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Osun: No End To Face-off Between Workers, Govt

Osun workers and other concerned groups and individuals appear determined remove Governor Rauf Aregbesola and his deputy, Mrs. Grace Titilayo Laoye-Tomori, from office, reports Peterclaver Egbochue

Although, Osun State Governor, Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola, may have paid the state workers two months salaries having come under intense criticisms from across the country, the workers are yet to sheath their sword. There are indications that labour unions in the state had rejected the option by the government to pay two months out of the seven months arrears of salaries and pensions owed them by the state government.

They had insisted that workers should collect nothing less than five months before they would call off the on-going strike action. The State Chairman of the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), Jacob Adekomi, who made the decision during a meeting with government officials in the state, maintained that the workers would not return to work until they are paid at least five months salaries. The government however made it clear that it could not raise five months salaries at once presently, and that the payment would have to be gradual.

Governor Aregbesola and the workers union had been at daggers-drawn over the former’s failure to pay the latter’s salaries. This has elicited reactions with some even calling for the impeachment of the governor by the state house of assembly. In a rare show of courage, a serving Judge of an Osun State High Court, Justice Oloyede Folahanmi, has joined the clamour for the removal of the governor and his deputy, Mrs. Grace Titilayo Laoye-Tomori, from office.

In the petition, Justice Folahanmi, in a 30-page paper, urged the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, (EFCC), United Nations Office of Drugs and Crime, Amnesty International, Transparency International among others, to investigate any other person found to be responsible for what she described as ‘’deliberate mismanagement of the economy of Osun State.’’

The petitioner further accused Aregbesola of acting in defiance of some sections of the constitution, which bordered on the welfare of Osun indigenes. “Neglecting the welfare of members of the community under the guise of wanting to provide infrastructure, runs contrary to the teachings of Christ, the son of God, Jesus of Nazareth. The provision of infrastructures at the expense of human lives and the dignity of man is therefore repugnant to natural justice, equity, and good conscience and must be denounced as abominable. It contradicts Principle 1 of the Stockholm Conference, ” she stated.

The judge’s petition read in part, “Consequently, the admitted inability of Mr. Governor and his deputy to pay pensions, salaries and allowances for periods ranging from eight to 11 months now as a consequence of their own decision to accumulate debts beyond the capacity of the state’s internally generated revenue, whilst the very ‘actors’, Mr. Governor and his deputy, continue to enjoy their security allowances in hundreds of millions, is a violation of their oaths of office.

“Their action in this respect is as illegal as it is immoral and unconscionable. It is an evidence of their inability to discharge the functions of their office. There is therefore no legal or moral basis for their continued stay in office. “To this end and for this reason, I am sure other well-meaning and concerned members of the Osun community are hereby calling on honourable members of the state House of Assembly to pick up the gauntlet and redeem themselves, by giving effect to the provisions of Sections 128 and 129 of the Constitution, which empower them to investigate and bring to justice, all those who have corruptly enriched themselves at the expense of Osun and her people.’’

While acknowledging the petition, the Speaker of the House, Mr. Najeem Salaam, who confirmed receipt of the petition, said the House would write the governor to defend himself against the allegations contained in the letter. On its part, the Osun State chapter of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), has urged the lawmakers to be diligent in their investigation of alleged financial recklessness raised by the petitioner against governor Aregbesola and his Deputy, Titi Laoye Tomori.

The PDP in a statement by its Director of Media and Strategy, Prince Diran Odeyemi, while lauding the lawmakers for their decision to ask Aregbesola to respond to the petition, however cautioned the assembly against attempt to sweep the truth under the carpet. The Speaker had on Thursday assured citizens in the state of the readiness of the parliament to rise up to its responsibilities on the matter.

The party said history and posterity would not forgive the lawmakers if they allowed the administration of Aregbesola ‘’to scuttle the impeachment process on the altar of political exigency and partisan conspiracy’’. “We are aware of the tremendous pressure being brought upon the lawmakers by the insensitive leaders and chieftains of the All Progressives Congress (APC) within and outside the state, but the lawmakers owe posterity and their generations unborn this moment of history, to offer the state the last straw before it would collapse irretrievably,” he state.

