Victor Osehobo takes a look at the power tussle rocking the local government council of the national chairman of the apc, Chief Odigie-Oyegun where the chairman and the councilors are at daggers drawn over alleged missing money
THE crisis rocking the Ovia South West local government area of Edo state over the suspension of the council chairman, Morrison Ogunrobo and Secretary of the local council, Oyomire Idahosa, by some councilors based on a petition, seems to have deepened with the nine councilors who carried out the suspension, insisting that the duo remain suspended.
The councilors who alleged that they were forced out of their legislative chambers at the council headquarters in Iguobazuwa, by thugs hired by the chairman also said that the chairman was determined to harass them from sitting in the council headquarters.
There was pandemonium last Friday in Iguobazuwa when soldiers numbering about 30 and a lorry load of mobile policemen stormed the council secretariat in search of the councilors. The ‘invasion’ of the local government secretariat by soldiers was allegedly supervised by the suspended council chairman, Hon. Morrison Ogunrobo -Ovia according to an eye witness. The soldiers who couldn’t find any of the councilors reportedly pounced on supporters of the councilors and other loyalists who tried to stop them from entering the council secretariat.
Trouble started when a revenue agent petitioned the legislature accusing the embattled chairman and his secretary of diverting N13.7million being Internally General Revenue, IGR paid to the council for personal use. Leader of the legislature, Hon. Major Cletus Atigbi stated that when the legislative arm received the petition from the revenue agent, Mr. Dan Owegie (jnr), they immediately constituted a committee that looked at the petition based on its merit.
He said the legislature found out that Dan who was appointed to collect revenue at Jojo Rock pit at Evbonogbon had claimed that he was ordered to pay cash to the council’s secretary. He said their finding through both video and documentary evidence including the admittance of the council chairman and his secretary, it was clear to them that indeed, a case of fraud had been established
He added that to worsen the situation, the chairman, Morrison still goes about parading himself as chairman and in company with one Ekeme Robert Fiyes whose seat has since 2014 been declared vacant by the legislative arm for absenteeism from plenary sessions.
He said “it continues to beat our imaginations how the suspended council chairman of Ovia South West and the secretary still go about parading themselves as still office holders. The duo as we speak have been suspended from office by the legislative arm of the council and we have copied the relevant government agencies for action. We also want to categorically say that nine councilors out of the 10 signed the suspension order. This is because one seat has been vacated since 12 May 2015”.
The councilors have however called on the national chairman the APC, Chief John Odigie-Oyegun who is from this council to come to their aid by calling the suspended chairman and the secretary to order. “He has deployed thugs to beat, intimidate us from sitting in the council. His case is that of fraud and we also want the EFCC, ICPC to investigate him.”
On the other hand, the embattled chairman has described as politically motivated his purported suspension carried out by some councilors in the local government area. He said the action, which also affected the secretary of the council, Barrister Oyomire Idahosa, was a grand plot by some aggrieved leaders in collaboration with five lawmakers of the legislative arm of the council to stop his second term ambition.
Speaking with newsmen in Benin, the state capital on the ongoing political crisis rocking the local government council since last week, he noted that the suspension was not only illegal but also did not follow due process in line with the Edo State Local Government Law 2000 as amended.
According to him, “section 19 (9) states that the holder of the office (of chairman) under investigation shall not be suspended within the period of the investigation,” adding that he is still in charge as the elected chief executive officer of the local government area.
He stated that it was unfortunate that “this same local government as I assumed office two years and some months ago that has not been found wanting in anyway, yet some people want to seize the opportunity to pull it down despite the glaring developmental strides that cut across all the 10 wards of the council since the past two years and several months of the administration.
“I want to say clearly that the suspension did not follow due process at all and the councilors do not have the right to suspend me,” he declared. “I make bold to say that you saw the extent of developmental strides in Ovia South West, that there is not ward you go to that you will not see the presence of my administration in each of these wards. Is it schools, health centers, scholarship scheme; these we have been able to put in place for the good people of Ovia South West local government.
“We are building a long lasting legacy for our people and because of the unprecedented political growth as well as profile, some people see this as an opportunity to want to bring me down. Well, I leave everything to God Almighty because God is the one who gives power and He that gave me the opportunity to serve the good people of Ovia South West will not let me down.
“If there is an allegation against me they are supposed to set up an independent body that they themselves are not supposed to be part of those who are to investigate the alleged issues rather the independent body will investigate, after which they will now submit the report to the said councilors who will go through and if there is any issue to that all they needed to do is pass it to the State House of Assembly, which is the upper house and has the total right to investigate and give punitive measures if found guilty.”
The suspended chairman urged the people of the area to maintain peace and continue to contribute their quota towards ensuring peaceful co-existence and development of the council as well as to shun attempt by forces to use them as tools for self political gains.
He said, “We are in democracy, freedom of speech but democracy is also not a license for political rascality. We should all be responsive to our people and we should ensure that we leave no stone unturned to contribute our quota to the well being of our local government because the mandate that made us to be in the office is the mandate of the people. And we owe the people serious obligation by doing the right thing that will further make lives more meaningful to our people.”
In a related development, the councilor representing Nikorogha ward, Mr. Roberts Emeke-Fiyes has declared the suspension slammed on the embattled council boss and the secretary of the local government as a gang up that was carried out by five of the councilors being used by the aggrieved leaders in the area over their loss in the APC primaries during the March 28 general elections in the country.
Emeke-Fiyes said, “We are not in support of it. I, as the councilor representing Nikorogha ward and four others are against the purported suspension that was carried out. We as councilors don’t have the right. The report of the said investigation has to be sent to the State House of Assembly. We are being used by certain politicians just because they lost primaries in the just concluded general elections and that is the reason they are using so call five councilors to tarnish the image of the chairman.
“Actually the house received a petition against the Hon. Chairman whereby the house set up a committee to look into the petition. Members of the committee brought the report but fortunately the report that did not indict the chairman and the so called five councilors ganged up and threw away that report and instantly framed up another report and that was the report the purported leader read. So as I am talking to you, five of us are against the thing that happened”.
Indications are that if the council chairman and the councilors do not sheath their swords in the days ahead, the state assembly, which is on recess may reconvene soonest to look into the matter.