By Margaret Oraza and Sunday Iduh
A wave of fear is sweeping amongst the rank of local government chairmen in Benue State following the recent suspension of the chairman of Vandeikya Local Government Area, Mrs. Kukase Tyoer Garba, by the Benue state House of Assembly.
The suspended chairman who was the target of a petition by her councillors over a series of allegations, including alleged financial misdemeanor was suspended by the state House of Assembly for three months for alleged misappropriation and executive high-handedness.
By wielding the big stick, the state House of Assembly has sent a strong message that it would no longer tolerate the violations of the law by council chairmen, an action that has instilled fear amongst council bosses.
But the chairman of the Association of Local Government of Nigeria (ALGON), Benue State Chapter, Hon Caleb Aba has thrown his weight behind the suspension of the Vandeikya local government boss, saying that those who violate the law should be ready to face the consequences.
Investigations by The Voice revealed that the suspension of the Vandeikya Local Government boss has especially sent fears to the female chairmen of councils who believe that they are particulary vulnerable.
The female council chairmen are: Grace Igbabon, Gwer-West; Tartor Chianson, Kwande; Agnes Urebe, Obi; Faith Agba, Ohimini; Amina Audu, Okpokwu and Juliana Suswam, Tarka LGA.
Sources at the Bureau for local government and chieftaincy affairs told The Voice that male chairmen of councils are equally jittery and afraid of being suspended because many of them have performed below the expectations of the electorate.
Apart from allegations of non-performance, many council bosses have been accused of high-handedness in relationship with their subordinates, especially the councilors in their various local governments.
It was gathered that Governor Samuel Ortom is particularly very unhappy with many of the council chairmen, most of who have decided to live outside their areas and have instead chosen to live in the state capital.
He was said to have been aware of the allegations against the suspended chairman of Vandeikya LGA but refused to intervene to save her from suspension.
It would be recalled that the Benue State House of Assembly approved the suspension of Chairman, Vandeikya Local Government Council, Mrs Kukase Garba for three months.
The approval for her suspension was sequel to a correspondence from the state Governor, Samuel Ortom, through the Secretary to the State Government, Prof. Anthony Ijohor (SAN) and read by Speaker of the House, Titus Uba to members during plenary.
The Vandeikya Legislative Council had written a letter, drawing the governor’s attention to a vote of no confidence against the council chairman, due to misappropriation and executive high-handedness.
The letter read in part: “The Executive Governor of Benue State is in receipt of a letter dated 11th March, 2021 from the Vandeikya Legislative Council, Benue State drawing attention to a vote of no confidence passed on the Executive Chairman.
“The allegations made by the Legislative Council against the Chairman, Hon. Mrs Kukase Garba are as follows:
“Failure to inform the Legislative Council of the monthly income and expenditure of the Local Government in violation of section 58(b) and 87(3) of the Local Government Establishment Law 2007.
“Misappropriation of public funds; failure to present Budget Estimates to the Local Government Legislative Council; abuse of Executive power as she runs the affairs of the Local Government Legislative Council as a sole Administrator,” it stated.
According to the correspondence, the suspension is in line with the Benue State Local Government Establishment Law, 2007.
Reacting to the suspension, the Chairman, Association of Local Governments of Nigeria (ALGON), Benue State chapter and Chairman, Guma Local Government Council, Hon. Caleb Aba insisted that the law should be allowed to take its course if any council chairman is found to have broken the law.
Hon. Aba told The Voice in an interview that Mrs Kukase Garba’s “suspension was based on her deviation from operations of the local government laws and by so doing, the House of Assembly and the Chief Executive of the state decided to act on it.”
He said the same fate would apply to any of the chairmen that falls into same situation, adding that those who have no skeleton in their cupboards have nothing to fear.