The Cross River State chapter of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) has raised concerns over the alleged seizure of salaries and allowances to 7 House of Assembly members and 91 councillors for refusing to defect to All Progressives Congress (APC).
Governor Ben Ayade had defected to the ruling APC on Thursday, May 20, directed all elected officers and his appointees to go back to their various wards to register with the party.
Barely five weeks after his defection, the governor has purportedly directed the office of the state Accountant General and that of the legislature to withhold further payments of elected officers in the House and local government who refuse to defect, with some appointees relieved of their positions.
The Cross River State PDP Caretaker Chairman, Efiok Cobham, Esq, who raised the alarm in an interview with reporters in Calabar at the weekend, said that it is undemocratic and a new trend in politics where elected officers are being coerced to defect to the APC alongside Governor Ayade.
Cobham said their members have been facing intimidation and harassments for refusing to defect, warning that the party would not stand by and watch members pass that kind of ordeal.
The former Deputy Governor in Liyel Imoke administration alleges that not only were the PDP legislators’ salaries and allowances seized, they were shared among APC lawmakers.
He said it is a worrisome development because salaries and allowances are their legitimate earnings that have nothing to do with party, adding that such an act is illegal and would not go unchallenged.
‘It is criminal to seize elected officers salaries and allowances for not defecting to APC with you. It is true that all benefits and entitlements due to 7 PDP legislators at the Assembly and 91 councillors across the 18 local government areas have been stopped because they refused to defect with the governor to APC,’ Cobham said.
‘The governor is not paying from his pocket. He has even collected the official cars allocated to some of the legislators. The councillors are being threatened and harassed daily, thereby putting fears into them.
‘Well, we as a party would not fold our hands and allow our members to be humiliated just because they refused to join Ayade in APC. We shall seek redress in a competent court of law soon.’
A source at the House of Assembly Complex in Calabar disclosed that the total amount due the members is about N11 million, which includes their allowances of N1.5 million each and N200,000 each for their legislative aides.
The affected lawmakers are Rt Honourables Fred Osim (Ikom I), Okpechi Gabriel (Obubra I), Nelson Ofem (Yakurr I), Elizabeth Ironbar (Akpabuyo), Efa Esua (Municipality) and Itam Abang ( Boki I).
The source indicated that the Speaker has dissolved all the House Committees in line with the House Rules at the end of every legislative session, expressing worry that with the new development it is possible that none of the seven legislators would be allowed to head sensitive committees.
Reacting, the Speaker of the House of Assembly, Rt Hon Jones William Eteng, said that he is not aware that some members’ allowances have been seized, adding that all salaries due them have been paid.
Earlier in the month, Commissioner for Local Government, Mrs Stella Odey, had refuted the allegations in a statement that salaries of some councillors who refused to defect to APC have been stopped.
She said the salaries of appointees at the local government level have not been paid due to some new changes at the local level, adding that everybody would be paid once the issues are sorted out.