Simon Utebor, Yenagoa
Security details attached to the Bayelsa State Government House have molested and arrested some ex-councillors in the state.
It was learnt that the former councillors, who served from 2013-2016 in local government areas across the state had stormed the Government House in Yenagoa to demand payment of their severance gratuities and backlog of entitlements owed them by the government.
It was further learnt that the ex-councillors, who stormed the Government House in their droves, were barred by security operatives from entering the Government House.
They were said to have stood a long while at the gate to register their plight to the head of security at the first gate of the Government House before they were told that the governor was in a weekly Executive Council meeting.
It was gathered that they (former councillors) were asked to leave the Government House gate by the security operatives, but when they reportedly refused to leave, the security operatives were said to have pounced on them and arrested some of them.
In an interview on Thursday, the leader of the former councillors, Ezekiel Believe, said after exhausting all avenues of communication, they felt compelled to go out and pay an impromptu visit to the governor.
He lamented, “We have consulted the Speaker of the State House of Assembly, Benson Konwowei, the Commissioner for Local Government and other stakeholders in the state just to demand payment of our entitlements.
“Since April 2016, when we left councils, we have not received our severance gratuities and other backlog of claims that are hanging in the councils.
“Had it been all councillors received their claims and entitlements, we would have had something to hold on to while giving government more time than this. Our claims and entitlements were never paid, now it’s our severance gratuities.”
Also, Ogidi Bara, another ex-councillor, who spoke on behalf of his colleagues from Southern Ijaw Local Government Area, stated that their visit to Government House was not a protest, but a solidarity gathering by the ex-council lawmakers.
“We completed our tenure in 2016 and in a couple of months from now, it will be two years since we left office as councillors.
“Despite that some of our entitlements were not paid, we have endured and are supporting the government tremendously. We massively mobilised in our different wards and the results were impressive where the Peoples Democratic Party won almost all LGAs in the state.
“This was possible because we played significant roles in our communities. Now, we do not have money to meet certain challenges and we do not want anybody to push us aside,” Bara added.
He urged Governor Seriake Dickson to consider their plight and pay their severance gratuities.
Bara explained the gratuities and severance packages were their only source of income to take care of their family needs.
Also speaking, James Erefa, said the group came to Government House to remind Dickson of his promise to them during electioneering.
“Before the elections, the governor knew what former councillors were passing through and now our conditions have deteriorated,” he said.
James said the governor had an agreement with them before the elections that their severance gratuities would be paid by the end of their tenure.
“Now, we are reaping the fruit of our labour by being beaten up by the security operatives for demanding our legitimate earnings,” he said.
However, efforts to speak with the Commissioner for Information and Orientation, Mr. Jonathan Obuebite, proved abortive as his mobile phone indicated that it was not connecting.
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