While hailing the lawmakers for showing signs they could put political affiliations aside to be true statesmen, the statement noted that every step of the impeachment process and procedure would be monitored by ‘’the traumatized people of the state, until the governor is sent back to where he came from’’.

The party further said, “We want to commend the lawmakers for commencing the process of impeaching Governor Aregbesola in order to save the state. For us as a political party, our concern and involvement is beyond playing the traditional role of opposition party. It is about the people of Osun State. It is about able-bodied men and women who are supposedly gainfully employed but are now refugees in their own land, living on handouts from compassionate religious and corporate bodies. “It is about the present and future of the state. It is about generations unborn and questions that would be asked us if we don’t act collectively now.

Even members of Governor Aregbesola’s party know that he spoke from his heart when he said he was clueless about how to rescue the state from imminent doom. The only honourable way out is for him to be shown the way out. The lawmakers would be writing their names in gold, irrespective of party affiliations if they take the lead in rescuing their constituents from penury and impending economic catastrophe.

“We have it on good authority that a deal has been reached between Governor Aregbesola and the leadership of the Assembly to kill the impeachment process by referring his response to Justice Folahanmi’s petition to a kangaroo committee of the Assembly that would rule that the governor has no case to answer on the weighty allegations raised by the petitioner.

This is completely unacceptable to the traumatized people of the state and such shenanigan will be fiercely resisted,” the party stated. Similarly, a rights activist and the executive Chairman, Centre for Human Rights and Social Justice (CHRSJ),Comrade Adeniyi, Alimi Sulaiman, has thrown its weight behind the position of Justice Folahanmi, calling on the Assembly to investigate the alleged mismanagement of the State’s financial resources leveled against Aregbesola’s administration. Sulaiman urged security agents to build security around Justice Folahanmi, alleging that Aregbesola and his cronies might attempt to take her life if care was not taken as they have been trailing members of the Centre for Human Rights and social Justice (CHRSJ) and other leaders of the opposition in the state. Addressing newsmen, human rights activists, workers, retirees, traders, and other concerned members of the society in Osun state recently, after submitting the three pages letter, which contained the 14 impeachable offences of Governor Aregbesola and his deputy, Sulaiman insisted that Aregbesola and Laoye-Tomori had contravened some sections of the constitutional provision in the last four and half years of their government which called for their immediate impeachment.

The protesters who were armed with placards with inscriptions, “Aregbesola Must Go”, ”Osun Assembly: Aregbesola has committed constitutional fallacies-Tell Aregbesola to change State of Osun to Osun State”, ”Aregbesola has committed many impeachable offences like spending without Appropriation”, “Osun Assembly must commence impeachment process against Rauf Aregbesola now” among others. Comrade Sulaiman stated that Aregbesola had plunged the State into financial crisis due to his reckless spending without legislative provision, which has led the state to its present predicament.

“Every government owes it a duty to pay its workers after they have satisfied their own condition for payment, it is utterly demeaning and unacceptable for a government to plunge its workers into a pitiable state of penury, diffidence and dishonour like Osun State, after working to earn a pay,” he submitted.

The rights group in collaboration with the State Chapter of the Conference of Nigeria Political Parties (CNPP) sponsored the letter to investigate the financial status of the State under Aregbesola, saying that the groups were yet to receive the responds from the Assembly to defend its allegations against the present administration in the State.

Part of the impeachable offences in the letter to the Assembly Speaker are; the unilateral change of Osun State name to State of Osun which contravenes the supremacy of the constitution, buying of Helicopter without budgetary provision through the approval of state lawmakers, embarking on public expenditures without budgetary allocation, illegally intervening and expending scarce funds on Federal roads without federal government approval and refusal to conduct the local government elections in the state.

Others are; destruction of basic and post basic education system in the state, thereby preventing the pupils and students from sitting for examination for session (2014/2015), non-declaration of asset by Aregbesola and other members of his cabinet, illegal diversion and mismanagement of State resources, such as; SURE-P fund, Excess Crude account, Ecological fund, UBEC fund, Federal Lawmakers Constituencies allowances. Others are; Workers Pension Contributory fund, Cooperative deduction loans, Internally Generated Revenue (IGR),State and Local government allocations, accrued to the State from federation account in line with section 15 subsection 5 of the 1999 constitution, as amended, Whether the growing tension in the state would result in the impeachment of the governor is yet to be seen.

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