Uche Osadebe, Chairman of Oshimili South Local Government Area of Delta State, and his fellow councillors are currently at each other's throats following the N10 million largesse said to have been released to the council boss by Ifeanyi Okowa, Governor of Delta State, for an undisclosed purpose.
SaharaReporters learnt that outside the N10 million-related crisis, the council chairman is set for a a fight to the finish with the councillors over their refusal to pass the 2018 budget presented to the legislative arm of the council since June 2018.
Sources in the council who confided in our correspondent disclosed that for the past six months, the council boss has been running the council without a budget following the delay and refusal of the councillors to pass the budget despite the over N5 million made available to councillors as allegedly demanded.
A Head Of Departments (HOD) in the council who preferred not to be named told SaharaReporters: "There is a serious problem going on in the Oshimili South council area with the council Chairman and the councillors because of budget. Over five months now after the chairman of council presented a budget proposal of over N2 billion to the legislative arm, they have refused to pass the budget.
"The councillors demanded for N5 million from the chairman, which was shared among them, yet they refused to pass the budget. Giving reasons for the delay, the councillors claimed the chairman halted the defence that we, the Heads of Departments (HODs) and supervisors, were supposed to carry out. The councillors said the budget has grey areas to be fine-tuned. However, outside that, the councillors are also demanding to see the N10 million said to have been given the chairman by the governor."
Speaking on the crisis between him and the legislative arm of Oshimili South council, the council chairman, Uche Osadebe, stated that since June 5, 2018, he presented the budget to the legislators who demanded money from him to pass the budget.
"We presented our budget since on the 5th of June. As I am talking to you, they have not passed the budget up till now even after giving them the money demanded for," he said.
Osadebe recounted how the money was disbursed to the leader of the legislative arm, principal officers and other lawmakers in tranches.
“The first money I gave to them was N1,050,000; the whole house was given N900,000, then I later gave principal officers N150,000, and they kept the budget. I was in school and while I was writing exams, they were disturbing me that they must be given more money. I said I won’t give."
According to the council boss, the member representing Aniocha/Oshimili federal constituency in the House of Representatives, Mrs. Amaechi Mrakpor, had to wade into the crisis, but not without parting with another N3.1 million to the councillors to hasten the passage of the budget.
His words: “The matter got to Ada Anioma, the member representing Aniocha/Oshimili federal constituency in the House of Representatives, Mrs. Amaechi Mrakpor, she invited all of us and the woman persuaded me and pleaded with me, and we agreed on what to give the councillors and we gave them another N3.1 million.
“After the N3.1 million, they came up again and demanded for another N1.2 million and it was given to them and that was in August. So, first they were given N1,050,000, secondly, N3.1 million and lastly N1.2 million. And when you add up everything, you will see that on the whole we ended up giving them N5,350,000 to pass a budget and till date, the budget has not been passed.
"Till date, the budget has not been passed, and again I still gave N150,000 each that we owed them for May/June that we didn’t give them before the crises started. I gave them that N150,000 as running cost. They have seen the income and expenditure; they are running up and down because when they applied, they didn’t want to say it is for passing of budget. So, I told the treasurer to write it as budget passing. When they applied, they wrote it as town hall meeting. So, if you say it is town hall meeting, go and get all the tapes, go and get all the people you met. All the money I gave them, I said it should be written as for budget passing.
“There is no need for anybody to hide anything. You are fighting me and you want me to guide and protect you? No! I have to fight back. What are you fighting me for? Sharing formula! For me to give you money? Which money am I getting? Even my statutory money, I don’t even collect it. I have my statutory money that I have to collect; the running cost, I give you people. I don’t collect my own.
“I told the SLG to write a letter and forward to the House of Assembly on the delay of our budget that I presented to them since on the 5th of June and up till date, they have not passed that budget. I want the House of Assembly to invite them to explain the reason why our budget will be in their hands for several months now without doing anything. Meanwhile, other local governments passed theirs within one month, yet they are holding onto our budget for several months. That is the issue."
However, on the N10 million allegedly released to him by Okowa, the council chairman declined comment.
When contacted on the allegations levelled against the legislative arm by the council chairman, leader of the legislative arm, Nwosa Peter Chukwuemeka, alleged that the council boss, Osadebe, was running the council as his private business as well as spending the council allocation, awarding and executing contracts without the approval of the house.
He said: "The law clearly states that the chairman is supposed to lay down his budget at the beginning of every financial year which is January. All through January, the chairman never brought a budget to the House. We tried to engage him on reasons why he should bring his budget to the House and we also tried to make him know that it is not possible for him to run projects without a budget; that it is a financial crime as far as the law is concerned.
“Sometime in April, the House wrote him when we noticed he was spending money without appropriation. The House had to write him intimating him that what he was committing was a financial crime, and he never replied the House. We also told him to give us his income and expenditure as stipulated by the local government law. It is mandatory that at the end of every month, he sends his income and expenditure to the House, so that the House can go through it and be sure that he is working in line with and in accordance with the ethics of the local government system, which he refused.
"After writing the chairman twice in the month of May, intimating him why he should do the needful; he was defiant, and the chairman alleged that we the councillors were demanding that he shares the N10 million given to him for projects by the state governor, Ifeanyi Okowa. We wrote him again later that same May, the third time. At that point, he started alleging that the governor gave him N10 million for projects and that councillors were calling him to share the money. That led to an uproar in the council, because it was surprising to us because we never knew such money was given to him.
"The budget had gone through first and second reading. The budget goes to Finance and Appropriation Committee where every other committee in the house becomes a sub-committee. At that point, all HODs and supervisors would defend the budget at the various sub-committee level. The meeting with the committee was fixed, and only three departments came: Works, Environment and Health and they told us that they don’t know how the budget came about.
"Suddenly a letter came from the HPM, telling us that we have no right to invite anybody to come and defend budget, so the budget was stalled by the executive arm of the government. They stopped the process of the budget; the budget presented to the House is not realistic. The law does not say that the executive presents budget means that the budget must be passed. The House has the right to look into the budget and if it is deemed fit that it is proper, they can pass it. So, what he has just brought as a budget, they have not done the right thing."
On the allegation of N5 million bribery, the leader said: “To me, it will be funny if the executive chairman of a local government can make such statements, because it means he does not know what he is doing. By law, by aiding bribe, you are an accomplice. So, saying he paid legislators to pass the budget for him means that for the budget he brought, he is not sure of it. However, that is not true. No dime was given to this legislative arm to pass budget. He is only trying to be crafty. The N1.2 million he gave us is for our imprest, and that was after so much negotiation."
As of the time of filing this report, our correspondent learnt that the councillors had already commenced impeachment process against the council chairman.