By Vincent Ujumadu, Awka
FOUR hundred and thirty-seven former elected councilors, supervisory councilors and local government secretaries in 20 council areas of Anambra State have turned to prayers warriors, asking God to touch the hearts of Governor Willie Obiano to pay them N2.19 billion being the total amount allegedly owed them as severance allowances after their tenure.
The former council officials served between 2014 and 2017 and since they left office, have been mounting pressure on the state government to pay them without success. They later engaged the services of Mr. Femi Falana, SAN, to assist them in prevailing on the state government to pay them, but they were yet to achieve any meaningful result.
Last week after their usual prayer session in Awka, the former council officials claimed that many of them had died in pursuit of the allowances, while others could no longer afford their children’s school fees.
Their leader, Hon. Bestley Okoye, who spoke with South East Voice argued that it was unfair to allow them to continue to suffer after serving their state diligently.
In an emotion-laden voice, Okoye said: “It dismays us that the government of Anambra State led by His Excellency, Chief Dr. Willie Obiano has not deemed it necessary to pay the councillors, supervisory councillors and local government secretaries that served in the various local government areas of the state under his administration, what is due to them as provided by the law.
“We served the government and the good people of Anambra State with loyalty and diligence throughout the period we were in office and by the provision of the law, we deserve to be paid by the state government what accrues to us as our severances and other benefits, but the state government has refused to pay us.
“We have been members of the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) and supporters of the incumbent Governor of Anambra State. Some of us played very significant role in bringing the administration of Chief Willie Obiano on board, having in 2013, participated in the party primary election that brought him forth as the governorship candidate of APGA and the main election that enthroned him as the Executive Governor of Anambra State.
“We believe the governor knows what is right and lawful, but some people are only trying to cause disaffection between us and the governor by telling him that we are fighting his government. We want to use this opportunity to call on those who are trying to play the “good boys” to the governor to desist from giving wrong interpretations to what we are doing by tagging us the enemies of the governor.
“Some of us served as councillors, some as supervisory councillors and some as secretaries in our various local government councils and these offices we served in were provided by the law, which provides for the financial benefits.
“We believe that the governor knows better than those who are trying to ill advise him; those who are trying to move the governor away from doing what is right as required by the laws of Anambra State and the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, which the governor, under oath, promised to respect and protect.
“Such people are only trying to make the governor be seen as one who disobeys the law he swore to respect and protect, but Governor Obiano knows better than they do. We believe he would not want to go against the law. The governor has to leap and look beyond the point of those who are trying to blur his vision and bring him into bad light.
“Governor Obiano believes in empowering the people of Anambra State and if he pays us our severances, he will become the highest investor in human beings in the history of the state.”
They thanked Chief Femi Falana for taking it upon himself to speak on their behalf, adding that he was determined to ensure that the right things were done to get the Anambra State government to pay them.