EBOJELE AKHERE PATRICK, Benin
The Chairman of Owan West Local Government Area in Edo State, Mr. Godwin Agbodion, has been suspended following allegations of financial mismanagement and other administrative irregularities.
The State Governor, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole, announced his suspension while addressing members of the Local Government Executive Council and Councilors yesterday at the Government House, Benin City.
The Governor said, “We have tried in the past to call the Chairman to have a good working relationship with his Executives. We have decided to set up a committee of enquiry to investigate these allegations, both financial and non-financial and in the provisions of the appropriate legislations of the Local Government law, I have decided to exercise the powers vested in me to suspend the Chairman during this period for the committee to investigate all the allegations and submit the report to me.
“So with immediate effect, the Chairman is suspended and a Committee of enquiry is set up. In line with the rules, the Vice Chairman will act as the Chairman of the Local Government. I direct the suspended chairman to stay away from the premises of the Local Government. When the Committee is ready to sit, the Committee will invite you and you will have ample opportunity to defend yourself against all the allegations.
“For now, we all have an issue in hand subject to the findings of the committee. So I have called you here as Chairman, Vice Chairman and some of the Councilors, I advise you to desist from doing things that will lead to violence or in any way lead to destruction. If anybody does anything that leads to rioting or protests or anything that will disrupt the peace of the community, the person will be exposing himself because the full weight of the law will be brought to bear”.
Oshiomhole continued, “We have a collective responsibility to ensure that there is peace and security. We have followed the provisions of the law which provides for the suspension of the Chairman in the face of allegations such as this. We expect the committee will work very quickly and will give us a report based on which a final decision will be taken. I want to appeal to you Councilors whether elected or appointed to maintain the peace.
“However anybody who chooses to take laws into his hands will face the consequence of the law because we will not allow anyone to do anything that will undermine the security of the people of Owan West or indeed any part of Edo state”.
The Governor said, “While the Chairman is on suspension the Vice Chairman will reserve all the powers and privileges of the Chairman. Your brief is straightforward, it is to provide leadership and perform those functions that the Chairman usually performs and you must avoid his own mistakes, you must ensure that you do not in any way do anything that will bother on financial mismanagement. You must follow due procedure in award of contract or in any business that you want to do.
“If you are in doubt, please seek clarification from either the Ministry of Local Government or from the Attorney-General or even directly from my office. This is not something to celebrate or not to celebrate. It is a huge responsibility that you now have to provide leadership for the Local Government while this enquiry is on.
“I don’t want to hear people are boasting, people are boasting or people are saying it is my turn. This is just a duty to perform and when the Chairman is not available, the Vice Chairman takes over so go and provide the needed leadership and I have no doubt that you are capable to do this and I wish you the best of luck”.
The Vice Chairman, Owan West Local Government Area, Hon. Reginald Okuns will act as the Acting Chairman pending the outcome of the investigation by the Committee of Enquiry.
Meanwhile, Adams Oshiomhole has set up a 4-Man Commission of Enquiry to investigate the allegations leveled at the Chairman.
Inaugurating the Commission in his office, Governor Oshiomhole said, “We decided to set up this committee on the provisions of Section 20, sub-section 11 of the Local Government Law as amended 2006.
Oshiomhole said, “We have had series of allegations bordering on administrative incompetence, poor governance, diversion of public funds, non-payment of salaries and breach of procurement procedures against the Chairman of Owan West Local Government and these allegations have persisted in spite of my numerous attempt to advise him to review his approach to governance and ensure that he obeys all the rules and regulations and subject himself to the dictates of the law and the norms of governance.
“It is clear from the gale of petitions and complaints that these allegations have not abated and I am convinced that they are sufficiently serious enough to warrant a formal enquiry. I am not in a position to form an opinion on the basis of these allegations. In our law, everyone is deemed innocent until he is found guilty.
“In line with the provision of the Local Government Law, Section 20, in exercise of the power vested in me, I have decided to constitute an administrative commission of enquiry to investigate these and other allegations. This is not a judicial allegation and we are not investigating criminal allegation, basically it is an administration committee of enquiry and we have decided to look for seasoned and well experienced administrators”.
The Governor said, “This suspension under the law is expected to last for a period of two months. You are therefore expected to do everything to turn in your report on time so that the issues can be determined one way or the other within the time provided for in the enabling legislation.
Chief Tom Uloko is Chairman of the Chairman while Barrister Mrs. Osagajah serve as Secretary. Other members are Maj-Gen Charles Omoregie (rtd), Barrister Tunji Aroya.
Responding, Chairman of the Commission of Enquiry, Chief Tom Uloko assured that the Commission will be firm, fair and apply all ethics known to the law to carry out the assignment and report back as soon as possible.