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Oyigbo LGA boss suspension brouhaha: Matters Arising

By Odimegwu Onwumere
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Oyigbo is a town and Local Government Area of its own in Rivers State. Some people call it a satellite of Port Harcourt, the Rivers State capital. Oyigbo is lying a few kilometers to the Aba city of Abia State. Sir Precious Oforji was elected Chairman of the Oyigbo Local Government Area (LGA) in 2008, after spending two terms of eight years both in the Rivers State House of Assembly – 1999-2007.

The same Rivers State House of Assembly he was one time its member has suspended Oforji on Monday 29th November 2010. The lawmakers were quoted as saying that he misrepresented the House, and that was his sin. The lawmakers also were quoted as saying that the suspended Oforji incurred their wrath because of alleged budget improprieties.

When this news filtered into the town, the entire town was like a ghost area. Our investigations proved some of the residents were saying that the lawmakers intervened rather late in the long clarion calls by the inhabitants that the embattled chairman was a titular. The residents said that the lawmakers' decision came rather late because Oforji just had few weeks or probably months to abdicate power as the LGA's boss before the sledge hammer of suspension from the House was descended on him. However, many of them thanked the lawmakers for standing to the occasion with a view that justice gotten is justice no matter the hour it came. But those close to Oforji were rather abusive, saying that the lawmakers were acting on the scripts of Oforji's traducers.

However, following the suspension, the House directing that the Vice Chairman, Mr. Innocent Ajelo of the council should take over the administration of the affairs of the local government area in the interim was a decision welcomed by many who see the young man as a down-to-earth personality. But whether a letter of permission from the Rivers State government to start work immediately has been sent to the young amiable man is of great concern to the people of the area who are voraciously accusing the House of allowing Oforji to engage in a war of lobbying his way back to superintend the affairs of the council again.

Investigations reveal that many residents of Oyigbo are not happy with the allegation that Oforji is lobbying for a come back, which they are saying is the setback the vice chairman is having to receive the almighty permission letter. They are saying that the House should remember that its decisions followed the appearance of the members of Oyigbo legislative arm (councilors) on the floor of the House, which was on the invitation of the members of 23 local government legislative arms by the state legislature.

On that floor, we learnt that the Oyigbo councilors told the Rivers lawmakers that their legislative chamber had been under lock and key since August 2010. They stated that the situation arose when the councilors detected alleged fraud in the 2010 budget estimate of the council forwarded to the House for consideration.

Many residents in Oyigbo are saying that the House should remember that the councilors had in several foras accused the embattled Oforji of expending from the 2010 council estimate without the House giving a legal backing by way of passing the budget into law. They are also reminding the Rivers Assembly legislators, that it was on this premise that they (lawmakers) were angered and moved that the council should be put on hold till the crisis between the executive and legislative arm in Oyigbo was resolved.

Notwithstanding, it is not clear why the leader of the House, Hon Chidi Lloyd should tell his colleagues that there was urgent need to amend the state local government law to fix a minimum qualification for councillorship position in the state, while the House was moving the motion for the suspension of the embattled Offorji. It is better Lloyd is reminded that the councilors in the early days of Nigeria rarely had paper qualification but led their people in affirmative with the stipulated laws of the land. It is not even physical qualifications that make one a good leader but morality which can never be bought in any school of the world, sofor Lloyd to agitate for that is uncalled for.

But some people are saying that Lloyd urging the House to declare a warrant on the suspended Oyigbo council chairman for abetting the rules of budgeting, as a well development since it is within the ambit of the law. Did Lloyd say that as Oforji was a former member of the House for eight years, he should have been a true ambassador of the House? Did Hon Tamunosisi Gogo Jaja (Opobo/Nkoro) and Henry Ogiri (Abua/Odual) also supported the sentiment (not bias) expressed by Lloyd, saying that the issue involved was a serious matter and should be given the attention it deserved?

We are not happy with people's failure; likewise, we are not happy when people fail to act in their capacity, as many unconfirmed reports allege that Oforji was better for the prison. Many people in Oyigbo are thanking from their houses, the Speaker of the State House of Assembly, Rt. Hon. Tonye Harry, who presided over the sitting which put the motion into vote. We gathered that 13 legislators voted for the suspension of Hon Precious Oforji from office while one lawmaker voted against and four absented. It was due to this development, that the vice chairman of Oyigbo was directed to take over the administration of the council till the resolution of the matter.

