Stanley Uzoaru, Owerri
The lmo state government yesterday accused the immediate past deputy governor of the state, Engr Gerald lrona of sponsoring the recent protest by staff of the Imo State Oil Producing Areas Development Commission (ISOPADEC) with N15 million.
The government said lrona who had publicly threatened to make the state ungovernable for governor Hope Uzodinma perfected the plan at oguta last Saturday where ₦15 million was said to have earmarked for the exercise.
Declan Emelumba, the State Commissioner for Information and Strategy claimed that the original plan was for the demonstrators to occupy the government house as long as necessary, but added that the action collapsed as a result of disagreement over the sharing of the booty made available by the former number two man.
According to Emelumba, who claimed to have stumbled on the plot through one of Ironna’s suporters claimed that the former deputy governor’s renege on paying the said amount destabilised the protest. According to him, only N5 million was paid in instalment.
According to him “when the money and food promised the mercenaries were not forthcoming,they abandoned the original plan to occupy the government house in perpetuity.”
Emelumba further alleged that the former deputy governor organised the protest to embarrass the government by portraying it as incapable of paying salaries.
He noted that ever since well meaning lmolites including Nigeria Union of local government employees demanded the probe of the former deputy governor over misappropriation of lSOPADEC funds, he claimed that he has been engaging in subversive activities to force the hand of government.
The commissioner said no amount of blackmail and protest will stop government from thoroughly investigating the financial activities of lSOPADEC.
He assured genuine workers of the commission that government will continue to meet its obligations to them.
However when contacted, Ironna who reacted through his Adviser , communication , Walter Duru said the allegation of the state government is diversionary tactics meant to distract the people from focusing on his bad governance of the State.
He also claimed that the former deputy governor never sponsored any ISOPADEC protests with N15 million, insisting that he has not been around since he left office.
“They are bunch of confused people who have no direction and programme for the people, His Excellency after he left have not step his foot in the state, he has not been in any gathering.
“What they are doing is to distract people from issues of payment of salaries. In the past seven months of Ihedioha, N470 million was all released but when this present government came on board they have never accounted for anything.
“You can not blame the protesters, they were being owed four months and they decided to exercise their civil right, is it a bad thing”. Duru said.