•Protest extortion by lawmakers
From CHUKS ONUOHA, Umuahia
Seven hundred and twenty nine monarchs in Abia State, yesterday, stormed Abia State Government House, Umuahia, appealing to the Governor, Chief Theodore Ahamefule Orji to save them from the evil grip of members of Abia State House of Assembly, who were poised to fleece them of N72.9 million, as fee for verification of their autonomous communities.
Led by their Chairman, Eze John Onuoha Akaliro, the traditional rulers who besieged Government House in their full regalia decried that the lawmakers sent them forms for their autonomous communities and asked them to return same with the sum of N100,000, an exercise which they paid just N40,000 to do two years ago. He said further that the state had 729 autonomous communities and that if the sum of N100,000 was multiplied with the number of autonomous communities in the state, it would amount to N72.9 million, which was too much an amount to fleece traditional rulers of.
He said it was for that reason that they had come to appeal to the state governor, Chief Theodore Orji to save them from the evil grip of the state House of Assembly. According to him, the state legislators had asked them to pick up forms, which they want to use to verify the authenticity of the various autonomous communities and such forms should be returned with the sum of N100,000 each traditional ruler and community. He decried the imposition, describing it as illegal and sought Governor Orji’s intervention on the matter .
The royal fathers looked the governor in the face and said: “You are the only person we can come to for protection and we want you to save us, Sir from the hands of the state lawmakers, as it is unrealistic for verification of our communities to be done with such large sum of money. :The same verification exercise was carried out two years ago and we returned the same form with the sum of N40,000 and we are wondering why the legislators should be milking us dry,” the monarchs lamented.
Eze Akaliro told Governor Orji that February 19, 2013 had been fixed by the lawmakers as deadline for the return of the forms with the levies, stressing that they were finding it difficult to source for the sum of N00,000 with which to return the forms. They appealed to the governor to prevail on the lawmakers to restore the five percent monthly stipends accruable to them, which the legislators had earlier slashed to two percent.
In his response, Orji denied knowledge of the said levy, explaining that all three arms of government were independent of one another, even as they worked towards achieving one goal for the good of the state and its people. He, however, said he would investigate the allegation to determine the real motive of the lawmakers and pleaded with the royal fathers to maintain their cool until he met with the leadership of the House.
“I don’t think they will start hatching plans that will jeopardize your interest because they are all from your autonomous communities and they are your subjects despite being House of Assembly members.” When contacted, Deputy Speaker and House Committee Chairman on Information, Alwell Asiforo Okere, denied the allegation, saying no autonomous community was asked to pay any levy but to fill the forms and return them” “I think this issue has been resolved.
They should fill and return the forms to the appropriate office at the assembly complex and they are not expected to return the forms with any amount of money”, Okere said. END