•34 years after, Obaseki settles benefits of former Edo gov, Alli
• Owie hails state govt for implementing Traditional Rulers, Chiefs Edict of 1979
Adibe Emenyonu in Benin City
Edo State Government has announced the release of N1,316,746,764.13 to the state’s Council of Traditional Rulers as arrears of the five per cent of the local government allocations due to the royal fathers, which was warehoused by the government when there was crisis within the council.
Addressing a joint press conference in Benin, yesterday, the state Commissioner for Information and Orientation, Chris Osa Nehikhare; and his counterpart in the Ministry of Local Government and Chieftaincy Affairs, Mr. Monday Osaigbovo, said the disbursement of the funds had commenced.
Nehikhare, who spoke first, explained that prior to the coming of the Governor Godwin Obaseki’s administration, what was being released to the traditional council as its statutory five per cent allocation, was the amount due from the basic allocation to the 18 local government areas in the state, excluding other components such as the Value Added Tax (VAT) and the Excess Crude earnings.
He further explained that the arrears of the VAT and excess crude earnings from July 2022, and the amount due which the council agreed that government should warehouse when a misunderstanding arose in April 2023, were added together to arrive at the N1.3 billion being shared to the traditional rulers.
According to him, at no time did the government withhold the allocation to the traditional rulers, stressing that what the government warehoused for the council arose as a result of the misunderstanding among the traditional rulers. He pointed out that with the resolution of the misunderstanding, all the earnings due to the traditional rulers had been disbursed to them accordingly.
According to him, of the N1.3 billion, the Council of Traditional Rulers in the seven local governments in Edo South Senatorial Districts got the sum of N639.2 million, shared, with the Benin Traditional Council (BTC) getting N319.6 million, while the other traditional rulers in the remaining local governments have N255.7 million.
Nehikhare further disclosed that while traditional rulers in the six local government areas of Edo North Senatorial District got the sum of N377.6 million, those from the five local governments in Edo Central Senatorial District got N299.8 million.
Nehikhare, reiterated that the Omo N’Oba N’Edo, Uku Akpolokpolo, Oba Ewuare II, Oba of Benin, remained the supreme head of all traditional rulers in Edo South, who are answerable to him and remained subjects of the Benin monarch.
He noted that the Iyase of Benin, Chief Sam Igbe, who is the Prime Minister of Benin kingdom was privy to the resolution of the administrative disputes that necessitated the government warehousing the funds for the traditional rulers and agreed with the Enigies on the terms of the resolution of the issues, just as he dismissed any insinuation of dispute between the council of traditional rulers and the state government.
The commissioner expressed optimism that the new arrangement would enhance a more cohesive administration at that level of government, stressing that the state government was happy to note that the various 18 LGAs in the state had commenced the disbursement of the funds.
Nehikhare disclosed that the state government would explore the possibilities of giving additional responsibilities to traditional rulers in the state especially in the security of their domains, as the security of lives and property remained the priority of the government.
On his part, the Commissioner for Local Government and Chieftaincy Affairs, Monday Osaigbovo, while throwing more light on the five percent allocation to the traditional rulers, said that it was the Obaseki administration that insisted that all elements that make up the allocation to the 18 LGAs must be taken into account in computing the five percent due to the traditional rulers.
Osaigbovo, added that when computed as directed by Obaseki, the amount due to the council of traditional rulers increased, hence the government was justified to have said that it had increased the allocation, stressing that no other state had the same sharing formular like Edo State.
Relatedly, Obaseki, has settled the benefits and gratuity of the former governor of the State, Late Prof. Ambrose Alli. This is coming 34 years after the demise of Alli.
Alli was the first Executive Governor of the former Bendel State (Now Edo and Delta states) between 1979 and 1983 under the then Unity Party of Nigeria (UPN). Born September 22, 1929, the renowned Medical Professor died on September 22, 1989.
Obaseki made this disclosure yesterday, in Benin City on the occasion of the celebration of the award of the ‘Most Pension Friendly Governor in Nigeria,’ bestowed on him by the Nigeria Union of Pensioners (NUP).
Speaking on his commitment to the wellbeing of pensioners in the state by ensuring that their benefits are paid regularly, including outstanding pensions and gratuity, he revealed how the unpaid benefits of the former governor were settled last week by the state government.
According to Obaseki, “Last Saturday (August 19, 2023), the widow of former Governor of Edo State, late Prof. Ambrose Ali, turned 80 years in Birmingham, United Kingdom. He has made a lot of sacrifices for us as a State.
“We decided to celebrate with her and I asked one of the children what he thinks is an appropriate present for her mother.
“He said just do her the honour of paying my father’s benefits while in office. Then I said, you mean Prof. Ali benefits are not paid.’ He said yes. We went into the records, prepared the cheque and took it to her in England. This is to tell you where we are coming from. I’m glad we remembered him.”
The governor was represented by his wife, Mrs. Betsy Obaseki, at the 80th birthday celebration of the late governor’s widow, Chief Mrs. Rosemary Alli-Walker.
The Edo State First Lady recognised the enduring impact of Alli’s tenure as governor, noting that the policies and programmes implemented during his leadership, notably in education, urban and rural development and healthcare have continued to shape Edo State’s progress.
She said the former governor and his wife occupy a special place in the hearts of Edo people, resonating with the attendees, who had gathered to honour Chief Mrs. Alli-Walker.
In her response to the felicitation, the celebrant expressed her gratitude to the First Lady for travelling all the way from Nigeria to join in her celebration.
This is as she pledged to support free surgeries for children with cleft lips, an initiative named ‘Operation Smile’.
Meanwhile, former Senator representing Edo South Senatorial District, Senator Roland Owie, has commended the Edo State Government for the implementation of the Traditional Rulers and Chiefs Edict of 1979, especially as relates to section 45 of the edict, which recognised the Oba of Benin’s position as the permanent head of all the traditional rulers in the State.
In a statement, Owie said the implementation of the law would allow the traditional rulers in the Benin Kingdom to support the state government’s efforts in improving the lives of their subjects and communities.
Commending the Edo State Government, he said, “I just read a release issued by the Hon. Commissioner for Communication and Orientation, Chris Osa Nehikhare that Oba of Benin Remains Uncontestable Head of All Traditional Rulers and Chiefs in Edo State.
“I thank the Governor of Edo State and the Edo House of Assembly for obeying this piece of legislation that was enacted in 1979, after 44 years.”
The Senator noted, “With this, the Enigie in Benin Kingdom can now live well and support their subjects and communities. Thank You, Godwin Nogheghase Obaseki, ‘Uhunoma’ members of the Edo State House of Assembly. To God Be Glory.”