Chris Njoku, Owerri
.The lmo State Government on Thursday accused the immediate past deputy governor of the state, Engr Gerald lrona of sponsorship of the recent protest by staff of State Oil Producing Areas Development Commission (ISOPADEC).
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 allegedly earmarked for the exercise.
The Commissioner for Information and Strategy, Hon Declan Emelumba, said the original plan was for the demonstrators to occupy the Government House as long as necessary, but the action collapsed as a result of disagreement over the sharing of the booty made available by the former number two man.
According to him, out of the N15 million, ₦3million was initially released and later ₦2million provided on the commencement of the protest, “Some of the protesters didn’t get the money and that was when the bubble burst,” he added
The commissioner said the former deputy governor who coordinated the protest through a relation who works with one of the para military outfits, also promised to pay the balance of ₦10million at the end of the exercise.
“but the plan collapsed when the protesters turned around to protest being shortchanged by their leaders who they accused of hijacking the money released.”
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 alleged that the former deputy governor organised the protest to embarrass the government by portraying it as incapable of paying salaries.
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He said the speed with which lrona posted pictures of the protesters in the social media even when he was not physically on the scene confirmed his complicity.
Emelumba referred to the concluding part of a WhatsApp post by Irona on the NASS Legislators Forum by about 10am on the day of the protest as clear evidence of his complicity and intention, which reads:” Unfortunately in the last 3 months, Imo State Govt of the so called shared prosperity has withheld this money and allowed people to languish in penury ”
He noted that ever since well-meaning lmolites including Nigeria Union of Local Government Employees (NULGE) demanded the probe of the former deputy governor over misappropriation of lSOPADEC funds, he had 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 the commission.
He assured genuine workers of the commission that government will continue to meet its obligations to them.
When contacted the former deputy governor said the allegation “is a diversionary tactics of the government to distract the people from focusing on the state government none achievement.
Irona who spoke through his media aide, Walter Duru, also denied the N15million, saying that since he left office he has never step foot in the state.
“What they are doing is to distract the people from the issue of salaries and pension payments,” he said.