The Nigerian president spent $1million of aid money to entice international popstars such as Beyonce and Jay-Z to perform at a music festival in the poverty-stricken country, a media source reported.
A letter stamped and signed by Bayelsa State officials in 2006 revealed that President Goodluck Jonathan, then the Governor of the state, released 150million Nigerian Nairas from the state’s poverty alleviation fund for the inaugural ThisDay Music Festival in the city of Lagos in 2006, according to SaharaReporters.
The document surfaced after reality TV star Kim Kardashian was reportedly paid $500,000 (£329,695) for a fleeting appearance in Lagos last week, angering Nigerian commentators.
The mother-to-be was billed to ‘co-host’ the Love Like A Movie event with African R’n’B crooner Darey Art-Alade, for which tickets cost N100,000 ($418). But according to local reports, Kim stayed at the event for 45 minutes, making a 45-second statement on the microphone.
SaharaReporters reported that sources who provided the letter said there was an alleged link between producers of high profile entertainment events and government officials who control the budget at a state and federal level in Nigeria.
The letter was sent from Nduka Obaigbena, the publisher of Nigerian newspaper ThisDay – the major sponsor for the festival – to the Bayelsa State government asking for money for the festival ahead of the country’s 46th independence celebration.
Fleeting appearance: Kim Kardashian was reportedly paid $500,000 (£329,695) to ‘co-host’ an event in Nigeria last weekGuardian blogger Jeremy Weate described how her visit was an example of the country’s economic elite ‘blowing its money on bling puffery while most of the country suffers’.
The authenticity of the letter has not been confirmed. It is not known whether the funds allegedly released by the government were paid to festival performers directly and if so, how much the performers received.
One source told SaharaReporters:
Mr Obaigbena often lines up financial bonanzas from numerous governors, ministers and other top government officials to finance his jamborees.
At the bottom of the letter, a handwritten note allegedly signed by aides of then Governor Jonathan and the state’s accountant general says:
Release N150,000,000.00 (One hundred and fifty million naira) only to be drawn from the poverty alleviation subhead.
The letter reads:
The music festival will bring the world’s top music icons to Nigeria and showcase the great news coming out of Nigeria.
Already several top music icons have signed on or are signing on.
They’ll tell the world through music that Nigeria’s time has come.
The publisher added:
We invite you to partner with us as co-hosts of the festival.
With a total budget of $10 million, the co-host is expected to contribute a minimum of $2.5 million.
There was also no indication that Beyonce and Jay Z were aware that their appearance was subsidised by the Nigerian state’s poverty alleviation fund, it was reported.
Missy Elliott, Busta Rhymes, Snoop Dogg and Ciara were also among performers at the 2006 festival.
Mr Obaigbena’s parent company Leaders & Company have produced other major events in Nigeria which have seen other American stars such as Usher, Rihanna and R Kelly perform since 2006.
ThisDay Festival has also hosted former American President Bill Clinton and Lawrence Summers, the former economic adviser for the Obama office.
Tickets prices have often been too expensive for the average Nigerian with some costing tens of thousands of Nigerian Naira.
Tickets to the Love Like A Movie event in which Miss Kardashian appeared at last week cost N100,000 ($418).
Guardian blogger Jeremy Weate described how her visit was an example of the country’s economic elite ‘blowing its money on bling puffery while most of the country suffers’.
Ms Kardashian appeared, said,
Hey Naija and vamoosed. The rumour was that she’d been paid 500,000 Benjamins for the honour of mixing with the petro-class.
A representative for Beyonce’s record label Columbia Records was unavailable for comment as was the Nigerian High Commission in London.
While Nigeria is Africa’s most populous nation and largest oil producer, 47 per cent of Bayelsans live in poverty according to the Nigerian Bureau of Statistics.
In the state’s capital, Yenagoa, about two out of every five residents do not have access to safe drinking water.
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