Several local government transition committee chairmen in Delta State have told SaharaReporters that Governor Emmanuel Uduaghan pressured them as well as their colleagues to retreat from their allegation that the governor had used the Subsidy Re-investment Program (SURE-P) funds meant for the councils to trade with banks.
SaharaReporters had reported exclusively that the state’s 25 transition committee chairmen had accused Mr. Uduaghan of depositing SURE-P funds with banks in order to earn huge interest payments that the governor reportedly kept for himself.
Infuriated by the report, Mr. Uduaghan mounted severe pressure on the chairmen, demanding that they give him a clean bill of health or face mass firing, according to some of the council chairmen.
Speaking earlier to our correspondent, some of the chairmen disclosed that there was unnecessary delay in the release of SURE-P funds. They also stated that the governor often failed to release the funds for use in designated projects. “He usually deposits the funds into some banks for several months to yield interest that we believe he then pockets,” said one of the chairmen.
“The Federal Government releases the funds every month along with every other allocation accruing to the local and state governments. As soon as the allocations get to the state, the governor releases them to the councils though with massive deductions. But the SURE-P funds he lodges into an unknown bank account to yield bountiful interest for several months. And when releasing the funds at last, the interest goes straight into his private pockets. This has been going on since the SURE-P came to be,” one of the council chairmen alleged. He insisted that the interest accruing on the deposits should go to local government councils, not to the state governor.
The council chairmen stated that they had not had any respite since SaharaReporters published the original report. “His Excellency Governor Uduaghan has continued to mount overbearing pressure on us to give him a clean bill of health or have the councils dissolved,” said a chairman. He added that the governor stipulated that the chairmen call a press conference to deny our reports or risk being fired.
“For fear of been sacked, the chairmen, who are already divided among themselves, immediately concluded plans to address a press conference to save the governor’s face.” Two sources said several chairmen were reluctant to do the governor’s bidding until Mr. Uduaghan mounted a harder pressure accompanied by threats.
A press conference was supposed to be held last Wednesday, but could not hold due to disagreement among the chairmen, an impeccable source stated.
Last Thursday, a few of the council chairmen, led by the chairman of Patani council area, Chris Ekiyor, who claimed to be representing the twenty-five council chairmen, exonerated Mr. Uduaghan of charges that he was trading with SURE-P funds.
Addressing a press conference in Asaba last Thursday, Mr. Ekiyor described the SURE-P implementation in Delta State as the best in the country. He alleged that many Deltans had benefited from Mr. Uduaghan’s “structured release of SURE-P funds,” adding that the funds had led to human capital development programs by the 25 LGAs where many Deltans benefited including physically challenged persons.
“It is therefore a rude shock to us by some purported media reports in the internet that some council chairmen are accusing the Governor of trading with Subsidy Re-investment and Empowerment Program (SURE-P) funds.”
Even though Mr. Ekiyor acknowledged that the SURE-P funds were not released monthly, he stated that the transition chairmen were happy with the mode of release, adding that it made more funds available.
He denied that Governor Uduaghan tampers with the allocation to the local governments, arguing that the governor, instead, augments LGA allocations with half a billion naira each month to enable the councils to meet up with the payment of primary school teachers’ salaries. He described the allegation of the governor’s massive deductions from the councils’ allocations as a cheap and wicked lie.
Mr. Ekiyor failed to answer reporters’ requests to give a break down of how the primary school teachers’ salaries are paid as well as the monthly allocations and the SURE-P funds received so far since inception.
Visibly nervous, Mr. Ekiyor was flanked at the press conference by thirteen out of the twenty-five council chairmen. Mr. Ekiyor could not explain why the press statement was unsigned.
One of the absent chairmen told SaharaReporters that some of his colleagues decided to resist the governor’s pressure. “Since we have already exposed the secret [of the governor’s use of SURE-P funds to receive interest rates from banks], we know we will be sacked even if we reverse ourselves.”
He pointed out that the absence of many council chairmen from Mr. Ekiyor’s press conference meant that the later was not speaking truthfully or with conviction.
A source close to the governor told SaharaReporters that Mr. Uduaghan had decided to go ahead with the dissolution of the transitional councils after pressuring a faction of them to reverse themselves on the matter of SURE-P funds.
Last Thursday, Mr. Uduaghan reacted angrily to accusations that he was filching SURE-P funds. He warned that, unless the names of the chairmen who made the allegation were revealed, he would have no option than to dissolve the councils. He also challenged the council chairmen to come forward with details of any unknown accounts where the SURE-P funds were allegedly kept. He alleged that the SURE-P funds had created a series of crises in the councils because of mismanagement.
Source: Sahara Reporters