By Jude Atupulazi
The immediate past elected councilors in Anambra State who served between 2014 and 2017 have said they have nothing personal against the Anambra State Governor, Willie Obiano, but are only agitating for the payment of their legitimate entitlements.
The former councilors, as well as former supervisors and local government secretaries, are currently at the Industrial Court in Enugu against the Anambra State Government, seeking the court to prevail on the Anambra State Government to pay them their entitlements. Judgement on the case is billed for Friday, December 6, 2019.
Speaking to Fides, the leader of the former grassroots lawmakers, Hon Barr Bestley Okoye, who represented Nawgu, Ward 1, in Dunukofia LGA, said that contrary to the perception in some quarters that the former third tier operators were fighting the state government, they were only pressing for the payment of their legitimate entitlements, just as other elected lawmakers in the State House of Assembly and various appointees of government who served during same period were paid.
Okoye, who said there was no reason why the case of the councilors should be different, regretted that rather than do the needful, the State Government spent heavily to hire a Senior Advocate of Nigeria, SAN, to defend itself against the councilors.
Okoye recalled the many sacrifices the councilors had made for the wellbeing of the ruling All Progressives Grand Alliance, APGA, before and during the election of Gov Willie Obiano, and regretted that rather than appreciate them for their efforts, the government had turned round to sit on their entitlements.
He therefore urged the government to have a change of heart and give the former grassroots lawmakers their due.
Another former councilor, Hon Christian Chukwudi Onwuamaeze, represented Ufuma Ward 1 in Orumba North LGA, said the ex-councillors had nothing personal against the State Government, but were only interested in having justice done to them.
‘I have no grouse with Obiano but I have every reason to be unhappy with him,’ he began.
‘We spent our personal money to help in the campaign for his election. Most of us were given tickets based on the performance of our wards in his election. We contested the hardest council election in the history of this state. Some APGA council members lost in the courts to other political parties in the strong hold of APGA to show you how difficult the political terrain was for us.
‘We were looking at cars parked for us to get into office with but it was never to be. We waited for two months to get our salary and when it came it was nothing to write home about. Sycophants tended to blame it on Peter Obi, the former governor, but I, for one, do not ascribe to that because Obi never paid me even a month’s salary before he left; meaning he entirely wanted the new governor to lay the foundation for our bonding with him,’ he said.
Hon Onwuamaeze regretted that the councillors were denied recognition in all spheres of governance, stating that Gov Obiano never recognized the presence of any councillor at any function or government programme.
‘We became part of the crowd around every arena that he visited. No projects were done through us. Our passage of budgets was for them to pick projects which they would use to retire local government funds.
‘We continued to fight to please the government and in so doing some set of councillors in every local government became the favourites of the executive, thereby making the council members toothless bulldogs.
‘As the government began to withdraw funds from projects started by the past regime, we became a buffer zone, we became the collateral damage, we continued to assure our people; being the most popular individuals in our various wards as at then. We promised our people heaven on earth from Chief Obiano and his Government,’ he lamented, regretting that all their hopes were quashed after the governor rode on their backs back into office.
He said that even though Gov Obiano signed a law for their tenure on the 22nd April, 2014, for them to stay for three years, thy ended up staying for two.
‘What we are demanding are constitutional benefits and most of the laws embodying these benefits were signed by the Governor of Anambra state,’ he said and urged the government to do the needful.