The Minister of Labour and Employment, Dr. Chris Ngige, has denied saying the Federal Government would spend N1 billion on the burial rites of former Vice President Alex Ekwueme.
In a statement by the Deputy Director, Press Directorate of the ministry, Samuel Olowookere, in Abuja yesterday, the Minister claimed the statement was misleading and needless, according to The Guardian.
Ngige said he did not mention any figure to Ekwueme’s burial rites but that the former vice president deserves “a deserving national tribute to one of Nigeria’s foremost Statesman.”
However, Ngige accepted that he gave a summary of the number of projects the Federal Government has taken to ensure that a man who easily was Nigeria’s beacon of democracy was given a decent burial.
His words: “Perhaps the Minister has pre-empted the rhetoric’s of cynics and detractors who could have easily run to town to claim the Federal Government has abandoned Ekwueme in death.
“For the avoidance of doubt, what he did as a member of the Burial Planning Committee was to give the details of the road rehabilitation projects from the Awka end of the state and from Abia and Imo State axis, all leading to Ekwueme’s home town of Oko, as well as the medical services, the Mausoleum and others. But at no time did the minister attach a figure of one billion naira.
“An unedited video and audio tape of the interview as recorded by both broadcast and print reporters is easily within reach.”
The statement added that as an Igbo man, Ngige knows that just as a count is not taken of the number of children a parent is blessed with in Igbo tradition, the same tradition holds the burial rites and attendant expenses even more sacred to warrant such display of figures.