Sanctioned For Abandoning Duty Post
These are very challenging times for Chief Roland Ibierutomwhen. He was still in the Italian capital city, Rome, when the State assembly, acting on the request of the governor suspended him from office for two months while a panel of inquiry was also set up to look into the activities of his council since he assumed office in April this year.
Ibierutomwen, his cabinet and the council’s legislators were sacked on the request of Governor Adams Oshiomhole for “dereliction of duty”. The Governor said by his action the chairman has created a vacuum in governance.
Until penultimate Monday, he was Executive Chairman, of Orhionmwon, one of eighteen Local Government Areas of Edo State, Nigeria, with headquarters at Abudu, about 51kilimetres from Benin City. It has an area of 2,382 km² with a population of 182,717 at the 2006 census. It is home to Oben town, where the nation’s largest gas reserves are domiciled. Unfortunately, the largely agrarian community and home of Edo State deputy governor, Dr. Pius Odubu, is grossly underdeveloped.
Ibierutomwhen, went to the European country and was away on holidays with his wife, children, Vice-chairman, Secretary to government, Treasurer of the council and all of twelve elected councilors who constitute the Legislative arm of the council at public expense, for the third week running without the approval of the state assembly or the state governor, when his suspension was made public.
Unlike his counterparts from the other local councils, he was absent when the Governor marked his five years in office and he did not send any explanation.
The chairman who once lamented the council’s huge wage bill on primary school teachers’ salaries - N72million per month said he met only a paltry N20million when he assumed office said the council boasts of 34 health centres and spends an average N18million each month maintaining them. He also once said he does not know much accrues to the council monthly from the Federation account, “As far as I am concerned, I do not know. I do not know what comes from the Federal Government; but when we go for meetings, what comes from the Federal
Government is what they give to us. I do not know where they tamper with it. It comes to me the way they give it to me”. He added, “the problem we have in the local government is finance. Otherwise, I am prepared to work. I have also been doing my best”.
What was supposed to be a quiet trip for the embattled politician, who for eight years 1993 -2007, was the lawmaker representing Orhionmwon West state constituency at the same assembly and helped draft the state local government law, which he is now accused of flouting, has become an albatross. At press time, he was still in Rome with his travelling team as the suspension order froze the many Bank Accounts of the council for which he is sole signatory along with the treasurer.
Trouble actually started for the chairman when the Orhionmwon Youths Congress, OPC, asked both the Independent Corrupt Practices Commission and the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, in two separate petitions, copied to the state governor and House of Assembly, to investigate what it called corrupt practices spearheaded by Ibierutomwhen, in his capacity as Chairman of Orhionmwon local government council of Edo state and if found culpable prosecute him.
In a petition dated 9-11-2013, and signed by the group’s Chairman Mr. Michael Eghaghe and Speaker John Osazuwa, the group said that whereas Orhionmwon prides itself as the foremost oil and gas producing council in Edo, there are several communities in the council are wallowing in abject neglect with dilapidated roads, markets, schools, health centres and begging for attention.
They said the circumstances under which the Chairman unilaterally approved millions of Naira to finance the Italian trip along with his wife, daughter, vice-chairman, secretary, and treasurer, and the twelve elected councilors in the council calls for questioning, especially as it was without the authority of the Legislature which the chairman has pocketed, and the state assembly which oversight functions covers local councils in the state.
The OPC also asked the commission to investigate the revenue profile of the council including all monies from statutory allocations, VAT, Derivation and Excess crude funds and grants, in the seven months Ibierutomwhen was in office. Not done with the petitions, the group took to the streets and for over two hours on Wednesday, November 13, disrupted traffic on the very busy Benin – Onitsha Expressway, chanting slogans against the chairman and brandishing placards denouncing his corrupt tendencies.
The protest ended at the Council Secretariat along the Express way, which was under lock and key with the chairman’s absence and resolved to protest to the Government House in Benin City, if relevant authorities did not act.
According to Michael Eghaghe, the group’s chairman, it was worrisome that the chairman could afford the expensive trip to Italy to learn how to govern a local council in Africa whereas those who elected them into office are crying for development. He listed communities that were yearning for attention due to the bad leadership the council has found itself over the years to include, Ute-Oreze community where the previous council chairman dug a borehole but failed to provide a generating set to pump the water.
He said, “We can go on and on with a legion of crying needs of the people of Orhionmwon which has not touched the heart of council officials than for them to go to Italy to learn how to make Orhionmwon a batter place”, adding that Oben, the supposedly wealthiest oil and gas community, in the council and state has been cut off from civilization with no roads, water supply, or markets for decades.
Other communities are Umoghun Nokhua and Orogho where the old primary and secondary schools have long closed down as teachers and pupils/students stay away from its dilapidated precincts.
Ologbo Nugu and Obagie Nunuamen communities, he added lack access roads, electricity, and water supply while Oligie Igbanke suffers from a dilapidated school established by the colonial masters and a market that is not worth the label. He mentioned the headquarters of the council; Abudu is under the ravage of gully erosion and uncontrolled flood with no tarred roads apart from the Federal highway, which passes through its outskirts. He said all these long suffering communities; do not worry Ibierutomwhen and his councilors.