Published as received from Emeka Ahaneku
The prevailing economic and financial crisis which is ravaging many states of the federation has been attributed to the inability of the members of the 7th House of the Imo state House of Assembly, including Hon. Walter Uzonwanne, who represented Oguta state constituency at the twilight of the 7th House from accessing their three month’s allowances and emoluments as the case may be.
Sequel to the investigation which was carried out by our reporter on this matter, it was revealed that the immediate past members of the House, whose legislative tenure ended on the sixth of June 2014, were denied their March, April and May allowances, emoluments and entitlements due to non-availability of the House running cost for the months under review.
The situation was more intense for Hon. Walter Uzonwanne, whose swearing in as a member of the 7th House, coincided with the prevailing financial crisis, barely three months to the end of the tenure of the Uwajumogu led House, following a protracted electoral and legal tussle between him and Hon. Eugene Dibiagwu of the People’s Democratic Party, PDP, through a court order which was vehemently rejected by Oguta people and Imolites as fraudulent and abuse of judicial powers, as the PDP candidate was neither joined nor informed about the process.
It will be recalled that the media was awash with stories of how Hon. Uzonwanne who do not possess the INEC certificate of return, which is the minimum requirement expected of any elected legislator to be sworn in, went and procured a an order of the Court, which was adjudged as to have lacked jurisdiction, compelling the House to swear him in as a member, a development which left the then House with no option than to obey the Court order, amidst protests alleging illegality by concerned Imo citizens.
Findings also revealed that Hon. Uzonwanne, who has received three months’ salary, since his swearing in on March 2015, has only worked for the total period of three months as a lawmaker, and will be paid his allowances, entitlements and emoluments as every documentation is already perfected by the Assembly Accounts Department for onward payment, as soon as the state government releases funds to upset backlog of allowances.
It was further gathered that Hon. Uzonwanne, who like every other lawmaker in the last House is not happy that the state government is owing him, is not only asking that his 3 months allowances, entitlements and emoluments be paid to him, regarding when he commenced full legislative duties with the House, but it was further learnt that the Oguta born ex-lawmaker is also asking for the salary arrears and allowances, starting from 2011 when the last House took off, which were duly paid to his predecessor, Chief Eugene Dibiagwu. Before he was sacked.
Speaking to our Correspondent, a member of the 7th House who represented one of the constituencies from Orlu zone, but declined to be named, however, chided Hon. Uzonwanne for erroneously accusing the then leadership of the 7th House for deliberately withholding allowances legally due to him, pointing out that his colleagues were also affected in like manner.
He attributed the difficulty being faced by Hon. Uzonwanne to the cash crunch which had paralyzed economic and administrative machinery of the government, which he also said had affected the living condition of his colleagues and the entire people of the state.
The former lawmaker also used the medium to plead with the state Governor, Owelle Rochas Okorocha, to take advantage of the Federal government’s bailout fund to offset the backlog of salaries and allowances of the ex-lawmakers to enable them take care of their families and responsibilities.
In a telephone conversation, the Chief Media Officer to the immediate past Speaker of the Assembly, Mr. Emeka Ahaneku, while dissociating the then leadership of the 7th House from Uzonwanne’s allegations, also wondered how the former lawmaker who worked for barely three months, would be demanding for the several years of salaries and allowances which were already paid to the man (Chief Eugene Dibiagwu) whom he booted out from the House following a subsisting Court order.
He maintained that the 7th House led by Rt. Hon. Benjamin Uwajumogu, in his open line posture, did its best in upholding transparency and accountability in conducting its businesses, stressing that it is the prerogative of the Speaker to distribute allowances to serving legislators who has been lawfully sworn in as members of the legislature, ‘’based on the availability of funds’’.
While sympathizing with Hon. Uzonwanne and other members of the House whom he described as patriotic citizens of the state, Mr. Ahaneku, also commended them for the selflessness they displayed in discharging their legislative responsibilities, even in the wake of the acute economic and financial crisis.
He took a swipe at Hon Walter Uzonwanne, whom, he accused of including the former Speaker, who is also being owed, in his smear publications and petitions, on the issue of unpaid allowances and emoluments, describing the smear stories and petitions as baseless, devilish, wicked, immoral and a failed calculated attempt to blackmail Uwajumogu, for doing good, stressing that Uwajumogu made some personal sacrifices aimed at helping Uzonwanne, overcome his political challenges by swearing him in, as an Honorable member in the first place.
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