By Pastor Osamudiame Godswil
“Acts 24:16: And herein do I exercise myself, to have always a conscience void of offense toward God, and toward men.”
I have invoked this passage in the Bible specifically for Hon. Okoibhole Augustine, the immediate past Esan North East LGA Chairman, if he can beat his chest that the money claimed to have been spent, which is under query by the Edo State Government after the report by the Auditor-General indicted the LGA of expenditure of #1,107,948, 700:52, the highest in the entire state, was judiciously spent.
It took me time to come up with this because I had to allow myself to be rid of emotions when the report was first published on social media.
How could people be so callous and reckless in their filthy lucre without ounces of conscience? What exactly could be pointed to by the chairman in terms of human capital or infrastructure development that necessitated this monumental accrued debt?
The roads are pothole-filled and nothing of note was done within the period he was in office. These allegations of financial discrepancies not commensurate with anything on the ground, expenditures not properly retired or accounted for must not be swept under the carpet even as I would like the past LGA chairman to have the opportunity(ies) to respond to the query.
The public also must be allowed unfettered access to the relevant documents in the council under the Freedom of Information Bill to enable the people to continue to ask proper questions pertaining to these criminal-looking expenditures.
Nothing must be done, since they have not been arrested or indicted by security agents like EFCC, to sweep this audit under the carpet, I repeat. Or else, it will aid others in the future.
Though I have had the cause to critique some of the projects the Okoibhole`s administration tried to embark on, though many were carried out by his close family and friends and also as dictated by his godfather whom we also know is an uncle, one could basically say that the Esan north-east council was taken for a ride, but because we all know that they have to respond to the query being served, I will hold my peace for now.
The LGA chairman is free now and has the connections to temper with evidence. This should not be allowed. I am using this medium to task the Edo State Government and relevant agencies not to spare the LGA Chairman, Hon. Okoibhole Augustine, if indicted for whatever reason.
He should be made to pay for this brazen act of corruption when indicted, and he should not be pardoned because he is now a member of the ruling party, PDP. Ideally, the LGA’s primary duty is to bring governance and development to the grassroots.
However, in recent times, it has become a cesspool where unwise and ill-informed politicians think the LGA is an avenue to suck the people dry instead of using it as a platform for development.
The LGAs today are centers for corruption, hence this very query must not be allowed to gather the usual dust. Hon. Augustine must be investigated and prosecuted and if found wanting, should be made to face the extant laws relating to corruption and grand conspiracy to commit fraud.
This will be used as a deterrent going forward. The era where people commit crimes and go free because of their political affiliations must be discouraged. It is on record that the chairman had acquired choice properties of his own including a palatial mansion within 2018-2021 when he was in office, whereas, his primary duty to develop the LGA was left undone.
Does he not have a functional conscience? Governor Obaseki must show this time that he does not tolerate corruption and he is not going to be selective in his administration, and in dispensing justice to all who are involved in this criminality, especially Hon. Okoibhole who the bulk stopped on his table as the head of the team. He was take responsibility.
He had made himself an enemy of the LGA by sabotaging its development for personal gains. It is because of incompetent characters like Hon. Okoibhole that development has been denied to the people of Uromi and Uzea.
And I reiterate that being a member of PDP should not be a reason for allowing this reckless stealing of our commonwealth to go unpunished.
This is just overwhelmingly that the LGA that is supposed to act as an interventionist structure in governance has become responsible for the sorrows of the people at the grassroots. Justice must be done.
In the coming days I will be coming out with facts, figures and details of who took what and how.