Of N3.5m el-Zakzaky Food Bill

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The recent revelation about the alleged N3.5million being spent on monthly basis to feed the detained leader of the Islamic Movement of Nigeria (IMN), Ibrahim el-Zakzakywill, no doubt, jolt many Nigerians.
In a video released by Oak Television and which trended on social media for about a week, the Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed was shown saying the Federal Government spends N3.5 million monthly to feed el-Zakzaky.
Apparently debunking the rumour making the rounds that the detained IMN leader was being starved in custody, the minister told newsmen albeit ‘off record’ that el-Zakzakywas being fed with N3.5 million monthly and that he was detained in a building belonging to the Department of State Services (DSS) rather than in prison for security reasons.
While we agree that the Oak Television erred professionally for making public what was meant to be an ‘off record’ information, and for which the television station was said to have apologised, The Tide, just like any other Nigerian, is jolted by this shocking revelation.
The online media exposé of the Federal Government’s profligacy is not a good image for the Muhammadu Buhari administration that rode to power on the back of fighting corruption and mismanagement. It is also certainly not healthy for the nation’s economy that just limped out of recession.
And until there is a contrary claim to the one made by the Minister of Information and Culture, it may be foolhardy to disabuse the minds of many Nigerians that the anti-corruption posture of the Buhari government is not a mere showmanship. We say this because, by the revelation, the Buhari administration has gone against the grain of morality and its anti-corruption crusade.
It is a sad irony that at a time when both the federal and state governments are crying wolf over the N30,000 minimum wage demanded by the Nigerian workers, a detainee is being fed with N3.5 million per month.
This sordid disclosure by the Federal Government’s spokesperson has again exposed the leakages and waste of scarce public funds by the government. Such wastes, no doubt, put a big question mark on the credibility, transparency and sincerity of a government that claims to have a zero tolerance for corruption and profligacy. We, therefore, urge the Buhari administration to have a self-scrutiny on its anti-corruption posture.
A breakdown of the N3.5 million expended monthly on el-Zakzaky’s food bill shows that the detained leader of IMN is being fed with over N116,000 per day. This amount implies that over N84 million has been spent to foot the feeding bill of el-Zakzaky alone in the last two years of his incarceration.
The Tide considers this food bill as humongous, outrageous and scandalous. Even now that hyperinflation has made nonsense of the naira value, N3.5 million can not be said to be a token, especially when compared to the less than N300,000 monthly total package of a director in the public service.
We want to believe that the el-Zakzaky food saga might just be the tip of the ice berg, or at least, an eye opener to several other underhand wastes that go on in public offices. We wonder how much a serving governor, minister or head of a key government agency spends on feeding per month if the government can shamelessly spend N3.5 million on a detainee who is standing trial of unlawful procession, conspiracy and abetting culpable homicide, among others.
As a government that prides itself as an anti-corruption avatar, we had expected the Buhari administration to be more prudent and circumspect in the way and manner it manages the nation’s resources. More importantly, we want to remind the Federal Government that the money in question is our commonwealth and so should be spent judiciously, diligently and with the utmost probity and sincerity.
It is against this backdrop that we call on the Federal Government, most especially, the judiciary, to hasten and facilitate the prosecution of all detainees across the country to reduce the cost of keeping them perpetually in custody without trial.
The fact that el-Zakzaky, just like former National Security Adviser to President Goodluck Jonathan, Col. Sambo Dasuki (rtd) and many other VIP detainees, is still being held captive, two years after his arrest, without being released or convicted leaves much to be desired. This itself, calls for self-scrutiny on the part of the Buhari government.