By EMMA AMAIZE
ASABA—SPEAKER of the Delta State House of Assembly, Rt Hon Monday Ovwigho Igbuya, linked to several fraud allegations since he assumed office, has said that he knew why the peddlers of the false information and their sponsors were press-ganging him, but vowed that he would not capitulate to their plan. Speaking to Niger Delta Voice, he said: “I know those holding me to ransom and the purpose, but I have developed a shock absorber to absorb the lies they churn out against me every month. They have hired journalists, particularly the online media to intimidate.
“I am not bothered about what they write anymore, I see it as politics to run me down. I see the writers of those false stories as journalistic jobbers, they want me to call them and settle them, but they can continue. It is the duty of he who alleges to prove.
“They say I am collecting N3 million monthly from local government councils in the state, how much allocation do the local government councils get at the end of the day after paying workers. Most of them owe workers up to eight months, where will they get N3 million monthly to give me.
“I can tell you that what the people doing this want is money, but I have also made up my mind to ignore them. If not that you raised the matter now, I will not talk about it because I have made up my mind to pay no attention to them. However, if those behind the allegations are serious, let them publish the falsehood in a national newspaper like Vanguard, which I can get hold of and see whether I will not sue them,” he said.
Igbuya further said: “The intention of their sponsors is clear, they see my position as Speaker as a threat to their political plans, so they want to dragoon me.”
Ill-fated UPU sanction
It has been one month, two allegations for Igbuya in recent time, has been in the eyes of the storm before and after he emerged as Speaker. Last year, the umbrella body of his ethnic nationality, Urhobo Progress Union, UPU, led by then Chief Joe Omene, banned him and other top Urhobo politicians in 2014 for supporting the governorship proposition of the people of Delta North Senatorial district (Anioma).
He was lucky his candidate, Senator Ifeanyi Okowa, won the April 2015 governorship election. However, a tornado hit the UPU after the ban and the new leadership under Chief Gabriel Ofotokun, who is the President-General, Interim Executive Committee, had since lifted the ban on him and others.
Many ‘crimes’ of Igbuya
While the lawmakers were battling the election petitions against them by their opponents shortly after their elections, an online publication alleged that 23 Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, members in the Delta State House of Assembly, led by Igbuya contributed N5 million each to compromise the Election Petition Tribunal and receive favorable judgment.
However, a member of the House, Hon Efe Ofobruku and a former lawmaker, Godwin Abigor, both of the Social Democratic Party, SDP, however, dismissed the allegation. Igbuya was also accused of settling a political opponent with N180 million to retain his position, but the opponent described the report as false.
Before then, there was also a report that the Speaker and other members of the House collected N200,000 each – a total of N2.4 million kickback to screen 12 commissioner nominees forwarded by Okowa sometime in July, last year.
Last month (January), another accusation came that local government chairmen and councilors in 25 local government areas were at loggerheads with Igbuya over unlawful remittance of N325 million to the state House of Assembly. Chair, Association of Local Government Chairmen in the state, Mr. Malik Ikpokpo, debunked the allegation.
A fresh allegation also came that he demanded N1 billion from the Managing Director of the Delta State Oil Producing Areas Development Commission, DESOPADEC, Chief William Makinde, in return for the passage of the commission’s 2016 budget. Chief Makinde in a statement denied that Igbuya ever made such a demand.
The up-to-the minute charge as at the time of this report was that he doled out N5 million to perfect an arrangement with the Ministry of Justice, Asaba, to exonerate the leader of a killer cult squad.
Devoted Okowa backer
Unrepentant Igbuya fired at his critics: “If I allow all these allegations to bother me so much, then, I am not a politician; their game plan is obvious, it is to unsettle me. However, I have made my position clear and I am restating it, there is no vacancy in Government House, Asaba, until 2023. My reason is that the governor, Senator Ifeanyi Okowa is doing very well. So they can go ahead with their blackmail against me.
“As far as I am concerned, no sane Urhobo man from any political party, not just PDP, should gun for governorship in 2019; we should just allow Okowa to finish in 2023. He (Okowa) has changed the face of my constituency, Sapele, in just seven months. He is committed to the Sapele Market, completion of the abandoned Sapele Stadium, he has dualized Sapele Road, which was a reproach to us before now and is ready to do more.