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Hon. Kenigheni Dema who is fighting for his political survival has had no peace since some of his councillors and some concerned citizens.....
Hon. Kenigheni Dema who is fighting for his political survival has had no peace since some of his councillors and some concerned citizens from the Abua/Odual Local Government Area decided to petition him to the Rivers State House of Assembly and the EFCC alleging financial crimes.
A group, which goes by the name Abua/Odual Concern Associations for Peace and Development, from what we have gathered, petitioned to the Speaker of the Rivers State House of Assembly.
The petition dated 5th July 2006 and signed by Memoye Ekelu, Peter Oyeophe President Abua/Odual Development Union, Dede Wilfrede Secretary Kugbo Youth Council, Ogbakiri Emelogo Chairman Odual Development Union and Kozuani Muzan alleged among other things that the council chairman some time last year collected a loan of N100 million , with a repayable interest of N12 million.
Apparently, as the petitioners alleged, the chairman did not bother to secure the approval of the legislative arm before embarking on the transaction with an undisclosed bank contrary to the provisions oof section 71(2) of the Rivers State Local Government Law No. 3 of 2000.
The petition further disclosed that in 2004, the "chairman collected and lodged into his private account the sum of N95, 000,000 approved for the renovation of primary schools in the L.G.A".
They claim he succeeded in diverting the amount to his private account by allegedly "forcing the then HPM and Treasurer via financial inducement to endorse the necessary documents that facilitated the fund transfer."
The name of the HPM was given as Mrs Alice F. Opuwari while the Treasurer was identified as Mr. Anthony Azumogobia.
Of the number of schools penciled down for renovation, only six primary schools at Agbebi, Omokwa, Odaga ande Arukwo in Central Abua and Anyu and Emelogo in Odual were eventually renovated.
The petitioners claimed that although N95, 000,000 was collected for the purpose, they bhad strong reasons to believe that not more than N30, 000,000 was eventually spent on the projects.
"In renovating the schools that he claimed" was through direct labour, "he neglected the council engineer, Mrs Joy Nweke and hired the services of one engineer Nelson I(su, a retired council engineer from Ogba/Egbema/Ndoni LGA', the authors of the petition claimed.
Abua/Odual literarily has no roads and within the area, there has always been the prayer that the council would be able to acquire a grader. According to the councillors and the concerned citizens that are chasing Dema, the chairman allegedly collected the sum of N10, 000,000 for a grader that is worth three million. Ironically, the grader is dumped at the council premises, with the petitioners insisting "it has never done any work."
Between April and May 2004, according to the petition, the council chairman allegedly collected the sum of N8, 000,000 claiming he wanted to use the money to offset his election bills.
From what we have heard, he enjoyed the cooperation of Opuwari and Azumogobia in perpetuating the alleged siphoning of council funds.
They also accused the council chairman, Kenigheni Dema of inflating contract costs.
For example, they said, the sum of N3, 000,000 was budgeted for the Public Health building at Ayama but Dema who allegedly awarded the job to one of his relatives without going through due process awarded same N8, 000,000, five million Naira higher than projected.
There is the case of the completion of the canteen and a radio house for the council. Whereas the council was to spend N1, 000,000 in executing the project, the Council chairman allegedly awarded same for N5, 000,000.
Similarly, the council under Dema spent the sum of N6, 000,000 on the completion of the radio house, N4, 000,000 more than the sum of N2, 000,000 originally budgeted for the project.
Our investigations show that whereas the councillors approved the sum of N16, 000,000 for three building projects, namely the chairman's office complex, secretariat and legislative complexes, the chairman actually collected the sum of N290, 000,000 for the purpose.
Incidentally, the projects notably the councils office and the secretariat are yet to be completed while the chairman is believed to have claimed that he spent a staggering N49, 000,000 on the clearing of the site of "less than two football fields", according to the petitioners.
It is believed in Abua/Odual circles that the chairman may have awarded the contracts for the erection of his office, the secretariat and the legislative building to himself.
"Up till this moment" wrote the petitioners, "there is no kinown contractor for the job, as the only person buying materials and supervising the work process is his cousion".
They gave the name of his saide cousion as Mr. Boomni Edum, a level 05 officer in the council's accounts department.
Some of the councillors are alleging that some time in April last year, Dema during the third financial and general purpose committee persuaded the supervisors to take a vote that would empower the council to open a private account for him.
We have heard that at that meeting, the council's treasurer Mr Oyor cautioned against it but his wise counsel was allegedly ignored.
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