Councillors of the legislative arm of the Aniocha North Local Government Area of Delta State have passed a vote of no confidence in the council chairman, Chuks Oseme, over "embezzlement of public funds running into several millions of naira and stealing and selling of transformers and vehicles belonging to the council".
Our correspondent reliably gathered that the council boss, said to be working on the instruction of his political 'godmother', the state chairman of civil service commission, Mrs. Patience Nkem Okwuofu, has been running the council like his personal estate without recourse to the extant laws, as well as his flagrant refusal to assent to the budget passed by the legislative house of the council for the past three months.
Speaking with our correspondent, a senior official of the local government who preferred not to be named, revealed that the battle between the council chairman and the councillors started shortly after the council chairman was sworn into office.
Stating the happenings among the councillors, he said: "The whole problem can be traced to the state chairman of civil service commission, Dame Nkem Okwuofu, who is the de facto council chairman."
"The crisis has been lingering and on Tuesday, November 13, 2018, the legislative arm under the leadership of Honourable Francis Nwaonye Ekene, during its plenary unanimously passed a vote of no confidence in the chairman of the council, Hon. Chuks Oseme over series of allegations such as fraudulent practices, financial misappropriation, stealing and violation of due process. The clerk of the legislative arm, Mrs. Ogbodu, has connived with the council chairman to work in the interest of the councillors."
Meanwhile, a petition by the councillors addressed to the Delta State House of Assembly through the Speaker and obtained by SaharaReporters, alleged fraudulent practices and violation of due process on the part of the chairman. They also urged the House to immediately investigate the council boss, as well as consider the immediate removal of the clerk of the legislative arm.
The petition entitled, 'Vote Of No Confidence in Hon. Chukwugoziem Oseme, Executive Chairman Aniocha North Local Government Council, Issele-Uku and Request for Investigation' was addressed to the Speaker through the chairman, House Committee on Public Accounts, Mr. Anthony Elekeokwuri, and copied the member representing Aniocha North in the State House of Assembly, Hon. Emeka Nwaobi.
The councillors enumerated the offences of the embattled council chairman to include: “Flagrant disregard of the Governor’s directive on the payment of non-pensionable staff despite monthly release of 1.5 million for their payment as confirmed by the TLG and HPM since September 2016 till date".
Other matters cited in the petition are: “Under-payment of some of the non-pensionable staff viz: #7,500 as against #15,000 and #5,000 as against #25,000 and total non-compliance, particularly on youth corpers serving in the local government council. Spending without authorization of expenditure in default of appropriation contrary to section 148(57) of the Delta State Local Government Law 2013 as amended.
“Refusal to submit income and expenditure on a monthly basis as stipulated in Section 135(23) C. of the local government law. Spending above chairman’s spending limit without recourse to the Executive Committee as Exco was inaugurated on the 14th of June, 2018 contrary to Section 158(73)I of the Delta State local government law 2013 as amended.
“Mandating the Treasurer to the Local Government not to appear before the legislative arm after several invitations, thereby undermining the powers of the House contrary to section 146 (46)2. Refusal to explain the whereabouts of the earth-moving equipment of the Council and proceeds from hiring the equipment and mandating the TLG not to appear before the House to explain the proceeds thereto.
“Refusal to honour several invitations from the Legislative House to explain matters relating to income and expenditure, as he said that Councilors have no constitutional power to oversight the Executive Chairman at Council Level. Selling of serviceable soundproof generators in some health centres as scraps. Selling of brand new transformer donated by NDDC to Aniocha North Local Government Council in 2007.
“Selling of the Council’s serviceable official vehicles, e.g black Hilux purchased by previous administration in 2007 without due process to his cronies and aides. Operating more than one consolidated revenue account of the Council contrary to section 147 sub-section 55 paragraph 1 of the Local Government Law 2013 as amended. Eg. Zenith, UBA, FCMB and Microfinance Bank.
"Squandering of Ten Million Naira (N10,000,000) given by his Excellency, the Governor of Delta State meant for capital projects without doing any project since May this year. Travelling outside the Country without handing over to his deputy contrary to section 137(28) 1-3 of the Local Government Law. Refusal to submit statement of account of the Council to ascertain the income accruable to the Council which determines expenditure e.g wage bills and other vouchers.
“Retrieval and diversion of the sum of N3,000,000 (three million naira) paid by the Council to Benin Electricity Distribution Company (BEDC) and pocketing same. Refusal to explain the biometric savings expenditures for which a special account was created at FCMB contrary to section 147 (55)I of the Local Government Law. Refusal to assent to the budget which was passed by the Legislative House since 23rd of August, 2018 thereby spending without authorization contrary to section 146(50)3.
“Since 14th of June, 2018 that the Exco was inaugurated, they have not sat for more than two times contrary to section 34 sub-sections 3 and 4 of the Delta State Local Government Law 2013 as amended. Refusal to pay the Sergeant-at-Arms of the Legislative Arm since January till date saying that there is nothing like Sergeant-at Arms.
"Refusal to give the Legislative House running cost and imprest of which we have been levying ourselves to run the House since January to date. Conniving with the Clerk of the House to stampede and frustrate the Legislative House by mandating the Clerk not to produce the votes and proceedings where the resolutions were taken; and conniving to back-date the draft budget for assent.”
The councillors, among other things, urged the state House of Assembly to set up an investigation panel of inquiry, "relying on section 131 (II)1 of Delta State Local Government Law 2013 as amended, requesting for every necessary financial record relying on section 131(11)3 of the Delta State Local Government law 2013 as amended, invoke section 137(30)1 of Delta State Local Government Law 2013, as amended, investigate the TLG, former HPM, HOD Works and the clerk of the Aniocha North legislative arm and removal of the clerk of the legislative arm for complicity and dereliction of duty".
When contacted over the crisis rocking his council and all the allegations leveled against him by his councillors, the chairman of Aniocha North local government area, Delta State, Mr. Chuks Oseme, debunked all the allegations, saying: "Yes, those allegations are spurious; they are just a very big lie. Let me start with the vote of no confidence. That is a very big lie; you don’t pass a vote of no confidence from your bedroom."