From George Onyejiuwa, Owerri
The decision of the Caretaker Committee of Avu Town Union in Owerri-West Local Government of Imo State for all taxable adults in the community to pay a levy of N500 to enable them qualify to vote in the coming election of the town union executive is now threatening the peace of the community.
This was because the youths have vehemently opposed the levy, describing it as not only fraudulent, but a ploy by members of the committee to disenfranchise the majority of the people, especially the youths apparently to foist on the community their desired candidates who they alleged are members of the caretaker committee.
The youths who went round all the villages that make up Avu community last Saturday with placards with various inscriptions to denounce the action of the caretaker committee, also accused the members of the committee of refusing to step down since the expiration of the tenure of the caretaker committee in 2015.
Joseph Uba, youth leader of Obokwu kindred, told Daily Sun that the annual meeting of the community usually held on every December 26 to primarily set up modalities for the election of executives of the town union ended in chaos, pointing out that since then no other meeting was summoned by the caretaker committee.
Rather, he said that surprisingly they were told that the caretaker committee members and few other persons who called themselves stakeholders imposed a levy of N500 on every adult in the community as registration fee for the purpose of voting in the coming town union election.
Uba said: “It is not the practice that people of the community will have to pay for them to qualify to vote in an election of the community. We are not against registration of members of the community as it will enable us to know the actual numbers of those who are eligible to vote, but the issue of paying for registration is totally unacceptable to the youths.”
He accused the caretaker committee members of refusing to step down since 2015, adding that they have also refused to make known members of the electoral body because they have a sinister motive to foist on the community their members who have done nothing meaningful for the community in the last two years.
Similarly, Oluchi Anoruo said they were not happy about what was happening in their community, especially the way the caretaker committee members are running of the community. He said it was not possible for the youths of the community to be sidelined in the affairs of the community, saying that the levy of N500 was a tactical way to sideline the youths and the majority of the community.
He said that was why they embarked on the peaceful protest to draw the attention of the community of their opposition to the levy, which he insisted was decided by few persons who called themselves stakeholders.
For Joseph Chimaobi Onyeneke, it was the youths of the community that had ensured that the community road was made passable as they did not wait for the government to come and do it even when the money provided by the government for the grading of the community roads could not be accounted for by the caretaker committee members of the town union.
“The caretaker committee members want to cause confusion in the community and we will resist that because what we want is an elected executives of the town union who will be accountable to the people,” he said.
In the same vein, Chigozie Ekewuba from Umuehieta kindred said the youths will not pay the levy as the caretaker committee members had no right to impose levy for an election on the community, especially when they did not consult with the people.
“If every adult in Avu pays N500 that will amount to millions of naira for the caretaker committee members and what are they going to do with it? The question is that do they have the right to impose levy on the community without being consulted? So, we are not going to pay vote for an election in the community,” he said.
However, when contacted, the secretary of the Caretaker Committee of the Avu Town Union, Ichie, Chika Nwanesi, dismissed all the allegations by the protesters, saying that they were being sponsored by some disgruntled members of the community to kick against the N500 registration fee prescribed for the Avu Town Union election.
He pointed out that the youths of Avu are an arm of the town union, saying therefore that those who were protesting were lay abouts: “The real youths of Avu are the arm of the town union and they are not the ones protesting. You cannot be a youth member and at the same time a member of the town union because they are registered as youths and the money is supposed to be paid by members of the union because if you are a member of a meeting you have to pay your dues. So, this group of youths wants to cause trouble in the community.”
He dismissed the allegations of the youths that the electoral body has not been made known to the community.
“The enlarged Avu Town Union Exco had after its emergency meeting of January1, 2018 selected one person each from the 13 kindred that make up Avu as members of the electoral committee and the names were sent to each of the kindred for ratification before they could serve in the electoral committee. So, part of the problem is that those who are protesting are doing so based on ignorance.”