By Simon Ebegbulem
BENINâ€”Acting Chairman of Orhionmwon Local Government Council of Edo State, Mr Newman Ugiagbe, yesterday, disclosed that he inherited a debt of over N200 million from the suspended Chairman of the Council, Mr Patrick Aisien.
He described as cheap blackmail recent claims by the suspended chairman that the state governor, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole, refused to release the excess crude fund to him before he was suspended because of his alleged refusal to decamp to Action Congress, AC.
He explained that the governor refused to release the money then when it was noticed that the chairman included one of the roads he had earlier claimed had been executed on the list of projects submitted to the governor for approval.
Ugiagbe disclosed to newsmen the list of contracts that the suspended chairman claimed had been executed in the council, asserting that nothing was on ground to show for them, even after the funds were said to have been paid to the contractors.
Governor Oshiomhole had, in February, suspended the chairman of the council, Mr Aisien, for alleged mismanagement of council funds, inflation of contracts and failure to pay staff of the council for three months.
It would be recalled that the suspended chairman, Mr Aisien had last week claimed that the governor refused to release the excess crude funds to him due to his refusal to decamp to the AC, but expressed surprise that the excess crude fund was subsequently released to his Vice Chairman, Ugiagbe, shortly after the latter decamped to Action Congress.
However, Ugiagbe, who addressed newsmen in Benin City yesterday, explained that â€œwhen I came in as acting chairman, we were indebted to the tune of about N31million to Afri bank in the form of over draft and the first allocation meeting that I went for in February, we had about N29 million, Afribank took that and I was not able to pay salaries that month, that now took the councilâ€™s salary arrears to six months.
â€œI took it as priority to ensure that I clear all external debts after salaries and I achieved that within the first week in office. I cleared a debt of about N50 million for the banks. After that, I focused on salary arrears and in all, about N108 million, and as I am sitting here, that was cleared last week, including the security votes of the suspended chairman, which he could not pay to himself. It has caused my administration over N200 million to be able to clear all these debts.”
Ugiagbe added that of the 16 projects that approved by the governor in October 2009, before the suspension of the chairman, more than half of them were not executed, while the money was not in the council.
“I began to identify these projects and as at today, some of them I was able to complete, particularly the radio equipment that got burnt last year.
“So all these claims that he was being victimized were untrue and all he did at the council I was not aware because he made sure that I was never involved in any thing happening.â€ Ugiagbe said.