Saturday, 3rd June 2023

Ugwuanyi, Chime feud over internally generated revenue

By Lawrence Njoku, Enugu
18 August 2016   |   2:11 am
A recurring decimal in Enugu politics is the complex battle that normally takes centre stage each time a new administration is inaugurated in the state since the current democratic experience. 
Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi

Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi

Enugu Assembly commences probe of past financial dealings

A recurring decimal in Enugu politics is the complex battle that normally takes centre stage each time a new administration is inaugurated in the state since the current democratic experience. 

Rivalry, confrontation and conflict have dominated the relationship between the Governor and his successor in office. This at least has been the experience of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), which has had the fortune of ruling the state in the last 17 years.

In 1999, former Governor Chimaroke Nnamani, who came from the PDP plank, was quick to part ways with his alleged political godfather, Chief Jim Nwobodo. Nwobodo, who was the first civilian governor of old Anambra State in 1979, had relied on his popularity to swell support for Nnamani.

The duo worked assiduously during the campaigns to entrench PDP in the state and ensured Nnamani’s victory in the election that was the first after the Military quit political scene.With the romance in place, Nwobodo nominated certain persons in Nnamani’s government. A disagreement however erupted between the two politicians few months into the administration.

Whatever was Nwobodo’s interest including those he nominated in the government of Nnamani were removed. It did not end there, Nwobodo, who was already in the Senate, had his return bid in 2003 truncated following an alleged connivance of Nnamani and the PDP leadership that denied him ticket of the party in favour of former Senate President, Ken Nnamani.
The trend continued under the Sullivan Chime’s administration in 2007. Chime served as Commissioner in the Nnamani government. It was reported that Nnamani single-handedly enrolled him into the election that he emerged as his successor after the vigorous campaigns that ensued.

However, throughout the eight-year period of Chime, his predecessor, Nnamani did not enter Enugu Government House following a disagreement between them. Like Nwobodo, the political structure he built, on which Chime rode to emerge, was soon decimated and pronounced “dead” in the lexicon of the party in the state.  He became the toy in the hands of Chime.

At every fora, how Nnamani under-governed the state became the epicenter. Chime worked assiduously to ensure that his political footprints were deleted from the state. Although he was in the Senate, he was taunted on several occasions as “truant”, who was never present during proceedings.A plot was immediately hatched to ensure that he never returned to the Senate on the platform of the party. Fully aware that his aspirations had been dashed with the PDP, he went and floated the Peoples’ Democratic Congress (PDC), apparently as a way of redeeming himself and remaining politically relevant and ran elections on the platform.

He was defeated on two occasions following a gang up by Chime and PDP. He lost in the elections to one of his political godsons and incumbent Senator for Enugu East, Gilbert Nnaji. Although he may not have forgiven Chime for all that he suffered in his hands for the eight years in which he ruled Enugu, the same way, Nwobodo has not forgotten his predicaments and frustrations in his (Nnamani) hands. 

The political acrimony that has accumulated over the years persisted in the camp of these combatants. Political pundits did not expect any change in the trend after Chime especially when the incumbent Governor, Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi who emerged last year, spent one week on “thank you” visits to Chime in his country home in Udi, Udi
Council of the state.

Ugwuanyi pretended that all was well in the last one year, when he allegedly continued to dance to the tune of the music provided by his predecessor and other leaders of the PDP in the state through appointment of their cronies into his government among other benefits. But sound beats from the State House of Assembly last week indicated that the romance might have been over with the possibility of returning to the old order that pitches the predecessor against the Successor.

At the plenary last Tuesday, the Enugu House of Assembly, which had in the past one year acquired the notoriety of “rubber-stamp House”, following its activities, pulled a surprise when it raised a seven-man committee headed by Sunday Udo Okoye, representing Awgu North constituency to probe the internal revenues received by the state from 2008 to June 2015.

The decision to probe the internally generated revenue within the period, the House explained, followed petitions received from the public alleging misappropriations and allocations allegedly without due process during the Chime administration.

Mr. Obinna Okenwa, Chairman, House Committee on Public Petitions, disclosed that the petitions before the House alleged that the former chairman of the Board of Internal Revenue, Mr. Felix Chime and other principal officers of the Board “continually diverted the state’s Internally Generated Revenue (IGR) between 2008 and June 2015 into their private pockets”.

Sources said that the former boss of the revenue board, who was appointed few months into the administration, came from the same family with the ex-governor.  Efforts to speak with him on the development proved abortive.

Okenwa lamented at the plenary that the alleged diversion had further worsened the economic situation of the State, urging the State Assembly, to as a matter of urgency, investigate the activities of the Board within the period with a view to recovering the alleged stolen money.Although, it was not ascertained how much was diverted, the lawmakers insisted, “thorough work must be done.”

This is coming less than one month after the Assembly had passed a resolution asking the state government to recover all the parks and recreational centres the previous administration gave out with a view to renegotiating them to improve the revenue generation of the state.

Investigations by The Guardian showed that the lease agreement on these parks have a life span of over 25 years with sources claiming that it was of the methods deployed by the previous administration to settle some loyalists.

What observers have not been able to resolve was how Enugu’s internal revenues under Chime suddenly attracted the attention of the lawmakers when they (lawmakers) had kept sealed lips over many other alleged malfeasance committed under the administration that attracted public outcry even before the administration exited last year.

These included landed property belonging to the state that was allegedly leased to private individuals or cronies of the government in the twilight of the administration. Such carve outs like the premises of the ‘abandoned’ international conference, premises of the Enugu State House of Assembly, Eastern Nigeria Industrial Centre, the new secretariat, concession of water corporation among others have several petitions against them lying before the State House of Assembly.

During the period of the immediate past administration, one of the issues that led to the squabbles between the House of Assembly under Eugene Odo’s leadership and Chime was the resolution they passed urging the contractor developing the shopping mall in the carved-out portion of their land to stop further construction. However the construction work continued unabated with the place ready for business soon.

What is not certain is what the House of Assembly and by extension the state government expects to achieve by the current probe when the outcome of the ones earlier conducted, like the local government audit which stalled the conduct of council election last year, were yet to be implemented.

However, the State Chairman of the Social Democratic Party (SDP), Mr. John Nwobodo, charged the lawmakers to redeem what he described as “negative perceptions the public holds about them”, using the probe in the interest of the public.He said: “It is regrettable that hitherto, IGR is seen as a settlement for some cabal in government and a greater percentage of the fund do not find its way to the public treasury to be deployed in provision of services and infrastructure.

Ugwuanyi had been determined to maintain cordiality with Chime and often referred to his predecessor in office as his “leader in and out of office.”He has consummated this relationship by retaining some persons who worked with Chime as well as allowing the likes of Deputy Senate President, Ike Ekweremadu, Senators Gilbert Nnaji and Chuka Utazi, ex-governor Jim Nwobodo, former Senate President, Ken Nnamani, former Minister, Dubem Onyia, former Ambassador Mrs. Fidel Njeze, PDP Chieftains, Chief Anayo Onwuegbu and Vita Abba among others, to have easy access to his government.

An official of government who spoke to The Guardian on the condition of anonymity said the idea was to “cultivate relationship and service”, adding however that such should not be done to the detriment of the society explaining that what the House has set out to do was part of their oversight functions.