Oct. 30, 2013
SaharaReporters has learnt that several Federal Government ministries, state governments, and government agencies are throwing large sums of public funds into funding the burial of Charity Fynetaco Kalada Oba, the foster mother of Nigeria’s First Lady, Patience Jonathan.
Mrs. Oba, who died in a ghastly automobile accident in July, is scheduled for burial this week in Okrika, Rivers State. Her lavish funeral rites, which will last three days, will start on Thursday, October 31.
Several sources, including one at the Presidency, disclosed that numerous federal ministers and state governors had contributed huge amounts of public funds to the First Lady for her mother’s funeral. “It’s because of the funeral that the First Lady did not join Mr. President in his trip to Israel.
Our sources said the First Lady’s associates had been making the rounds of well-funded ministries as well as state governments to persuade ministers and governors to make solid financial donations to support Mrs. Jonathan’s decision to give her mother a massive funeral.
Among the states, Bayelsa has so far topped the list of donors, said one source.
“The First Lady’s people are in effect arm-twisting and extorting money from federal officials in various agencies and parastatals to donate huge funds to the burial,” one of our sources said.
One source revealed that Bala Mohammed, the minister of the Federal Capital Territory, assumed the responsibility of using hundreds of millions of naira from his ministry to fix the main highway leading into Okrika.
“The main thing is that it is not the job of the FCT to work on roads in Rivers State,” said one source.
Nyeson Wike, Nigeria’s Education Minister, is another government official who is funneling funds into the funeral. Mr. Wike, who is very close to Mrs. Jonathan, is reportedly using the funeral to launch his campaign for governor of Rivers State. A bureaucrat in the Ministry of Education told SaharaReporters that Mr. Wike had doled out millions from the Education ministry for the burial. Mr. Wike recently announced that he had set up a committee for the burial.
University lecturers in Nigeria have been on strike since July, protesting the Jonathan administration’s failure to implement funding and other negotiated agreements reached between the government and academics. Mr. Wike’s high-profile role in the First Lady’s mother’s funeral led a lecturer at the University of Lagos to question the minister’s suitability for his post.
SaharaReporters learnt that government-owned aircraft as well as helicopters from the navy, air force, and police will be deployed for the burial. In addition, at least 4,000 security agents from the army, navy, State Security Service (SSS) will be on duty to protect the First Lady’s guests during the burial.
SaharaReporters gathered that Mrs. Jonathan and her associates have booked all the hotels in and near Okrika, and have even rented houses from some people in the community to house guests. “Madam [Mrs. Jonathan] has quickly built some houses here since her mama died,” a member of the Okrika community said.
Numerous politicians, businessmen and entertainment stars with ties to the government are expected at the burial.
Mrs. Oba died in a car crash while returning to Okrika after traveling to Bayelsa State. The accident that claimed her life happened on the badly maintained Elele-Isiokpo Road. In addition to Mrs. Oba, who was traveling in a Toyota Corolla car, a 14-year old high school girl and three other persons also perished.