Akeredolu: Governing Ondo State amid controversies

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Newstelegraph reports that three major controversies have trailed the government of Arakunrin Oluwarotimi Akeredolu (SAN) of Ondo State since it was inaugurated on February 24.

 

Since February 24 when he was sworn in as the sixth governor of Ondo State, Governor Oluwarotimi Akeredolu (SAN) had taken steps that have made the people of the Sunshine State to applaud the decision to have voted him in during the November 26, 2016 governorship election in the state.

Akeredolu defeated two other senior lawyers to emerge the successor to Dr. Olusegun Mimiko. Among others, Akeredolu had within two months paid three months salaries to civil servants, initiated rehabilitation of roads, appointed key government officials, frozen and unfrozen government accounts, ban and unban logging activities in the government forest reserves, assured the permanent secretaries of their tenures and initiated moves to reposition governmentowned media outfits.

However, the two months old administration had also taken steps that many political watchers had seen as undemocratic and unbecoming of a governor who was not only a Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN) but a former President of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA). Interestingly, his deputy, Mr. Agboola Ajayi, is also a lawyer, a development which makes the first and second citizens of the state 'learned' personalities.

From the choice of the Speaker of the state House of Assembly to the dissolution of the local government administrations and the appointments of the chairman and members of Ondo State Oil Producing Area Development Commission (OSOPADEC), the less than two months old administration has faced the wrath of the opposition and some political watchers.

OSOPADEC Crisis Akeredolu recently approved the appointment of a former member of the state House of Assembly, Hon Olugbenga Edema, as the Chairman of OSOPADEC.

The eight-man board has Dr. Victor Koledoye as Secretary and Mrs M. Witherspoon, Mr. Olumide Ikuepenikan, Mr. Ikoto Agabra Atili, Chief Ilawole, Mr. Igbekele Akinrinwa and Surveyor Bankole Gabriel Ogbesetoro as members.

But youths in Ugbo Kingdom in Ilaje Local Government Area of the state protested against the nomination of Edema as the chairman of OSOPADEC. The protesters, who were carrying placards with various inscriptions such as: 'Ugbo People Demand their Right', 'Oil Communities in Ugbo Kingdom say No to Gbenga Edema' and 'Oil Producing Communities Demand their Mandate', among others, demanded the removal of the OSOPADEC chairman, causing a gridlock in front of the governor's office.

The Chairman of Ugbo Youths Kingdom, Mr. Sunday Nana, said it was appalling that the chairman was appointed against the act of the commission. His words: "Government had singlehandedly imposed Edema and we are baffled because he is not from oil-producing community.

In the history of Ondo State, this has never happened but Akeredolu's decision is detrimental to our destiny because it is an injury to the entire Ugbo kingdom. "The act is so clear, it is only the host communities that can enjoy the benefits from oil and what Akeredolu is doing now is against the OSOPADEC Act 2003. And we are saying that he should return our right because we cannot stand this injustice while our right is being taken to another area.

"Edema is from Mahin while the secretary is from Ese-Odo and these communities are not oil-producing communities. The other representatives are part-time in the commission and the two are given to us, meaning that if chairman and the secretary decide not to call meeting for the next one year, it means that the owners of the oil would not be involved."

As if that was not enough, the Olugbo of Ugbo, Oba Fredrick Obateru Akinruntan, and the Amapetu of Mahin, Oba Lawrence Omowole, also exchanged verbal fisticuffs over the appointment into the boards of the intervention agency.

Since the creation of the intervention agency by the administration of Governor Adebayo Adefarati, it is the people of Ugbo extraction being the only oil-producing communities that have produced the chairman of the commission.

The same scenario has also played out in the appointment into the board  of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC). While Ugbo is seeing as oil-producing community, other communities including Mahin, Aheri, Etikan and Eseodo are seen as impact communities.

The appointment of persons from impact communities as chairman and secretary has pitched the localities against one other. Local Government Brouhaha The dissolution of the elected local government councils by Akeredolu following the judgment of Justice Adesola Sidiq which nullified the April 2016 Local Government Election has pitched him against the elected council officials on one hand and the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and Peoples Redemption Party (PRP) on the other hand.

Justice Sidiq in his judgement declared the election as null and void despite the fact that the PRP which initiated the suit said it had filed notice of discontinuance. The judge also refused to join elected officials who would be affected by the judgement as parties to the suit.

But shortly after the judgement, Akeredolu sworn-in caretaker chairmen for the 18 local government counmcils in the state. The new council bosses are Aworetan Fayowole (Ilaje), Odimayo Gbadebo (Irele), Mrs. Morenike Alaska (Okitipupa), George Adenikinju (Odigbo), Temidayo Akinsuroju (Odigbo), Rafiu Akinkuolie (Ondo East), Ebenezer Akinsulie (Ondo West), Biyi Ayinnuola (Idanre), and Mrs. Margret Atere (Akure South). Others are Segun Oluyede (Akure North), Dipo Ajibola (Ifedore), Gani Omoluka (Owo), Agboola Ajike (Ose), Adeyemi Akinniyi (Akoko South East), Augustine Oloruntoge (Akoko South West), Rafiu Eniayewu (Akoko North East) and Moradeyo Ajayi (Akoko North West).

Aside the chairmen, the governor also named new advisers and councilors for the local governments. Justifying the action of the governor, the All Progressives Congress (APC) through its Director of Research and Publicity, Mr. Steve Otaloro, said the verdict of the court gave credence to reasons the party refused to participate in the election. Otaloro said: "It would be recalled that the APC revealed then that there was no voter's register available for the conduct of the election.

