LOCAL GOVERNMENTS IN C’RIVER AND THE SHAME OF US

BY: Vena Ikem

Five years into the life of the present administration, almost 5 years after the expiration of the tenure of the last elected local Government administration in CRS we are about to have an “election” into the Councils. Yet the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria says the administration of local Govts in Nigeria “shall” be by democratically elected Govt. In otherwise for five years the Govt of Ben Ayade has illegally and in breach of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, administered Local Govts according to his whims and caprices and in total disregard for the Law.

The fundamental reason is not far fetched. He coveted the huge resources accruing to the Councils and appropriated them generously as his personal estate for over four years! If you record the humongous amounts accruing to Councils monthly added up over the period you will begin to understand the desperation not to conduct Elections!

It is possible that even elected Councils can be pliable but at least the Councils would not all be stupid enough to surrender all their resources including salaries of 18 Chairmen, 18 Vice Chairmen, 196 councillors and 522 appointees in the Councils to one man! Without Election that’s exactly what has happened in almost 5 years unabated! The shame of it is not that it happened. It is that we all sat down, mourned, bickered and did nothing about it!

The excruciating poverty of the last 5 years especially at the local level is directly traceable to this “kidnap” of the resources that would have been circulating amongst our people in the rural and urban areas.

It is even more shameful that through the years one of the major excuses Ayade gave for why he would not organize local government elections is that the local Govts were incapable of sustaining themselves! In several discussions I have had the disgust of listening to him lie to me that he is using his personal resources to sustain Local Govts! Disgust because there must be a certain way someone would perceive you to tell you that kind of barefaced lie. It is either he thinks you are stupid, indeed very stupid or he telling you that tale is indeed very stupid, to expect you to believe him! In this case I wouldn’t know which applies. Sometimes he makes the mistake of texting such fabrications to you, but immediately he becomes lucid, he remembers to quickly delete same because of course, he cannot stand to be quoted! And that clearly tells you that it was all a lie. A big gubernatorial lie!

And so it has been until President Buhari came up with the National Financial Intelligence unit and decided to be paying allocations of local Govts directly into their accounts! I am sure that Ayade lost several months of sleep as he watched his “pocket money” being saved in bank accounts that were not his. If he was capable of shame I would have added that he must have been utterly embarrassed that month after month billions were accumulating in accounts of various Councils across the state, which hitherto he needed to rescue!

Every trick to lay hands on the money was deployed and bit by bit they gained more confidence as they got away with small withdrawals until when recently he decided that he could swallow a bigger bait and went for the 50 m each from each of the 18 Councils and later in quick succession another 250m from each of the 18 Councils! Who would have thought that a local government has 300m lying dormant in accounts in the midst of this poverty and neglect!

While Govts elsewhere sympathetic to the suffering of their people were thinking and sharing parliatives to cushion the hardship associated with the pandemic, our Gov found the moment most auspicious to swoop on Councils accounts to fund the setting up of an Airline! After sleepless months he came up with the disingenuous scheme of seeking the House of Assembly approval for the withdrawal of funds from the Local Govt accounts. There is no provision in the Local Govt Law of Cross River State that empowers the State House of Assembly to approve withdrawal from Council funds! The State House of Assembly is only empowered to make laws for the good governance of local Govts in the States. Having passed that Law, the Cross River State House of Assembly has no business apart from those specified under the Law with respect to the Administration of Local Govts. In other words, with or without the approval of the Cross River State House of Assembly, the withdrawal of 300m from Accounts of each of the local Govts in Cross River State remain illegal and fraudulent. The only authority that can legitimately appropriate resources of the local Govts are the duly elected local Government administration of those Councils.

I am aware that Ayade will take note and ensure that the first assignment of the “elected Councils” will be to ratify his illegality.

Why is Ayade finally organizing local government Elections after so much manipulation for 5 years?

The first reason I have already dealt with in the preceding paragraph. He needs to legitimize the Grand larceny.

The second and more immediate is the Senatorial bye elections in Cross River North senatorial district.

Smarting from a deficit of delegates count after the concluded Congresses, Ayade desperately needs additional delegates which only the newly elected councils can provide. He hopes that an additional 64 delegates from the chairmen vice Chairmen and 54 councillors in the north will make up for his defeat in the congresses. As advised by his friends in the National Working Committee, to use his office as Gov and find creative ways to make up the shortfall because cancellation of the results of the Congresses has been foreclosed. That in addition to councillors, he can buy over the new party executives, who are delegates with Appointment to the Councils. The implementation of which has seen a sudden rush, with 4 days notice to conduct Local Govt Elections and the collation of names of the new Party executives for onward transmission to calabar for soon to be made appointments into the local Govts.

Finally, the legal imbroglio. With the absurdities that are coming with the hastily organized elections will come several legal issues in addition to those already mounting. The need to quicken the process before the eventual departure of his selected acting Chief Judge became a matter of urgent state importance. The acting Chief judge is expected to vacate office in the first week of June having spent a most uneventful tenure indeed, no thanks to covid-19! The spectre of Justice Ekpeme taking over as substantive Chief judge gives him cause to lose even more sleep and for no reason that anyone can understand except himself. How this present acting CJ will resolve all issues relating to the conduct of the elections before his departure is only in his imagination.

In all this the shame is that most Cross River State elites and politicians have seen no reason at all to speak up and condemn the absurd, totalitarianism magnifying daily in the state. Many look up to Ayade for some patronage and so cannot be seen to openly criticize him. The danger in all this is that this is the template with which succeeding administrations will rule us by. It will be said, When Ayade did this what happened? Where were you?

I am consoled however that he will not get away with all these! The wheels of Justice might grind slowly but surely.

Which Chairmanship candidate that is going into this election or whatever name you call it is happy that 300 million naira of the resources of his Council have been taken by one man for no just reason? Which councillor will be happy that money that he could have used to start showing his people some development has suddenly been withdrawn by someone for an airline that he did not promise to establish for his people? Tell me which local Govt’s citizens are happy that Ayade suddenly took their 300 million naira before organizing the election 5 years late? If within the past few months that allocations are being paid into Councils Accounts they could accumulate over 300m each, for Ayade to withdraw, can you just imagine how much has been taken from each Council in the past 5 years? It’s simply mind boggling!

I urge you to think about these things and not the claim that they wrote your name! If they had a choice they would not have written anyone’s name. They would have kept all the money for themselves as they have done for 5 years!

Our mumu don do!

If the newly elected Councils are happy with what is happening, let them come on board and support the perpetuation of Ayade as he plans to go back to the Senate in 2023! Let them come and tell their people why they will use the mandate they get as delegates from Saturday’s elections to vote an Ayade surrogate who will hand over the Senate to him in 2023!

As far as I know, even in Cross River Northern Senatorial District,

Our Mumu don do!

Yes, become Chairmen, become Vice Chairmen and Councillors, but stand up and be counted when your people need your vote to liberate them! We cannot afford to go on this way!

Our mumu don do!

@ Vena.

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A versatile content developer, news reporter, OAP and an Educationalist.

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