BY VICTOR UFOT
Credible insights have emerged on why Chairmen of Uyo and Nsit Atai Local Government Areas in Akwa Ibom State, Hon Imo Okon and Hon Mrs. Emem Ibanga were suspended indefinitely and their deputies’ mandated to take over the affairs of the councils by Akwa Ibom Assembly.
The suspension of the two council helmsmen followed petitions received by the Akwa Ibom State House of Assembly from Councilors in their respective Local Government councils alleging gross misconduct and misappropriation of funds by the suspended chairman.
While presenting the interim report of his committee before the floor of the House on Friday, Mr. Victor Ekwere, Member Representing Mkpat Enin State Constituency and Chairman, House Committee on Judiciary, Public Petitions, Justice and Human Rights said that the committee upon the directive of the Speaker, Rt. Hon. Aniekan Bassey invited the petitioners, respondents and other concerned parties to appear before the committee to ensure fair hearing in the case.
In the case between Hon Emem Ibanga, Chairperson, Nsit Atai Local Government Area, the Committee Chairman informed the House that the House had received letters from Councilors and the Vice Chairman of the local government council, alleging misappropriation of funds and abuse of office by the chairman.
According to him some of the allegations leveled against the chairperson by the councilors and vice chairman included; inherent disbursement of local government funds appropriated by the house, refusal of the chairman to provide official vehicle for the vice chairman as directed by the Governor and the House Committee on Local Government and Chieftaincy Affairs, nonpayment of benefit and entitlements accruing to the, Councilors and office of the vice chairman, pending issues between the chairmen and some councilors before Police amongst alleged other misconducts.
Mr. Ekwere in his report noted that during the committee sitting to investigate the matter, all the parties involved in the case were given ample time and opportunity to defend themselves and urged to tender both verbal and written evidence.
He added that at the end of the investigation by the committee, the Akwa Ibom State House of Assembly in other to restore peace to the Local Government Area directed the Chairman to take steps that will bring to a halt the bickering.
“In a bid to amicably settle the problem of Nsit Atai Local Government directed, the Chairman to ensure that the Councilors owed were paid their benefits, that the Vice Chairman should be paid his genuine and outstanding benefits, that there should be no further infighting since this will ultimately affect the electorates adversely, that the Chairman should brief the committee (House) on the level of compliance as soon as possible.
The Committee Chairman further informed the Speaker and his colleagues that the Hon. Ibanga refused to comply with resolution of the House by refusing to honour the agreements reached.
According to him; “it is disheartening to note that the Chairman has failed and has blatantly refused to comply with the directives of the Committee (House), she has not briefed the Committee rather we received a letter from the councilors and the vice chairman on open disregard to the committee’s directives and refusal to implement the committee’s directives accordingly, the said letters are dated March 4, 2020 and April 28, 2020 respectively, he said.
The Committee in its recommendation proposed for extended time for the committee or an Ad-hoc committee be set up to holistically investigate the allegations of gross misconduct, inefficiency in the disbursement or administration of Nsit Atai Local Government funds and petition bordering on malicious defamation.
The House Committee on Judiciary, Public Petitions, Justice and Human Rights, also proposed that the Chairman, Hon Emem Ibanga be suspended from office indefinitely and the vice chairman takes over the running of the council in acting capacity in compliance with section 47(1) of the local government Administration Law of 2007 to enable the relevant committee carry out unfettered investigation accordingly.
In a separate interim report of the House Committee on Local Government and Chieftaincy Affairs chaired by Rt. Hon Mark Esset, the House also resolved to suspend the Council Chairman of Uyo Local Government Area, Elder Imoh Okon on allegations of Gross Misconduct.
Rt. Hon. Esset in his report said that the leadership of the House on February 11, 2020 received a petition from Councilors of Uyo Legislative Council against the Chairman, Imo Okon.
In his report, Rt. Hon Mark Esset highlighted that the ousted Chairman, failed to honour the various invitations extend to his office by his Committee while the petitioners were always on ground to prove their case.
He added that the councilors had petitioned over nonpayment of their entitlements, forceful closure of their legislative chambers by the orders of the chairman and refusal to provide official vehicle for the vice chairman.
Hon Esset, stressed that the committee has been unable to probe the matter due to the refusal of the accused to appear before the committee and therefore recommended for his suspension from office.