By Kolade Larewaju
THE Ogun State Government Wednesday alleged that the arrest and detention of three of its officials by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, was instigated by the Speaker of the State House of Assembly, Mr. Tunji Egbetokun.
The State Commissioner for Information, Mr. Sina Kawonise levelled the allegation just as one of the arrested officials, Secretary of the State’s Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, Chief Pegba Otemolu said his invitation by the EFCC was as a result of the report of an evaluation committee set up by Governor Olugbenga Daniel to monitor local government performance which indicted him because he did not meet the demands of members of the committee for money.
Addressing newsmen in Abeokuta attended by the three officials; Secretary of the Party; Chief Otemolu, Chairman of Obafemi/Owode Local Government; Chief Babatunde Adesina and Director General of Bureau of Lands; Mr. Gbenga Ogunnoiki, the Commissioner said the officials were not invited over misappropriation of any N30 billion as alleged in the media.
He explained that after appearing on a television programme in Lagos where he spoke about members of the House of Assembly sharing money, he said the Speaker, Mr. Egbetokun called him on phone and threatened to deal with him and the State Government.
Kawonise said, â€œthere was no reference to any excess crude fund by the EFCC; they were invited for reasons not connected with Excess Crude Account. When I appeared on a television in Lagos, where I said members of the House were sharing money, Egbetokun phoned me and threatened saying â€˜Commissioner you have gone on air to say all kinds of rubbish, you even said your ministry was bigger than the House, we are going to bring out documents; we are going to EFCC and I told some people about the threat.
â€œWhat happened was that when the Evaluation Committee submitted its report, it was also sent to the House of Assembly. The House probed the allegation and the Governor sent auditors to the Local Government (Ikenne) and nothing was found. They reported that what was happening in Ikenne was a mere political wrangling.
â€œThe record was with the House of Assembly and they now sent that to the EFCC to make it look like some people stole money.â€
But the Secretary of the party, Chief Otemolu who was Chairman of Ikenne and was indicted by the report confirmed that it was based on the report that he was invited by the EFCC, adding that he was indeed indicted by the committee because he refused to give members of the committee money.
Otemolu said: â€œI was not arrested, I was invited and I was shown some documents and was asked to make clarifications on a report by the Governorâ€™s evaluation committee to all local government areas. The report was written by that committee and was addressed to the Governor signed by the Vice Chairman, Mr Gbenga Ogunnoiki.
â€œWhat happened was that the performance should be evaluated. The committee came up with various demands and I said this is public money, I cannot disburse it anyhow. Statutorily, I was not responsible to the committee because I decided not to award any largesse to the committee, they wrote junk to His Excellency.
â€œIt was not a petition per se. There was nothing to itâ€, he declared
But Ogunnoiki denied ever asking for any money from any of the chairmen as Vice Chairman of the Committee, adding that the Chairman of the committee then was Mr Dave Salako who is now a member of the House of Representatives and Chairman of the House Committee on EFCC.
He said: â€œI donâ€™t want to indict some people but Mr Salako who was the Chairman was not too consistent.â€
He said he was summoned and interrogated by the EFCC â€œabout my country home and some family possession which I answered. The allegations were spurious and frivolous.â€
Chairman of Obafemi/Owode, Chief Adesina said he was interrogated based on a petition instigated against him by members of the House of Assembly that there was a difference in the allocation to the local government from Abuja and what was actually received.
He said he was also interrogated in respect of some of the councillors who were instigated to write the petition, saying that the said councillors have abandoned the council area in the last one year.