By Yekini Jimoh in Lokoja
The recent upgrading of 88 traditional stools in Kogi State has continued to generate tension and controversy in the state.
Some affected royal fathers have alleged hijack of the process by officials of Ministry of Local Government and Chieftaincy Affairs who the claimed sell positions to the highest bidders.
Some traditional rulers in Kogi State who lost out in the recent upgrading by the state government have accused officials of the Ministry of Local Government and chieftaincy affairs of commercialising the exercise.
The traditional rulers who addressed newsmen on Friday in Lokoja alleged sale of the traditional titles to highest bidders.
They accused the ministry officials of demanding and collecting between N300, 000 and N10million for upgrading from some of their colleagues, depending on their present status.
One of the traditional rulers disclosed on condition of anonymity that classless chiefs were paying 300,000 to be upgraded to 3rd class chiefs while the 3rd class chiefs were made to pay N400, 000 to be upgraded to 2nd class.
He further explained that those already in 2nd class were made to pay N500,000 to climb up to First Class title, adding, “Your present status does not matter as long as you have money to pay you will be upgraded.”
The beaded chief said that as a result of the development, the office of the special Adviser to the Governor on Local Government and Chieftaincy Affairs had become a beehive of activities as some royal fathers struggle to meet up with the payment demands.
One of the traditional rulers from Bassa, (names withheld) who visited the premises of the Nigeria Union of journalists (NUJ) to lodge his complaint said that he was upgraded to 3rd class in 1997 by former governor Ibrahim Idris.
He said that ordinarily and in the order of seniority, he ought to have been upgraded to 2nd class position on merit but was denied because he had no money to path with.
He alleged that a traditional ruler who was upgraded to 3rd class in 2007 was upgraded to second class at his own expense because 400,000 changed hands.
According to him, when he approached the ministry about the abnormally, he was advised to go and look for 400,000 and pay for him to be upgraded.
The traditional ruler who was in tears said there is no way he could raise 400,000.
He therefore cautioned the state government against setting a bad precedence that would impact negatively on the integrity of the traditional institution in the State.
The traditional ruler expressed worry over a situation where non-indigenes of the state holding ordinary chieftaincy titles were also graded and by implication, had become members of traditional Council.
He feared that such development would create crisis between the royal heritage who own the domain and the title holders who were visitors and without domain.
The royal father questioned where such upgraded title holder would exercise his rulership and over who.
When contacted, one of the directors in the ministry debunked the allegations, saying they were false, adding that it was not possible as all the processes leading to the upgrading were transparent.
He directed the newsmen to the Special Adviser to the Governor, on Local Government and Chieftaincy Matters, Engineer Abubakar Ohere for further clarification.
However, all efforts to get the special Adviser to speak on the allegations proved abortive as he was said to have traveled out of town as at the time of filing this report.