NHRC intervenes in Okorocha, Ilomuanya feud



• 40 embattled monarchs condemn stoppage of salary
• Imo uncovers ghost pensioners, fraud in 17 councils
• Urge workers to endure 50% salary cut

THERE is renewed hope for settling the protracted feud between Governor Rochas Okorocha of Imo State and the embattled Chairman of the state’s Council of Traditional Rulers and Chairman, South-East Council of Traditional Rulers, Eze Cletus Ilumouanya, as the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) has waded in.

The commission, based on a petition written by the monarch, has directed its state coordinator, Dr. Valentine Madubuko, and another official, Chinedu Ohams, to investigate the issues raised. The Guardian learnt that both Okorocha and Ilomuanya have received notice of the commission’s planned intervention.

Okorocha had in a broadcast on assumption of duty in May 2011 removed Ilomuanya as chairman of the monarchs’ council and subsequently dethroned him as the Obi of Obinugwu, Orlu, in spite of an Appeal Court of Appeal judgment to the contrary.

Ilomuanya’s private home was also invaded in 2011 by agents of the state government, who carted his property away and over which the court awarded him N10 million in damages against the governor.

However, in his petition to the NHRC Headquarters in Abuja, which was forwarded to the Imo State office, the monarch wrote that Okorocha had neither paid the N10 million nor restored his status, and asked the commission for justice, which was also “directed to write a report of the investigation and send it to the head office.”

Monarchs condemn stoppage of salary
Meanwhile, the salaries and allowances of the 40 monarchs who sued Okorocha at an Owerri High Court have allegedly been stopped.

The monarchs told journalists in Owerri that they had gone to the council’s parliament in Owerri after receiving text messages to present themselves for the April and May salaries but were turned back by the officials, who claimed that government did not instruct them to pay yet.

While four of the monarchs were suspended, about 50 others are being investigated, allegedly by a council panel at the instance of the governor, for attending the event hosting the immediate past President, Dr. Goodluck Jonathan, before the general elections.

The monarchs later approached the courts over the issue, but the governor has since denied complicity in their suspension. He recently directed the embattled monarchs to withdraw the case and apologise to him while the court had directed the parties to reverse to the status quo until the substantive case was determined.

Ghost pensioners, fraud in councils
Forty per cent of retirees receiving pensions from the Imo State Government over the years are “ghosts,” Governor Rochas Okorocha has claimed, saying the discovery was made through the recent verification exercise.

The governor also alleged that about 17 of the 27 local councils have so far been found with one form of fraud or the other in issues concerning monthly salaries.

Consequently, he directed all permanent secretaries in the ministries and the directors of administration and general services (DAGS) in the 27 councils to take full responsibilities of their units pending the appointment of commissioners and transition committee/elected chairmen.

Okorocha further directed that computer/e-learning centres be established in all councils, ministries and parastatals to minimise fraud. He warned that anyone found to be unserious would be sacked. He wondered why the retirees’ wage bill had continued to increase instead of decreasing.

He further ordered a stoppage of contract awards, directing that only the state government would give such approvals, and that any unit discovered to have “direct or indirect” financial irregularities would be punished.

Assembly pleads with workers over salary cut
In another development, the lawmakers have expressed regrets at the governor’s alleged cut of Assembly workers’ salaries and allowances by 50 per cent. Speaker of the House, Acho Ihim, who received the protesting members of staff, expressed disappointment at the development

Ihim said the lawmakers were pained at the slash. However, he urged the workers, who had been owed since April before they were paid one month’s salary, to bear it because the economy is bad.

The protesters had rejected the cheques for 50 per cent pay, stating that they had not been paid since three months and had borrowed huge amounts to run their affairs, which they needed to repay.

Meanwhile, the House of Assembly will interface with all the National Integrated Power Projects (NIPP) stakeholders, including the Niger Delta Power Holding Company (NDPHC), sub-contracting firms and host-communities in Mmahu, Egbema, Ohaji/Egbema council towards completing the power projects.

In a motion on Thursday, the member representing Owerri Municipal, Lugard Osuji, regretted that the non-completion of the projects since 2006, despite the huge financial investment by the past administrations, was hampering the growth of industrial and other developments.

Osuji said the issue of NDPHC allegedly excavating from Egbema to Egbu for its basement poles needed to be resolved, as each state governor, by virtue of the Land Use Act 1978, is vested with the lands in his care.

Scores injured as taskforce, traders clash
Scores of traders in Owerri on Thursday clashed with the taskforce on restoration of the state, known as “Imo My Pride’, as traders and residents of Hausa community along Douglas Road, Owerri, attempted to block the demolition of their shanties.

The taskforce, led by Iyke Okigboananwa, was poised to demolish all “illegal structures” along the ever busy Douglas Road and environs, but suspecting that the team would spare the shanties at the Hausa community along the same road, popularly known as Aka Hausa, the traders literarily compelled the driver of the bulldozer to demolish the shanties as well.

As the bulldozer made its way, it was learnt, both the occupants and the traders battled to out do each other with many dangerous weapons, leaving many injured in the end.

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