Governor Ifeanyi Okowa

The invasion on Thursday of last week of a motor park of the National Union of Road Transport Workers (NURTW) in Uvwie, Delta State, by armed thugs said to be loyalists of Governor Ifeanyi Okowa has taken a new dimension with the governor allegedly manipulating the Speaker of the State House of Assembly, Monday Igbuya, to suspend the council chairman of the Uvwie local government council, Henry Baro.

SaharaReporters reported on the heavy gun battle on Wednesday last week at Effurun in Uvwie Local Government Area (LGA). Suspected loyalists of Governor Okowa led by Francis Ariyor invaded the Uvwie Central Motor Park with guns and chased away the leader of the committee that governed the park’s affairs, Napoleon Adibu, among others. Mr. Adibu was appointed to the position by Henry Baro, Uvwie’s local council chairman, before the emergence of Mr. Okowa as a governor.

Displeased, Governor Okowa reportedly promised to political loyalists at a secret meeting in Abasa that he would deal with the council chairman. Barely a few days later, the State Assembly suspended Mr. Baro from his chairmanship over allegations of fraud.

Explaining the rationale behind the suspension of the council chairman, an impeccable government source who pleaded anonymity disclosed that the governor was embarrassed with the disturbances in the motor park gun battle and the role played by the council boss, especially because following the incident, the local council released a statement recognizing Mr. Adibu’s position as leader in the motor park.

Mr. Baro has been at odds with Governor Okowa for some time, partially due to the chairman’s close relationship with former governor Emmanuel Uduaghan. Mr. Baro also opposed the election of the area’s current member in the national House of Representatives, Evelyn Oboro, who enjoys Governor Okowa’s full backing.

Confiding in SaharaReporters, a senior management staff of the State House of Assembly who is not happy with the decision of the House disclosed that the governor had already directed the Speaker to frame up the council chairman with allegation of fraud so as to suspend him.

“Okowa directed the house speaker, Monday Igbuya, and other members of the House to slam the council chairman with a suspension order,” the government source told SaharaReporters. “And on Tuesday, without wasting any more time, the House came out with a suspension order on the chairman.”

“We overheard one of the lawmakers saying that power from above [had] given the go-ahead to the House to suspend the council chairman under the guise of allegations of fraud [so] the suspension [would] have more weight.”

The local council, for its part, issued a statement condemning Mr. Baro’s suspension, and noted that the suspension was in the first place unlawful. According to its statement, the council’s legislative division must first issue a resolution to the State House of Assembly in order for the House to remove a local chairman. Given that no resolution was issued, and denying the allegation of fraud against Mr. Baro, the council “emphatically” stated that it rejected “the purported suspension in its entirety on the basis of its illegality.”

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