Sacked elected local government chairmen in Imo State vow to continue their legal battle against Governor Rochas Okorocha to reclaim their mandate despite some setbacks
| By AnayoEzugwu | Apr. 29, 2013 @ 01:00 GMT
DESPITE some setbacks in the recent battle for who takes over control of affairs in the 27 LGAs of Imo State, elected chairman under the aegis of the Association of Local Government of Nigeria, ALGON, has declared that the fight is not yet over with Rochas Okorocha, governor of the state and the newly appointed sole administrators, SOLADs. ALGON said the governor lacks the constitutional power to appoint anybody to take over their position.
Enyinnaya Onuegbu, ALGON secretary in the state, said the Court of Appeal sitting in Owerri, capital of the state, has restrained the governor from appointing any administrator during the period of the tenure. He explained that the chairmen would never surrender the mandate given to them by the people of Imo State. “As far as we are concerned, the governor lacks the power to appoint anybody because the Court of Appeal stated clearly in paragraph two that he cannot appoint transition committees or any person to take over our position during the subsistence of our tenure. Also, it is true that governor Rochas Okorocha is not interested in obeying the court judgement that reinstated us. The judgement reinstated us stating that we are entitled to our tenure under the local government law, and that is a three-year tenure. But the governor chose to misinterpret it, saying that the court did not state specifically that it’s a-three-year tenure and that there is a law on two years and that law affects us and not the order of the court,” he said.
According to Onuegbu, ALGON has an appeal at the Court of Appeal with the motion to stop the appointment of anybody to take over the duties of the elected chairmen. And to also prevent the governor from interfering with their duties, the motions are pending and would be heard on April 22. Without waiting for the court to hear the matter on that day, the governor purportedly announced a list of sole administrators and sent the list to the State House of Assembly for ratification. He said that ALGON wrote a letter to the House of Assembly not to clear these people because it would amount to total violation of the court order and due process. But surprisingly, the same day it took the letter to the House of Assembly, the House ratified the appointments and the next day the people were inaugurated into office in order to frustrate the matter pending in court.
Meanwhile, Onuegbu said ALGON-Okorocha battle has gone beyond the issue of tenure of elected council chairmen. The real problem is the illegal appropriation of the statutory allocation of Imo State local governments by the governor since May 2011 till date. He claimed that the money is in the region of N150 billion and that explained why there is no development in the local government. “The issue is not who is physically there in the chairman’s office; the issue is that the dividends of democracy are not getting to the people and we see our governor fly in a private jet all over the world, giving his friends political appointments, paying contractors 100 percent upfront for jobs not done and with all kinds of advert in the media giving misleading reports of development. Whereas there is no development in the local government areas except in Owerri metropolis and his local government.”
He explained that ALGON has dragged the governor and other state functionaries to the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, for alleged abuse of office. Writing through its lawyer, the association accused Okorocha of criminal conspiracy, abuse of office, stealing, misappropriation of public funds and the financial rot in his administration.
But the state government has refuted all the allegations and claims by ALGON, Ebere Uzoukwa, special adviser on media to governor Okorocha, said that the action of the government was legal and that appointment of SOLADs was the only way to sanitise the local government system in the state.