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Edo assembly reverses suspension of Ovia South West council chairman; tension still high

Gov. Adams Oshiomhole of Edo State
Gov. Adams Oshiomhole of Edo State
The Edo State House of Assembly on Monday reversed the suspension of the Chairman of Ovia South West Local Government Area, Mr Morrison Ogunoroba-Ovia, by the councillors.
The reversal was contained in a statement signed by the Deputy Clerk of the assembly, Mr James Omoataman.
Despite the action of the State Assembly, tension was said to still be high in the area as the full implication of the intervention was still to be analysed by the parties in to the dispute.
The State Assembly advised the councillors to “stay action while the status quo should remain pending the intervention of the honorable house.”
The statement reads in part: “I am directed by the honorable Speaker to inform you of the recent development in Ovia South West Local Government Area of Edo. The provision of Section 19 of the Local Government Law 2000 as amended is instructive in the regard.
“The purpose of this letter is for you to as a matter of urgency prevail on the legislative arm to stay action and maintain the status quo ante pending the intervention of the honourable house.”
The council boss was on Thursday suspended by the lawmakers over issues bothering on alleged mismanagement of the council’s internally-generated revenue.
The chairman had contended that the suspension was not only illegal but also did not follow due process in line with the Edo Local Government Law 2000 as amended.
He insisted that the action of the councilors was politically motivated.
Ogunoroba-Ovia, along with the secretary to the council area Barrister Oyomire Idahosa, was suspended from office by the councillors over allegations of misconduct bordering on alleged diversion of N13.7m belonging to the council as revenue for personal use.
The councillors at a media briefing in Benin city, however, had alleged that the Chairman deployed thugs and some security agents to intimidate and harass them from sitting in Iguobazuwa, the council headquarters.
Ogunoroba-Ovia had claimed that the action of the councilors was ‘a grand plot by some aggrieved leaders in collaboration with five lawmakers of the council’s legislature to stop his second term ambition.’
Speaking with newsmen in Benin, the state capital Saturday, Ogunoroba-Ovia had said that “Section 19 (9) states that the holder of the office (of chairman) under investigation shall not be suspended within the period of the investigation,” adding that: “I am still in charge as the elected chief executive officer of the local government area.”
While describing the situation as ‘unfortunate,’ the embattled Ogunoroba-Ovia said: “This same local government as I assumed office two years and some months ago, I have not been found wanting in anyway, yet some people want to seize the opportunity to pull it down despite the glaring developmental strides that cut across all the ten wards of the council since the past two years and several months of the administration.
“I want to say clearly that the suspension did not follow due process at all and the councillors do not have the right to suspend me.
“I make bold to say that you saw the extent of developmental strides in Ovia South West, that there is no ward you go to that you will not see the presence of my administration in each of these wards. Is it schools, health centres, scholarship scheme; these we have been able to put in place for the good people of Ovia South West local government.
“We are building a long lasting legacy for our people and because of the unprecedented political growth as well as profile, some people see this as an opportunity to want to bring me down. Well, I leave everything to God Almighty because God is the one who gives power and He that gave me the opportunity to serve the good people of Ovia South West will not let me down.”
Continuing, Ogunoroba-Ovia said, “If there is an allegation against me they are supposed to set up an independent body that they themselves are not supposed to be part of those who are to investigate the alleged issues rather the independent body will investigate. After which they will now submit the report to the said councillors who will go through and if there is any issue to that, all they needed to do is pass it to the state House of Assembly which is the upper house and which has the total right to investigate and give punitive measures if found guilty.”
He, therefore, urged the people of the area to maintain peace and continue to contribute their quota towards ensuring peaceful co-existence and development of the council as well as to shun attempt by forces to use them as tools for self political gains.
“We are in a democracy, freedom of speech but democracy is also not a license for political rascality. We should all be responsive to our people and we should ensure that we leave no stone unturned to contribute our quota to the well being of our local government because the mandate that made us to be in the office is the mandate of the people. And we owe the people serious obligation by doing the right thing that will further make lives more meaningful to our people,” he stressed.
Spokesman for the legislative arm of the council, Hon. Major Cletus Atigbi had, however, stated that when the House received the petition from the revenue consultant to the local council, Dan Owegie (Jnr), they immediately constituted a committee to look into the petition based on its merit.
Owegie who was appointed to collect revenue at Jojo Rock pit at Evbonogbon had claimed that he was ordered to pay cash to the council’s secretary.
He said that from their findings through both video and written evidence including the admittance by the council Chairman and his Secretary, it was clear to them that indeed, a case of fraud had been established.
“To make matters worse Morrison still goes about parading himself as chairman and in company of one Ekeme Robert Fiyes whose seat has since 2014 been declared vacant by the legislative Arm for absenteeism from plenary sessions.
“Gentleman of the Press, it continued to beat our imaginations how the suspended council chairman of Ovia South West and the Secretary still go about parading themselves as office holders
“The duo as we speak, have been suspended from office by the legislative arm of the council and we have copied the relevant government agencies for action. We also want to categorically state that 9 councillors out of the ten signed the suspension order, this is because one seat has been vacated since May 12, 2015
“We call on the National Chairman of our great party, Chief John Oyegun who is from this council to come to our aid by calling the suspended chairman and the secretary to order. He has deployed thugs to beat, intimidate us from sitting in the council, his case is that of fraud and we also want the EFCC, ICPC to investigate him,” said Atigbi.
With the intervention of the State House of Assembly, it is expected that the parties will sheathe their swords pending the outcome of their investigation.
The reactions of the embattled chairman and the councillors were not yet available as at press time and neither the State Governor, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole nor the National Chairman of the All Progressives Party, APC, Chief John Oyegun, who comes from Ovia South West Local Government could be reached for their comments on the simmering crisis.

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