There is eminent crisis brewing in the Delta State capital local government, Oshimili south as both the council’s chairman, Comrade Uche Osadebe and the legislators are trading words over allege delay and stoppage of the council’s budget process.
Five months after the chairman of council, presented a budget proposal of over N2 billion to the legislative arm with alleged reward to the tone of about N5 million, the lawmakers are yet to pass the budget just as they (legislators) claimed that their engagement of Head of Departments (HODs) and supervisors for budget defense was allegedly halted by the executive arm, insisting that the budget has grey areas to be fine-tuned.
Osadebe told a group of journalists in Asaba, that he presented the budget to the legislators since 5th June 2018, alleging that they demanded money from him to pass the budget, “A situation where they want you to give them money before they can pass the budget. We presented our budget since on 5th of June, as I am talking to you; they have not passed the budget up till now even after giving them money”.
While recounting how the money was disbursed to the leader of the House, principal officers and other lawmakers in tranches, he said, “The first money I gave to them was N1.50 million in this way: The whole House was given N900, 000, then I later gave principal officers N150, 000, they kept the budget. I was in school while I was writing exam; they were disturbing that they must give them more money. I said I won’t give them N1.00”.
According to him, the member representing Aniocha/Oshimili federal constituency in the House of Representatives, Mrs Onyeamechi Mrakpor, waded into the crisis but without allegedly parting with another N3.1 million to the legislators to fasten the passage of the budget.
Hear him: “Until the matter got to Ada Anioma, she invited all of us when they went to bring police to arrest NULGE Chairman. They invited all of us and I got there and the woman persuaded me and pleaded with me, we agreed on what to give them, we gave them N3.1 million.
“Then we agreed on sitting and impress that will be given to them. We should be giving them N1.2 million. We gave them that one also after meeting on that on 3rd of August, the following week, we gave them. We gave them N3.1, N1.2 after the N1.50 is that not approaching N05 million?
He regretted that till date, the budget has not been passed, “and again I still gave N150, 000 each that we owed them May/June that we didn’t give them before the crises started, I gave them that N150 of running cost”, he bemoaned.
In his words: “They have seen the income and expenditure; they are running up and down because when they applied they didn’t want to say is for passing of budget. So, I told the treasurer to write it as budget passing. When they applied, they wrote it as town hall meeting. So, if you say it is town hall meeting, go and get all the tapes, go and get all the people you met. All the money I gave them I said put them there as budget passing.
“There is no need for anybody to be hiding anything. You are fighting me and you want me to guide and protect you? No! I have to fight back and what are you fighting me for? Sharing formula! For me to be giving you money, which money I mine getting? Even my statutory money I don’t even collect it. I have my statutory money that I have to collect – the running cost, I give you people, I don’t collect my own.
“I told the SLG to write a letter and forward to the house of Assembly for the delay of our budget that I handed over to them since on the 5th and up till, they have not passed that budget, so I want the House of Assembly to invite them to come and explain the reason why our budget will be in their hands for four months without doing anything. Meanwhile, other local governments, passed their own within one month, they are holding our budget since four months now. So, that is the issue.
But in his swift reaction to the allegations leveled on the House by the chairman, the leader of the legislative arm, Hon Nwosa Peter Chukwuemeka, said the chairman acts contrary to the constitution.
Chukwuemeka, who spoke exclusively with our correspondent, alleged that Osadebe, runs the council as his own private business, spends council’s allocation, awards and executes contracts without the House approval.
On the alleged delay in the passage of the budget, he said, “the law clearly states that the chairman is supposed to lay down his budget at the beginning of every financial year which is January. All through January, the chairman never brought a budget to the House. We tried to engage him on reasons why he should bring his budget to the House and we also tried to make him know that it is not possible for him to run projects without budget; that it is a financial crime as far as the law is concern.
“Sometimes in April, there are documents to that effect, the House wrote him when we noticed he was spending money without appropriation. The House have to write him intimating him that he is default of appropriation that what he was committing was a financial crime, which he never replied the House”.
“We also told him to give us his income and expenditure as stipulated by the local government law. It is mandatory that at the end of every month, he sends his income and expenditure to the House so that the House can go through it and be sure that he is working in line with and in accordance of the ethics of the local government system, which he refused”.
He said after writing the chairman twice in the month of May, he (Osadebe) alleged that lawmakers were demanding him to share the N10 million given to him for projects by the state governor, Ifeanyi Okowa, “in May, we wrote him again intimating him why he should do the needful; he was also defiant of it. We wrote him again later in that same May, the third time. At that point, he started alleging that the governor gave him N10 million for projects and that councilors were calling him to share the money that led to an uproar in the council because it was surprising to us because we never knew such money was given to him”.
He said that the budget had gone through first and second; “the budget goes to Finance and Appropriation Committee where every other committees in the House becomes a sub-committee, pointing that at that point all HODs and supervisors would defend the budget at the various sub-committee. The meeting with the committee was fixed, only three departments came; Works, Environment and Health, they told us that they don’t know how the budget came about”.
He continued: “suddenly a letter came from the HPM, telling us that we have no right to invite anybody to come and defend budget, so the budget was stalled by the executive arm of the government. They stopped the process of the budget”, claiming that the budget presented to the House is not realistic, “the law does not say that the executive present’s budget means that the budget must be passed. The House has the right to look into the budget and if it is deemed fit that it is proper, they can pass it. So, what he has just brought as a budget, they have not done the right thing”.
He said the allegation that the tone of N5 million was given to councilors, he said “to me, it will be funny if the executive chairman of a local government can make such statements because it means he does not know what he is doing. Because in the law, you aiding bribe, you are an accomplice. So, he saying he paid legislators to pass budget for him means that the budget he brought, he is not sure of it but that is not true. No N1.00 was given to this legislative arm to pass budget, he is only trying to be crafty. The N1.2 million he gave us is for our impress after so much negotiation”.