By Chinedu Adonu
ENUGU – THE people of Oduma-Achara community in Aninri Local government Area of Enugu has called for the intervention of the state governor, Rt. Hon. Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi in a sleaze allegation over N5 million development fund that is currently tearing the community apart.
They made the call during a mega peaceful protest across major roads in the area where they alleged that their Town Union President General, PG, Mr Pius Ani had connived with his executives and their traditional ruler, HRH Igwe Murphy Chukwu, to embezzling the money.
It was gathered that the fund in contention, is N5 million first tranche of N10 million which the Ugwuanyi administration is giving to every autonomous community in the state through the Visit Every Community (VEC) initiative, to fund their choice projects.
Addressing a crowd of angry protesters, the youth leader of the community, Livinus Mba explained that they had conducted the protest as a warning to the leaders for them to return the money immediately, adding that any further delay would attract a direct and more determined protest to the state governor at the government house.
While further accusing the PG and Igwe of high-handedness, insincerity and corruption, among others, the youth leader alleged that the leaders had always misappropriated funds that were given to the community by government and donor agencies in the past, pointing out that they had embezzled N10 million and N5 million respectively in the past.
“It is because of their continued misappropriation of community funds that they banned us from holding youth meeting so we would not ask questions or checkmate their activities. But enough is enough.
“We want the governor to know that the money that he had given our community with good motive, had fallen into wrong hands and since dissolved into their pockets. Let the governor use his good offices to smoke out the money from them.
“We are tired of our Igwe and the PG, let the government help us to replace them, they are both corrupt, self-centered and conniving against our community,” he said.
The youth leader’s positions were corroborated by several other speakers who unanimously called for the removal of the traditional ruler and PG, respectively.
Part of their grouse and reason for demanding for the sack of the accused leaders is also that both of them do not reside within the community but rather, in Enugu and Asaba respectively.
It was gathered that while the traditional ruler allegedly resides in Enugu capital city, the PG on the other hand, is said to be living in Asaba, Delta State.
They also claimed that the community had unanimously agreed to use the fund to put their feeder roads in proper shape before the rains set in but were surprised when the leaders later mobilized them for manual repairs on the roads, which they said were impassable during the rainy season.
A woman leader in one of the villages, Felicia Ashi, woman leader, also bemoaned the development.
She confirmed to journalists that there was general agreement that the money would be used to grade their roads.
According to her, “I was surprised to see our men doing the road with shovels, diggers and hoes, afterwards. I think the money has been embezzled by our leaders, and we need government’s intervention over the matter. The only thing that will bring peace is for those holding the money to bring it out and use it to develop our community”.
An octogenarian in the community, Chief Matthew Okoye, told journalists that the people were not happy with the community leaders.
According to him, “the truth is that this community is not happy with our leaders. There are several allegations of embezzlement, lies and insincerity levelled against them which they need to clear”.
While pointing out the importance of transparency in leadership, the former community leader urged the accused individuals to prove their innocence to save their names, or apologize to the community and make amends, without delay, if they were culpable.
Okoye, explained that he had chaired the Oduma-Achara Improvement Union, in 1984, pointing out that transparency was his watchword at the time.
According to him, the present town union had started as Oduma-Achara Traders Union, many years back, and later transformed into Oduma-Achara Improvement Union, which he had led, before it finally metamorphosed into the present Oduma-Achara Town Union, stressing that the current controversy over community development fund was both shameful and disappointing.
When contacted, in separate telephone interviews, both the town union president and the traditional ruler denied the allegations and absolved themselves of any wrongdoing. Both had initially declined comments insisting that they do not talk to the press over the phone.
But when prodded, itemizing all the allegations that had been leveled against them by their people, they decided to speak up and in unison, said the money was used judiciously. They even invited reporters over to the community to hear their side of the story and as well witness what the controversial money had been expended on.
But surprisingly, on arrival at the community, as scheduled, (at about 3pm on Sunday, March 24, 2019), neither the traditional ruler nor the PG took several calls that were put through their lines. Oduma-Achara community is a distance of about 30 kilometers from the city centre.
Meanwhile, it was when a local vigilante in the area accosted the reporters that it was discovered that the duo had been ignoring their calls, thereby suggesting that they probably had no strong defense over the allegations leveled against them.
The vigilante personnel had called the PG with his phone to determine whether the journalists were actually at the community on his invitation. The PG had taken the security man’s call at once and confirmed his knowledge of the visit but barred the man from disclosing his location to the journalists.