Meanwhile, as the Speaker Tonye Harry walked-out the suspended chairman of Oyigbo council from the Assembly chambers and reportedly spoke pointblank to Oforji who came to the House upon hearing the news of his suspension by the lawmakers that he cannot be allowed to enter into the hallow chambers of the house against until his suspension is lifted by the House, many people are saying that the Vice Chairman should be empowered with a letter on acting capacity pending the resolution. They say that for now, they have not really understood the true nature of the suspension if the Vice Chairman who has been coming to the LGA secretariat is made to be confused.

The Concerned Non-Indigenes in Rivers State (CONIRIV) hereby advise the lawmakers that if the allegation that they have not empowered Mr. Innocent Ajelo with the necessary documents to begin to act is anything to go by, then they should not hesitate. CONIRIV does not want rancours in Oyigbo because the non-indigenes in that area always stand with one leg because of past internal rancours among the so-called indigenes in the area which many still lingers till date.

The Ezeship tussle is among the rancours in Oyigbo. Precious Oforji was clamouring for the Eze-Ukwu and Eze-Udo as his family birthright but the people refuted the claim. They denied the ever existence of Eze-Ukwu and Eze-Udo stools in Oyigbo since the days of their great grand fathers, describing the institution of Eze-Ukwu and Eze Udo as the hand work of disgruntled elements and sycophants to destabilize the peaceful Oyigbo people.

Publications followed on the matter, of which the palace and community secretary of Oyigbo, Rev. Felix Enweruka, on behalf of the community accused the chairman of Oyigbo Council Hon. Precious Oforji and his cohorts of plotting to create their own kingdom in the community, thereby causing confusion. Enwereuka said that “some disgruntled elements and sycophants of Oyigbo council chairman, Hon. Precious Oforji met at the council headquarters with pressmen to spread some falsehood against Eze-Oha stool of Oyigbo kingdom, saying that Eze Ukwu and Eze Udo exist in Oyigbo kingdom.

We want to clearly state that from ancient kingdom till now, there has been nothing like Eze-Ukwu and Eze Udo in Oyigbo, not even with our great grand parents. The names are strange to Oyigbo people as far as traditional stool is concerned.We challenge them (Hon. Precious Oforji, Mr. Louis Nwachukwu, Mr. Samuel Chigbu, Chief Paul Ejiogu, Chief Ifeanyi Chukwu, Sydrey Nwafor, Hon. Leonard Eletuo and others to produce any proof from the archives to buttress their claim. They are only trying to be mischievous.”

Many non-indigenes in Oyigbo then left the twon to their various villages because of suspecting communal clash they perceived was going to erupt but for the quick intervention of the media which continue to warn Oyigbo not to evolve into crises. Many people then were reading the news about Oyigbo in their villages.

Explaining further, Chief Felix Eweruka noted that “the issue of Eze Ukwu was agitated for in 1981 by late Pa Sundary Oforji, but the entire Oyigbo people including Asa and Obeama kingdom wrote a disclaimer on him which was published in the Nigerian Tide newspaper of Thursday, April 22, 1981, and he never reacted to the disclaimer until recently. Again, on 13th April, 1986, elders of Oyigbo wrote and published in the Nigerian Tide (Sunday, April 4th, 1986), that there was nothing like Eze Ukwu and Eze Udo traditional stool in Oyigbo. The only recognized stool in Oyigbo is Eze-Oha, which is today occupied by Eze Mike Nwaji, the Eze Oha II of Oyigbo kingdom, after being duly selected, elected, installed and coronated and formally presented to the local government council and the people of Oyigbo for about ten (10) years now. And since ten years Eze-Oha II has been on the throne without any legal action, nor challenge”.

We advise that the Rivers lawmakers should see reason why they should as a matter of urgency settle the perceived problem in the Oyigbo Local Government Area because there has been this “ the pursuer and the pursued” mentality in Oyigbo.

Odimegwu Onwumere is the Coordinator, Concerned Non-Indigenes in Rivers State (CONIRIV). +2348032552855. [email protected]

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