CHAIRMAN of the Governing Council of Ugborodo Community Trust, Ugborodo, Chief Thomas Ereyitomi, speaks on how he emerged and the allegations of embezzlement against him.
How did you emerge?
We are operating the 1996 Constitution as amended. After the expiration of my first tenure in 2011, a meeting was held in the Warri residence of an Itsekiri leader, Pa J.O.S. Ayomike. Mr. David Tonwe was there. Jonwe, Emmanuel Meke and I, three of us were contestants for the chair of the Ugborodo Community Trust.
In that meeting, a decision was taken that the 1996 Constitution of the Trust as amended would be used for the election into the Governing Council. The constitution states that no election will be held outside Ode-Ugborodo. The venue, Ikpere Town Hall is also stated.
Nomination for the various offices are usually done by the respective villages, which means one must be nominated by his community before you could come to the central committee, which is the Governing Council. Note what I said that the operating constitution says election will only be held in Ode Ugborodo, you do not sit anywhere and appoint people, saying they are executive members of the Governing Council. The constitution gives room for a second tenure and all the relevant procedures were followed before I was elected for a second tenure.
Pa Ayomike told us that rule of law was not followed in your election?
If he is talking about rule of law, rule of law was followed in my election. He should know that there are fundamental things to be done before an election takes place, including a two-week notice that must be given. He, unconstitutionally in his private residence in Warri, constituted an illegal executive of Tonwe and others.
Both he and Tonwe know I was duly elected by Ugborodo people. Ajudaibo, which is Tonwe’s community, has three slots in the Governing Council, he was not even nominated by his people. Those nominated by his people are Chief Ayiri Emami, Monday Tenumah and Alfred Ebami, so I do not know the constitution they are using to say that Tonwe who was not nominated by his ward, is the chair of the Governing Council of the Trust.
We were told you did not handover when your first tenure expired in 2011?
Somebody cannot sit down in his house in Warri and be saying that I did not hand over. You hand over to the Council of Elders and Ugborodo people at Ode-Ugborodo, which I did, including details of our financial records and stewardship. I must point out that nobody should sit down in his house and expect the Trust to come to account to him in his private residence. No, we made the report to the house at Ugborodo. My executive is the only one that prepared a financial record and presented its stewardship report since the Trust started.
What is really at stake in this Ugborodo crisis for I hear the battle is over money and more than N2 billion is involved?
Nothing absolutely is at stake. They are trying to make a mountain out of a molehill. They wrote a petition to the Special Fraud Unit of the Nigeria Police and the EFCC, saying that N700 million, belonging to the community, was misappropriated. We have gone to the police, made statements and shown records of income and expenditure in our past tenure.
You said Pa Ayomike told you over N2 billion, but the police said he told them N700 million. Well, the onus is on him to prove his allegation. But we have made statements to the police as to the money we received in our first tenure, the sources and how it was spent. What we collected, which is documented is not near the N700 million they alleged and the police is waiting for them to tell them where the N400 million difference came from.
We have gone to Lagos, Abuja, and Port-Harcourt over this matter, the security agents are waiting for them to prove their allegations. Therefore, it is not to make wild allegations, it is to substantiate them.
The crisis took a worse dimension recently when three Ugborodo youths were killed. Who is responsible?
Some people who went to erect secret structures at Otumara, which they want to use as a base to disrupt Shell pipelines coming there are responsible. The people are desperately looking for recognition. The elders of Ugborodo sent the youths there to find out what was going on.
We have issues in Otumara, there are three communities- Ugborodo, Jaghala and Ugbegbegun, that are involved, but we work together even though there is a court case on the matter. Shell had acquired the place and wants the community leaders to help them to dislodge the settlers and other people there and the the communities have met and told Shell what to do to assist them to move out of the place. The erection of new structures there is to fishing for trouble and the Ugborodo youths that went there were on a fact-finding mission. In fact, they were led by the youth chair, Julius Atete.
We understand the people killed were not indigenes of Ugborodo?
Do not mind them. One of those shot, Ebo Bazuaye, is a cousin to a former secretary of the Trust, Barrister Austin Ogborogbeyi. Roland, who was shot on his two legs and still in the hospital, is younger brother to the youth chair. There is no community where you do find non-indigenes, we have non-indigenes in Ugborodo and they are part of us. We have Ijaw, Hausa, Igbo and Yoruba here, do we drive them away because they are strangers. Even if they are strangers, is that why they should be attacked and killed.
Pa Ayomike was very categorical that there was no instrument for your election?
I was elected under the amended 1996 Constitution of the Trust, which we, including Pa Ayomike, agreed should be used for the election. The amended constitution took power away from registered trustee to the council of elders and Ugborodo people.
Why is he saying the constitution is not recognized, was it not the constitution was used to appoint his younger brother, Joe Ayomike, as interim chair of the Trust in 2003?; it is the same constitution that was used to appoint Tonwe in 2005 as chair of the interim management committee; George Agbajor in 2004 and Isaac Botason in 2006. I am surprised that the old man is saying all these.