Ondo denies freezing LG accounts

The Ondo State Government has denied that the Acting Governor, Lucky Aiyedatiwa, froze the accounts of the local governments.

The reaction came after some officials of the local councils said that a memo from Mr Aiyedatiwa had informed them of the freezing of the accounts.

Mr Aiyedatiwa became acting governor again on Wednesday after Governor Rotimi Akeredolu proceeded on another medical leave.

There were apprehensions after the unavoidable transfer of power, given the rift between Mr Aiyedatiwa and people close to Mr Akeredolu.

The acting governor has received knocks from various quarters over the purported freezing of the council accounts, which they described as unconstitutional.

“A governor has no power whatsoever under the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 (as amended), to freeze the account of Local Governments in a State,” a lawyer in Akure, Femi Emodamori, said.

“The purported freezing of the accounts of all the Local Governments in Ondo State by the State Acting Governor, His Excellency, Hon. Lucky Orimisan Aiyedatiwa is therefore a serious anti-democratic, unconstitutional and politically suicidal move which was probably born out of ill or improper legal advice,” Mr Emodamori said in a statement.

But the state Commissioner for Information, Bamidele Ademola-Olateju, on Saturday, described the reported freezing of the accounts as false.

“At no time has the Acting Governor or any functionary of the state put a freeze on local government accounts or order any closure,” she said.

“This information is fake and baseless. We ask that the good people of Ondo State, particularly officials of local governments, disregard the rumour.

“Necessary complimentary personnel/civil servants have been deployed to the LCDA(s) and they have been advised to exercise due diligence and processes in their operations by the Government.

“The State Government is committed to proper functioning of the new thirty-three LCDA(s) and the existing 18 Local Government Areas in the state as a way of enhancing development at the grassroots.”

Mrs Ademola-Olateju also clarified the confusion over the role of the governor’s chief of protocol, who was allegedly suspended by the acting governor.

According to the commissioner, there was a misrepresentation of a government circular No. FAD/DG.156/98 of 14th December 2023 in respect of the Preparation of the Acting Governor’s Engagement.

“The Chief of Protocol to Mr Governor has not been placed on suspension by the Ag. Governor nor by any person,” she said.

“It should be noted that the schedule for the preparation of Mr Governor’s Engagements is less than two per cent of the CoP’s responsibilities.

“Usually, suspension from duty would have warranted removal of salary and privileges, which does not happen in this case. As we speak, Mr. Bola Alabi is busy with Mr. Governor. Nevertheless, His Excellency, the Ag. Governor, Hon. Lucky Orimisan Aiyedatiwa is prepared, where necessary, to make changes that would guarantee the effective running of the administration.

“Again, the public is implored to always confirm the veracity of every information/news in respect of the Ondo State Government from appropriate quarters before dissemination.”

The commissioner said the government was aware of a suit filed by an opposition party before the State High Court challenging the appointment of caretaker committees for the LGAs and assured that the contending issues before the court would be decided shortly.

“While a date has been fixed for the conduct of Local Government election in the State, the Ondo State Independent Electoral Commission (ODIEC) has started working on delineation of a minimum of 5 Councillorship Electoral Wards in each of the LCDA(s),” she noted.

“Delineation of these electoral Wards by ODIEC is part of the transition guidelines provided for in the Government White Paper for transiting from 18 LGA(s) to 51 LGA(s)/LCDA(s) in the state. Government is committed to a smooth transition that will usher a democratic Elected Local Government Area in Ondo State,” the commissioner said.