THE claim by the Federal Government to have spent over 1billion Naira for the funeral of late former vice president, Alex Ekwueme has been described as false.
The Federal Government said it approved the said amount of money part of which had been spent, in readiness for the burial billed for February 2 in Oko, Anambra State.
The Minister of Labour, Dr. Chris Ngige, was quoted to have made the claim on behalf of the government.
But the South-East funeral committee refuted the claim saying it did not receive such money from the government.
“We were shocked to hear that. We did not see any such money. We read it from the newspaper”, Prof. Simeon Ortuanaya who is the chairman of the committee said when pressed for comments.
Efforts to speak with members of his family to ascertain the veracity of the claim proved abortive (as none was willing to speak on the matter), some prominent Igbo leaders, who reacted to the development, doubted that any such thing happened.
“I do not doubt that the Federal Government may have spent such a huge amount but my worry is how much of it that may have entered private pockets. How much is the burial envelope and what are the plans for the burial? I don’t know what to believe but if it is true that such an amount has been budgeted for the burial, it is unreasonable,” Dr. Chukwuemeka Ezeife, a former governor of Anambra said.
He described Ekwueme as a great politician that would never be forgotten as far as politics of the country is concerned.
Also reacting is a pan-Igbo organisation, Aka Ikenga, whose president, Chief Goddy Uwazuruike, said it was unimaginable that the Federal Government would spend such an amount of money to bury Ekwueme when there are various challenges facing the south-east which government has neglected.
“I think it is incredible news. It’s too fantastic. I can’t imagine the Federal Government spending such on a man his family single-handedly took care of while he was sick as well as ensured that he was flown abroad. If you are building a new road to Oko, of course that is expected because you need the road to pass through. If you are rehabilitating the Akanu Ibiam Airport that is also expected. But to bury Ekwueme with such an amount is unthinkable.
“Such a sum was not voted anywhere as there have never been signs that the Federal Government made Ekwueme its responsibility while he lived. If they used the money to build a road from Awka to Oko and Owerri, people will be happy and appreciate the government. So I think it is an insult to the Ekwueme family for anybody to make such a claim. What did the Federal Government do to show that Ekwueme served this country well when he was alive? Ekwueme used his personal resources to build the polytechnic in his Oko community as well as the hotel around his place as part of efforts to develop his community. What can we say has been government’s contribution? Are they saying they loved him this much? It is sad that someone is saying all these,” he said.
Meanwhile, the Anambra state government has proclaimed Thursday as a work free day in the state.