Abia State: Governor & extortion

 By Ola Tunde

 It is the highest degree, the extortion of the Gov. T.A Orji-led government of Abia State. The saddening aspect of it is that whenever his government is caught in this act, he navigates that he would verify.

This is a state where its seven hundred and twenty nine monarchs stormed the Government House, Umuahia. They did not go there for tea party. No. They went to beg their Gov. Orji that the level of extortion in his government is appalling. Imagine the fates of common people in that state if a crowd of seven hundred and twenty nine monarchs could storm the Government House, Umuahia, begging the governor to save them from the wicked grip of members of Abia State House of Assembly.

The monarchs cried that they were humiliated by Gov. Orji and his government to pay N72.9 million, in what was fraudulently regarded as "fee for verification of their autonomous communities."

According to an account: "Led by their Chairman, Eze John Onuoha Akaliro, the traditional rulers who besieged Government House in their full regalia decried that the lawmakers sent them forms for their autonomous communities and asked them to return same with the sum of N100,000, an exercise which they paid just N40,000 two years ago.

“He said further that the state had 729 autonomous communities and that if the sum of N100,000 was multiplied with the number of autonomous communities in the state, it would amount to N72.9 million, which was too much an amount to fleece traditional rulers of...

“The state legislators had asked them to pick up forms, which they want to use to verify the authenticity of the various autonomous communities and such forms should be returned with the sum of N100,000 each traditional ruler and community. He decried the imposition, describing it as illegal and sought Governor Orji’s intervention on the matter". And you wonder if the autonomous communities were not created by the state government that such outrageous sum of money should be demanded from the monarchs. Just extortion and extortion and extortion in the Gov. Orji government of Abia State.

But the monarchs did not know that they went to a wrong governor when they told Gov. Orji: “You are the only person we can come to for protection and we want you to save us, Sir from the hands of the state lawmakers, as it is unrealistic for verification of our communities to be done with such large sum of money. The same verification exercise was carried out two years ago and we returned the same form with the sum of N40,000 and we are wondering why the legislators should be milking us dry."

And what did Gov. Orji do? The report goes further: In his response, Orji denied knowledge of the said levy, explaining that all three arms of government were independent of one another, even as they worked towards achieving one goal for the good of the state and its people. He, however, said he would investigate the allegation to determine the real motive of the lawmakers and pleaded with the royal fathers to maintain their cool until he met with the leadership of the House.

Hear the governor: "I don’t think they will start hatching plans that will jeopardize your interest because they are all from your autonomous communities and they are your subjects despite being House of Assembly members."

February 19, 2013 was given by the lawmakers as "deadline for the return of the forms with the levies, but the monarchs stressed that they were finding it difficult to source for the sum of N100,000 with which to return the forms". Did the governor prevail on the lawmakers to restore the five percent monthly stipends accruable to the monarchs, which the legislators had also earlier slashed to two percent? If monarchs are subjected to suffer this in Abia State, please, it means that the ordinary residents are being extorted per second.

In another development, a traditional ruler of an autonomous community in Isukwuato area of the state lamented what he described as “government’s absence in rural areas”. Speaking to newsmen, he described as painful a situation where the state government concentrates development in the state capital, abandoning area councils. He therefore charged the state government to ensure construction of the Ohaukwu Amairi feeder road, which he said will enable the people convey their farm produce to the city centre.

Tunde is of the Bad Governance Media Tour (BGMT).