- *Over N1 billion illegally slashed from local government area (LGA) chairmen, councillors’ salaries
- *17 chairmen, 291 councillors yet to receive N85 million, N1.03 billion allowances eight months after tenure terminated
- *Isiala Ngwa LGA workers rage over N4 million deducted from their salaries
- *Governor Ikpeazu's government faces mass action over continued failure to deliver the dividends of democracy to the Abia people.
The Realm News Investigation has uncovered scandalous financial manipulation, diversion of funds, short payment of salaries and non-payment of severance allowance to the past Abia State elected 17 local government chairmen and 291 councillors.
Worrisome among the plethora of frauds discovered is the diversion to private pockets the sum of N46.362 billion, the balance of the FAAC net sum of N58.602 billion (N25.162 billion and N33.602 billion) remitted to the 17 LGAs in 2017/18 fiscal years by the Federal Government of Nigeria.
“The sum of N30 million (according to the workforce) was released to each of the 17 LG chairman monthly after signing a voucher indicating receipt of complete FAAC allocation accrued to his LGA.
“This amounted to the sum of N12.240 billion in two years. The balance of N46.362 billion disappears into people’s pocket while the LG workers are owed several months’ salary arrears,” a member of councillors’ forum who carves anonymity told The Realm News.
Councillors were also not left out of this roguish slash of funds as the sum of N148,000 was illegally slashed from each of their salaries every month.
“Each of the 291 councillors was paid a monthly salary of N92,000 as against N240,000 originally budgeted for remuneration,” our source said.
When calculated, it amounted to N43.068 million monthly and N1.033 billion annually illegally stolen from the salaries of the 291 elected councillors whose tenure elapsed in December 2018.
A document to all the Executive Chairmen of LGAs signed by Deacon L. N. Nwangwa (attached below) handed over to our team of reporters shows that elected councillors were to receive 300% of the annual basic salary only once in their tenure for furniture allowance, 350% of the annual basic salary payable only once in their tenure for transport allowance, except those provided with vehicles.
Furthermore, they were to receive 10% of the annual basic salary payable only once in a calendar year for Leave and recess allowance, while the elected chairmen and their deputies were to receive 100% of their annual basic salaries for accommodation allowance.
The document also reveals that 300% of annual basic salary payable only at once at the end of the tenure shall be for gratuity and severance allowance.
When calculated, these amounted to N2.336 million for each councillor, N679.776 million for the 291 of them and about N85 million for the 17 LGA chairmen.
“Shockingly, (Abia State Governor) Okezie Ikpeazu refused to pay us eight months our tenure elapsed,” our source lamented.
Our source said if the forum of councillors would have the nerves, most councillors would join the upcoming protest meant to demand the payment of 15 and 25 months’ salary and pension arrears to also demand their payment.
The mass action is organised by Abians for Good Governance (AGG) after the government failed to pay pensioners before the ultimatum given it expired.
The Realm News also discovered that most of the revenue points in the various LGAs are illegally controlled by the state government. Some of these are the cattle market and Quarry in Umunneochi, Orie Ugba market, among others.
“Most of the revenues collected there go to state government big wigs like one Ibeku notorious commissioner who has been in government since 1999 and another called Ototoo,” our source revealed.
These illegal deductions, diversions and roguish embezzlement of LGA funds were the reasons the then Umunneochi LGA chairman Barrister Okey Igwe (now House of Assembly member-elect) refused to sign.
“Barr. Igwe refused to sign at the beginning of the local government administration in 2017.
“It took the persuasion of his brother, a big sponsor of Ikpeazu who brought him back from the US to change his mind. Such is the level of financial fraud ongoing in Abia State,” our source said.
He also added that the “impunity and abuse of office by the executive were the reasons some of the LGA chairmen squandered the N9 million given to them for projects and the government could not talk to avoid being exposed.”
Meanwhile, Isiala Ngwa North council workers have threatened a showdown with government unless it returns N4 million deducted from their salaries over theft of generating set popularly referred to as “I better pass my neighbour”.
The aggrieved workers said it was a deliberate action to steal from them cunningly as the TC chairman could not be called to explain since he had been relieved off his duties by Governor Okezie Ikpeazu.
Trouble was said to have started when thieves broke into the office where the generator was kept after closure and made away with it.
The government, however, claimed that a biometric machine was also carted away during the burglary.
“Biometric machine, generating set and other valuables (not named) were stolen from the LG council,” a senior staff of the council told The Realm News.
He added that “the deduction was carried out to enable government replace the stolen items.”
But some of the angry looking workers who spoke to our reporter dismissed the claim of the senior staff saying he was economical with the truth.
According to them, the biometric machine couldn’t have been stolen with the generating set as its operator goes home with it after closure every day.
“That was what he (the operator) told the police in his statement,” one of the LGA workers said.
Another added that “the small generating set cost less than N30,000 while the cost of the biometric machine is in the region of N50,000. So how does that justify the N4 million deducted from our salaries?”
The Realm News gathered that police are investigating the matter.
“It’s wrong to deduct N4 million from our salaries over stolen items that are less than N90,000 when police have not yet concluded investigation,” another staff said.