Lawmaker Opens Fresh Can Of Worms. N150m Brouhaha, Council Chairman Fingered

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Hon. Clinton Emmanuel, Chairman Aba South Local Government

In an exclusive interview with ALL FACTS NEWSPAPER, Hon Charles Ubani opened a can of worms to lay credence to their claims on the activities of the Council Chairman; Here are the excerpts of the interview.

Can we please meet you?

My name is Hon. Charles Ubani, the Honorable Councilor representing Aba town hall, ward 12 at the Aba south local council of Abia state.

There are allegations that the Council Chairman, Hon. Clinton Emmanuel Ebere awarded the contract for the reconstruction of the LGA council’s secretariat, burnt down during the anti–SARS protest to the tune of about N168 million, without following due process. As a member of the legislative council, what is the reaction?

Yes, indeed, a large part of the Council secretariat was badly damaged, during the anti–SARS protest. And I am also of the position that everything should be done to put back the secretariat in a good shape. However, in doing so, I strongly believe that due process should be followed. Now as a Councilor representing Aba town hall, ward 12, which incidentally is the ward hosting the secretariat of the council, I am not aware of the award of any contract. I am not also aware that the legislative council approved such a contract as required by law.

Everybody knows that, before such a huge contract, could be awarded by the Executive; it has to pass through the legislative council for approval. The legislative council has to be briefed on the details of the contract, how it is going to be funded; where the money is going to come from: if it is going to be funded through a loan, and or through internally generated revenue or allocation from the federation account. If it is through a loan the legislative council has to be told, how the loan will be – repaid. But as I speak, the legislative Council, of which I am a member has never been told or consulted as far as the issue of the award of the contract for the reconstruction of the council secretariat is a concern.

All we saw, was that in May, this year, the council Chairman, performed the groundbreaking ceremony for the reconstruction of the secretariat, much to the surprise of most of us – the legislators and the whole thing generated and has continued to generate controversy and disagreement.

Some of us are still wondering how the council chairman could go-ahead to award such a multi – Million Naira contract without seeking the approval of the legislative council. For us, that amounts to flagrant abuse of due process and we are studying the situation to take action against the chairman if necessary. This is because there is no way you will be spending the people’s money without the approval of the people, through their elected representatives. For me, what the chairman, has done is a very clear case of misappropriation of the council’s funds.

Do you have a budget for the year, in place and if there is, was the contract for the reconstruction captured in the budget?

As I speak with you, we the legislative council members have not seen any annual budget from anywhere, not to talk about approving any. And when some of us are agitating and insisting that things should be done the right way, the chairman and his supporters will be seeing us as trouble makers.

It is a known fact, that there should be an annual budget Proposal prepared by the executive and presented to the legislative council for deliberation and possible approval. It is this budget proposal as approved by the legislative council that will guide all spending’s within the council. But the truth is that, up till now, we don’t have any budget proposal before us and yet the chairman is busy spending including his contentious awards for the reconstruction of the council secretariat.

But the law is clear on the spending limit for all the executive at the three tiers of government for instance there is a certain limit of money that could be spent, by the executive without recourse to the legislative or the executive council. In this case, N 150 million is clearly above that sum. What is your next line of action?

you see; we keep on hearing about so many amounts and figures, such as N 47 Million, N 70 Million, N 150 Million, and all that. That is not the issue and what you are saying is indeed true. There is a limit on the amount of money that is supposed to be spent by the executive without the approval of the legislature. I am reiterating my earlier position, to the effect that, the Aba south council legislative council of which I am a ranking member has not been presented with any budget proposal from anywhere When some of us come out to agitate and insist that things should be done in the right way, some people tend to misunderstand us. We are 16 in number at the legislative council. Among these numbers, some think the same way as me. Those who always insist that the right thing should be done. We are elected by the good people of Aba South to work for them. In working for them, we believe that due process should be the watchword. Like I said earlier on, we are studying the situation, irrespective of moves to divide us and even marginalized us. If at a point we found out that the executive is not ready to jettison this reign of impunity, we will take all necessary constitutional measures to restore sanity to the system.

It is believed in many quarters that some of you in the legislative council have been having a running battle with the chairman for some time now. What are the reasons for the disagreement?

Well, the whole thing began on May 22, 2020, the same day that elected council chairmen, were inaugurated in the state by Governor Dr. Okezie Ikpeazu. After the swearing-in ceremony in Umuahia, we all returned to Aba to celebrate together. However, all of a sudden the chairman, proceeded to the legislative council chamber to inaugurate the council at a very odd hour – 8 pm. There was no prior notice of that effect. There was no light in the council chamber, some of us were shocked and protested, but the chairman insisted on inaugurating the legislature at that old hour and inside the darkness. It was the torchlight he used. My brother what happened that day saddened most of us. At the end of the day, he the chairman succeeded in handpicking his perceived loyalists as principal officers of the legislative councils. From that point, because some of us vehemently insisted that things should be done the right way, he has come to see us as enemies. He has been sidelining us in the running of the affairs of the council. He has been saying he (chairman) will make sure that we leave the council empty-handed. Not just us alone, he has sidelined many, including his deputy, secretary to the council, and host of others just because we insist that things should be done in line with due process.

Besides the issue of contract for the reconstruction of the secretariat, which, the chairman single-handedly awarded, there is the issue of revenue, how much it spends: how much comes from the federation account, and all that. It is only the Chairman, working with a few people that know. Many people cannot tell you that the council is worth so and so in terms of revenue. My brother, the situation is really bad and I don’t think we will continue like that. Like I said, earlier we may be forced to explore all constitutional means to bring an end to this gross reign of impunity at the council. What is going at the council is not what the good people of Aba South had in mind when they were electing us into office.

 

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