A budding civil rights activist in Eleme Local Government Area, Hon. Johnson Emere Mba-Ngei says Governor Wike’s directive to investigate the resources of Eleme Local Government Council under Hon. Philip Okparaji for failing to deliver a single project since assumption of office over a year ago has vindicated him.
Mba-Ngei who spoke to Inside Eleme in an interview said Eleme people must hold the chairman and his cohorts accountable for allegedly misappropriating allocations and resources meant for development in Eleme Local Government Area.
He said it is within the constitutional rights of the people to ask how monies coming into the coffers of the Council from federal allocations and other sources are being utilized, adding that it does not amount to witch-hunting of the chairman or any public officer, to ask or criticize him if suspected to have embezzled money meant for development.
He regretted that the chairman has refused to release records of council’s accounts and books which he requested to justify his allegation of misappropriation of public funds leveled against the chairman, adding that he has gone to court to demand access to the records and account books of the local government under the Freedom of Information (FoI) Act and other extant laws.
It would be recalled that Governor Nyesom Wike recently criticized the council chairmen in Rivers State for failing to deliver projects in a period of one year.
The governor said: “We want to know how the local government councils spend their local government allocations. I have never interfered in the administration of local government funds.
“I am not one of those governors that interfere with local government funds”.
Governor Wike regretted that despite the monthly allocations to the 23 local government councils, there is no local government council that has executed projects.
“I have found out that there is no local government council where you see a single project. When I was local government council chairman, we executed projects. For me, I invited the State Governor at the time, Dr. Peter Odili to commission projects. No local government chairman has invited me to commission a project “, he said.
The governor who recently inaugurated a committee to investigate and audit the financial transactions of the 23 local government councils from May 2018 to May 2019 said the committee is not aimed at removing any council chairman or official, but targeted at improving probity and accountability in the 23 local government councils of the state.
He said: “We are not trying to remove any local government chairman, but it cannot be business as usual in the 23 local government areas.
Governor Wike urged the committee to live above board, saying that if he gets information that any local government chairman or godfather attempts to compromise the committee, the committee will be dissolved.
“People must sit up and account for funds of the local government councils. Ask for bank statements, ask for money from Joint Account, and ask for the salaries and allowances. If they spent any funds the day I visited, they should state it. We cannot continue the way we are going.
“At the end of every month, they come to JAC meeting. We must know how the funds are spent. Also, check which local government councils collected loans when they are not backed to do so”
He said that the committee has three weeks to submit its report, stressing that the state government counts on the integrity of members of the committee to deliver on the assignment.
Deputy Governor and Chairman of the committee, Dr. Ipalibo Harry-Banigo assured Governor Wike that the committee will deliver on schedule in line with its terms of reference.
She said the audit is a tool aimed at ensuring the proper use of local government funds for the development of the respective areas.
“The efficient running of local government councils will add value to the achievement of the vision of the Governor. The committee will work in line with the terms of reference of the Governor “, she assured.