Besides, the voter's register they wanted to use had not been reviewed since the 2015 general elections as required by the law; hence we refused to support illegality. As a law-abiding party, we reminded our members and supporters of the subsisting case on the matter at the Supreme Court by the aggrieved elected chairmen under the late Dr. Olusegun Agagu-led administration, whose tenure Mimiko terminated abruptly at the assumption of office in 2009.

The governor had therefore been refrained from conducting the local government election for the past seven years for this reason. "We considered that the conduct of a new election before judgement was delivered could amount to illegality, while the entire process might just be an exercise in futility in case the Supreme Court ruled in favour of the plaintiffs. In addition, it would amount to waste of public resources, particularly when state workers were not paid salaries for five months then."

The APC added that the officials who remained in office for one month after the swearing in of Akeredolu were handpicked by the PDP and not elected by the people as it is being touted by the chairmen and the opposition. But the PDP through its Elders' Committee faulted the action of the governor and the judge that gave the verdict.

Speaking on behalf of the party, Chief Segun Adegoke, a lawyer with 42 years experience, said the judgement could not stand the test of time. Joined by leaders including Prof Olu Agbi, Prince John Ola Mafo, Mr. Ayo Fadaka, the PDP elders said the action of the governor did not show him as someone with legal mind. Adegoke said: "It is sad that the said judgement was predicated on fallacies and an absolute intention to entrench injustice.

Obviously, it was contrived to arrive at this conclusion simply because the administration of Akeredolu needed a legitimacy of whatever kind to prosecute an illegitimate action, this is an act of institutional rape and clear abuse of privileges.

"The facts of this case are not many; they are so clear that even the blind can see them". The PRP went to court last year shortly before the council polls were conducted on the premise that it was excluded from the election simply because INEC refused to include its name and logo in the list of registered political parties sent to ODIEC, its prayers were that it should be allowed to contest the election.

"However ODIEC used its discretion to include the name and logo of PRP on the list of parties on the ballot paper, it equally included the names of other parties like the APC that had earlier announced its boycott of the elections. Aside the APC, many other parties did not send nominations to ODIEC, but their names and logo appeared on the ballot paper.

"It is instructive to mention that PRP participated in the election as it fielded councillorship candidates in selected local governments and actually did contest the chairmanship position in Okitipupa. It fielded one Femi Ali on its platform.

Therefore, to declare that the PRP did not contest the election is a fallacy and it is sad that somebody could use his position to perpetrate this fraud. "It is equally important to declare that the manner in which the matter was handled is anything but professional. Most unfortunately, they compromised the law, rules and order of the court to perpetrate this illegality.

"Firstly, some people in the judiciary shut out parties that should ordinarily have been part of the litigation, secondly, they contrived with those who initiated this action to shop for a counsel to prosecute a case he did not initiate and when finally, the lawyer who initiated the case originally, Femi Aborishade, appeared before the court to claim ownership of the case, they again shut him out.

Thirdly, Alhaji Balarabe Musa who hired Aborishade to handle the case originally deposed to an affidavit withdrawing the case simply because the reason for its initiation no longer existed, but the court refused to entertain it.

"It is also important to state that the court refused blatantly to avail us an opportunity to be heard in this matter, it did not allow our lawyer access to certified true copies of court papers, records and rulings.

Therefore it became obvious that the conspiracy behind this matter was high-wired and desperate to brook no opposition, no matter how germane it can be, the governor and his team were bent on accomplishing the goal of dissolving the local governments at every cost.

"We wish to state our disappointment in the fact that the judiciary has become an extension of inter-party politics in Ondo State as manifested by the manner they handled this matter.

It is indeed a sad day for our state. We also feel disappointed that a government headed by a onetime President of the Nigerian Bar Association and Senior Advocate of Nigeria could contrive to abuse the judicial system and commit institutional rape all in the expediency of political machination, this easily.

"It clearly indicates that some people are not committed to what they had previously professed. Most disappointing is the indecent haste with which an illegal caretaker committee was set up to take over the functions of the elected council officials.

It is now clear that the APC administration of Akeredolu had taken from the back door, positions it failed to contest during the local government elections, this is a clear hijack and it is criminal." House of Assembly imbroglio The drama which started in the twilight of the immediate past administration of Mimiko continued under Akeredolu.

The 13-member assembly loyal to Malachi Coker had pronounced the then speaker, Princess Jumoke Akindele, impeached. All efforts to resolve the crisis met brickwall as the rebellious members stuck to their guns.

Akeredolu who did not want to encourage any illegality asked them to resolve the crisis in the interest of the state. But the members who according to sources have the backing of a top government official pulled a fast one on the governor and other members of the assembly. Instead of Tuesday that the members agreed to sit, the 13 members loyal to Coker sat on a Monday and elected Mr. Bamidele David Oleyeloogun as the speaker and Iroju Ogundeji as his deputy.

In order to get legitimacy, the newly elected officials drove to the governor's office and immediately defected to the APC. Others who defected with them included, Ayodeji Arowele who represents Owo constituency and Mr. Segun Ajimotokin representing Irele constituency.

Two other members including Prince Abayomi Akinruntan and Mr. Sola Oluyede have since joined the defection train. Despite the defection of the PDP lawmakers, the APC members are still in the minority in the state assembly of 26 members. If the majority were to have their way unlike what is applicable in the assembly, the PDP should have produced the Speaker.

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