Local gov’t chair abandons office amidst allegations of fund diversion
Babatunde Emilola-Gazal, the Chairman of Ijebu Ode Local Government Area in Ogun State, has reportedly deserted his office following an ultimatum from concerned residents demanding transparency and accountability for the council’s financial allocations over the past two years.
A notice circulated by these concerned citizens questioned Emilola-Gazal, who is also the Association of Local Government of Nigeria (ALGON) Chairman in the state, about the statutory allocations received by the council during his tenure.
This comes after the recent allegations of fund diversion by Governor Dapo Abiodun, raised by the suspended Chairman of Ijebu East Local Government, Wale Adedayo.
The suspended Chairman of Ijebu East Local Government, Wale Adedayo, had accused Abiodun of diverting statutory Federal allocations of all the 20 LGs in the state. Adedayo was suspended by the councillors from the LG last week following the allegation against the governor.
He was also grilled and detained for three days by the Department of State Security (DSS) over alleged incitement against the government.
Emilola-Gazal, who previously led other council chairmen in seeking forgiveness on behalf of Adedayo, absolved Governor Abiodun of any wrongdoing regarding allocations to the local governments.
The Leader of council chairmen absolved Abiodun of zero allocations to LGs as alleged by Adedayo in his letter to the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).
However, the residents of Ijebu Ode LG now demand that Emilola-Gazal provide a detailed account of the funds received over the last two years within 48 hours, warning of potential protests if he fails to comply.
The notice reads “Gazal must go, Gazal must go, Gazal must go. Explain to the Ijebus what you have done with the collected federal allocation according to your claim. You are hereby given 48 hours to furnish the Ijebus how you spend the allocations. Failing to do this will lead to protest within the local government. By concerned citizens”.
Upon discovering the notice, Emilola-Gazal chose to stay away from his office, citing concerns for his safety and denouncing the notice as a sponsored ploy.
He said,“ You are aware of what happened as regards a letter written by Wale Adedayo, He raised issues and also made request and we had an amicable understanding that issues should be resolved in-house henceforth.
“We all agreed that internal mechanisms should be explored to solve all issues because, what will you gain if we keep dragging ourselves to the media? Even me, I have been maligned, I am being maligned but… .
“Giving an account is the easiest thing for me to do but nobody should give me an ultimatum, when it is time we shall come out and explain things. But let me just say this, that this has been orchestrated by some persons within the local government, Yes! A few of them and I can tell you that authoritatively and we have an idea of who they are. They are trying to cause a breach of the peace of the society and appropriate authorities will take them up.”
Asked if he has actually stayed away from his office, Emilola-Gazal said, “It is a sponsored move, yes, I stayed away from office, we shall come out as appropriate at the right time and give account.”
Speaking during the meeting with Abiodun, Emilola-Gazal, told the governor that the visit was to acknowledge the mistakes that were made and to beg for forgiveness.
Gazal acknowledged that the governor had at no time interfered in the distribution and sharing of local government funds from the federation account.
According to him, as the leader, the governor was bound to be insulted, but he must forgive and forget.
He said the governor has been passionate about the development of the state, adding that no previous administration can claim the same success recorded across the state in the last four years.
The chairman also “acknowledged that in May, N4.5bn was shared by the 20 local governments. In June, N4.4bn was shared, while July also saw the sharing of N4.4bn. In August, N5.2bn was shared.”