasteful venture because “they are very comfortable and some of them mismanaged Nigeria.”
Adeyemi said: “In a situation where there are a lot of unemployed graduates roaming the streets and threatening a revolution, rather than give this money to them, we should use it to generate employments.”
The delegates from the Office of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), who were in the National Assembly to defend their 2011 Budget, were shocked when Adeyemi told them that he could not defend their request before the committee.
The committee is expected to scrutinise the budget and, thereafter, make recommendations to the Senate Appropriation Committee on which item in the budget to approve.
According to the law enacted by the National Assembly last year, the wards and spouses of the past presidents are also included in the gesture.
Adeyemi further noted that the gesture was about N2 billion for a start, adding that the scheme this year would cost the nation N1.2 billion.
He strongly opposed the bill, arguing that past presidents do not deserve that special treatment because they are very comfortable and have “mismanaged Nigeria.”
He told the delegation: “My conscience will not allow me to champion it. They should sacrifice the perks for the development and employment, which they failed to provide during their reigns.
“Tell them to sacrifice. The hospitals have no drugs, the roads are bad, there is no electricity, and most graduates are unemployed. I feel that the past leaders are more than comfortable to request for all these. In a situation where there are a lot of unemployed graduates roaming the streets and threatening a revolution, rather than give this money to them, we should use it to generate employment.”
A Permanent Secretary, Taiye Haruna, who represented the government at the defence session, said that the former presidents are to be provided with a five-bedroom duplex in any city of their choice within Nigeria, allowance for their staff, and three vehicles to be replaced after every three years.
He added that the former leaders had access to medical treatment abroad and a special treatment whenever they are in Abuja.
According to the law which was recently amended, the former leaders shall be paid an amount recommended from time to time by the Revenue and Mobilisation, Allocation and Fiscal Commission and approved by the National Assembly as up-keep allowance, in addition to the pension entitlement under the 1999 Constitution.