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‘Southeast governors should demand accountability of FG’s N1b claim for Ekwueme’s burial’

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Remains of former Vice President Alex Ekwueme arriving the venue of South-East Governors’ Forumís commendation ceremony in his honour in Enugu on Wednesday (31/1/18).<br />00591/31/1/18/Mike Agada/BJO/NAN

The controversy trailing claims that the Federal Government had earmarked N1 billion for the burial of former Vice President, Dr. Alex Ekwueme has refused to abate.

Even the denial by Minister of Labour and Employment, Chris Ngige, that he never said so has not helped matters.

Expressing doubts over Ngige’s claims, the Anglican Church in Enugu yesterday charged governors of the Southeast zone to demand accountability from the Federal Government over the said amount.

Although, Archbishop of the Enugu Ecclesiastical Province, Reverend Emmanuel Chukwuma, who made the call, acknowledged that Ngige had denied
saying so, he, however, said the region was embarrassed over the claim.

Chukwuma said: “We are grateful to the Federal Government for the assistance to the family since the death of Ekwueme but we are embarrassed that some people said N1 billion has been spent or has been earmarked for the burial and we have not seen it.  

“I have called the man who brought the information and he denied saying so.  So, we are asking how that information emanated. We demand accountability because Ekwueme is a man of accountability. I ask the southeast governors to demand accountability from the Federal Government over the said money before
it is too late”.

At a well-attended commendation service organised in honour of Ekwueme by southeast governors at the Michael Okpara Square, Enugu,
Chukwuma also berated Nigerian leaders for the parlous state of health
care facilities in the country.

He lamented that it was a shame that no big man wants to be treated in the country whenever they fall sick any longer.

“This is the first way to fight corruption. As Ekwueme was about to be lifted into the ambulance to London, he struggled. His blood pressure went up. He had struggled as if he wanted to resist the movement and that is because, he did not envisage that Nigeria will be what it is today”, Chukwuma said.

He stressed that the late Ekwueme would have loved to die in Nigeria.

He also urged the southeast governors to resist the proposal for the setting up cattle colonies in the zone, adding that the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) would mobilise against any governor who tried to cede part of his territory for cattle business.

Dignitaries at the ceremony included Deputy Senate President, Ike Ekweremadu and his wife, governors Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi (Enugu), Dave
Umahi (Ebonyi), Okezie Ikpeazu (Abia), Aminu Tambuwal (Sokoto), Deputy Governor (Imo), Eze Madumere and Deputy Governor (Anambra), Nkem Okeke.

Also present were former Vice President, Atiku Abubakar and his wife, ministers for Science and Technology, Ogbonnaya Onu, Labour and Employment, Chris Ngige and former Secretary to the Government of Federation (SGF), Anyim Pius Anyim.

Others are former governors James Ibori, Jim Nwobodo, Peter Obi, Sam Egwu, Theodore Orji, former Senate President, Ken Nnamani, Victor Umeh, Emmanuel Iwuanyanwu, professors Chinedu Nebo and Barth Nnaji and Dubem Onyia, among others.

Chukwuma, who gave the sermon at the service conducted by the Anglican
Communion, praised Ekwueme’s fatherly role in the service of Igbo land and Nigeria, regretting however that it would have been of great value had the ceremony been used to mark his 85th birthday, which he celebrated in October last year.

“Ekwueme was a most courageous man for leading the campaign for the exit of the military at a time it was exceedingly dangerous to do so. This led to the formation of the G34, which was a group of 34 eminent Nigerians who insisted that military dictatorship must end and democratic rule must be established.

“This group became the nucleus of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), which eventually became the ruling party and governed the country for 16 years.

“Ekwueme was denied the opportunity to serve as president in 1999 owing to the hegemonic influence of the military in Nigerian politics. He was defeated at the primaries by the military’s favoured candidate, Olusegun Obasanjo”, he stated.

He asked Nigerian politicians to learn from his style of politics, stressing that the problem with the country was that of recycling for persons, who ordinarily should be playing fatherly role and advise to the younger ones.

Meanwhile, governors of the Southeast yesterday extolled Ekwueme’s virtues at an inter-denominational service held in his honour in Enugu. The service was part of events leading to the interment of the deceased.

Abia State Governor, Okezie Ikpeazu described Ekwueme as a brilliant scholar and astute professional, saying his commitment to the unity of the country was unwavering.

“We have come with heavy hearts to pay our last respects to our leader. We shall remember him for his doggedness and fight to unify Ndi Igbo and the country.

“We will copy these righteous and sterling virtues and the ones he did not do, we will accomplish,” Ikpeazu said. Responding, Governor Willie Obiano of Anambra State described the late Ekwueme as a man who came before his time and ahead of his peers.

Obiano, who was represented by his deputy, Nkem Okeke, said the late former Vice President was a man of integrity and honour, who played politics of inclusion.

Chairman of the Southeast Governors Forum, Governor Dave Umahi of Ebonyi, said the late Ekwueme was a rallying point for Ndi Igbo.

He described his death as a great loss, adding that his wisdom would be missed at this point in the history of Nigeria.

“Ekwueme is a man of great character who left many legacies. We pray that the peace of God reigns in his family,” he added.

Imo State Governor, Rochas Okorocha, in his tribute, said the deceased represented the character of a patriot.

Represented by his deputy, Eze Madumere, he said that the deceased sacrificed so much in politics and gained little, adding: “He did all those so that Nigeria may work. He conquered in all endeavours that Nigeria might be united and respected in the comity of nations.”

Okorocha said that the former vice president lived a selfless life of emulation, adding that they were happy to have been associated with him.

Also speaking, Governor Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi of Enugu State, described the late octogenarian as a man of immeasurable honour, who was humble and unassuming.

He said the legacies of the deceased would remain a beacon of hope to them.

The late Ekwueme who was the first elected Vice President of Nigeria between 1979 and 1983, died on November 19 in a London hospital after a brief illness.

His remains were driven in a motorcade after the commendation service to his home state of Anambra for the continuation of the burial rites.


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