AKHERE Godwin, Benin
The embattled chairman of Ovia South West Local Government Area (LGA) of Edo State, Comrade Morrison Ogunoroba-Ovia has described as ‘politically motivated’ as well as lacking in due process, his purported suspension carried out by the council’s lawmakers.
Ogunoroba-Ovia, along with the secretary to the council area Barrister Oyomire Idahosa, was suspended from office by the councillors, last week, over allegations of misconduct bordering on alleged diversion of N13.7m belonging to the council as revenue for personal use.
This is even as councillors who addressed the media in Benin city, same day, have also alleged that the Chairman has deployed thugs and some security agents to intimidate and harass them from sitting in Iguobazuwa, the council headquarters, further insisting that Ogunoroba-Ovia remains suspended from office.
Reacting, however, Ogunoroba-Ovia said the action 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, on the ongoing crisis rocking the local government council since Thursday last week, he noted that the suspension was not only illegal but also did not follow due process in line with the Edo State Local Government Law 2000 as amended.
According to Ogunoroba-Ovia “Section 19 (9) states that the holder of the office (of chairman) under investigation shall not be suspended within the period of the investigation,” further 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 that has 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 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.
Meanwhile, the crisis rocking the Ovia South West Local Government Area of Edo state over the suspension of its council chairman, Morrison Ogunoroba-Ovia, and Secretary of the local council, Oyomire Idahosa, seems to have deepened with the 9 councillors insisting that the duo remains suspended.
Spokesman for the legislative arm, Hon. Major Cletus Atigbi 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 has 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.