There is palpable tension in the 27 Local Councils of Imo State following Governor Rochas Okorocha’s directive that every adult must pay a N3, 000 Autonomous Community Development levy with each of the 644 communities mandated to raise N6million to attract N10million from the state government.
According to a letter to the traditional rulers of the 644 autonomous communities, signed by the commissioner for Community Government Council and Chieftaincy Affairs, Hon. Louis O. Duru, the monarchs were directed to raise about N6 million from estimated 2,000 adults from each community for development purposes in the communities.
The letter reminded the monarchs that the governor had severally in the past, dating from 2016, directed them to compel their subjects to pay the said levy, compulsorily writing the details of the payment in the Adult Register in each community, to develop their communities.
“Any recognized autonomous community that fails to pay the development levy will be merged with a sister autonomous community that has paid and the salaries/allowances of the traditional ruler of the erring community will be suspended,” it said.
The directive stressed that sensitization meeting and monitoring would be embarked upon, to ensure compliance.
Expectedly, the directive attracted wide reactions from the people of the state with one of Governor OKorocha’s former ally, Chief Uche Onyeagucha, accusing the governor of plotting to dupe the 644 autonomous communities in the state the sum of almost N4billion in the dying days of his regime.
In a release signed by his media assistant, MacDonald Enwere, Onyeagucha who is contesting to take over from Okorocha in 2019, described the threats of withdrawal of their autonomy were they to fail to pay as well as suspension of salaries/allowances of their traditional rulers as cheap blackmail that is unacceptable and highly condemnable.
“However we do not expect less from a dubious and anti-people administration. Accordingly, we advise all autonomous communities, their Ezes and leaders to refrain from allowing their people from being duped. This attempt at extorting with official threat should be discountenanced”.
In an interview with journalists, the state commissioner for Community Government Council and Chieftaincy Affairs, Hon. Louis O. Duru, said the amount is meant to build one cottage industry in each of the communities.
According him, “before now and during the electioneering campaign Governor Okorocha promised only one thing– industrialisation and employment. This is the secret for the industrialisation and employment creation
“It is the intention of government to build one cottage industry through counterpart funding in each autonomous community. By that, we would have had 644 cottage industries in one year. In four years, we would have had about 2576 cottage industries and these industries will employ 20 citizens or youths. By now we would have had 51520 youths employed and taken away from the labour market. That is the employment aspect of this factrory factor and employment employment campaign.”
Duru maintained that the government has no intention of duping anybody because according to him, “This is not the first time the government is entering into a counter part funding for a project. The first one was when we came on board and found out that most of the schools were in dilapidated form. The government asked the communities to deposit N250,000 with the government providing N1million making the total amount to be N1,250,000. Each of these communities received it and they used it to rebuild their schools themselves. The government didn’t do it for them
“But this time around, it is meant to provide our youths with jobs creating these cottage industries and government would provide N4million on top of the N6million provided by the communities making it N10million.
“This money will be lodged in the community account not government account. All they need to provide is an evidence that they have this and government will release N4million and provide technical personnel to ensure that these factories are viable”.
He said there are many advantages that would be derived from the initiative which include development and industrialisation of our communities, creation of employment, improve the economic situation in communities and stem urban migration and insecurity
On the threat of merging communities that do not meet up with the levy, the commissioner said “The threat is is real. Any community that proves that it is not qualified to be autonomous will be withdrawn. There is no joke about it, This project didn’t just start. It started three years ago when each of these communities came to office and collected forms showing that they have 7000 taxable adults. If you have 7000 taxable adults, why can’t 2000 of them pay N3000 to attract a N10 million industry on a yearly basis
“Government didn’t just start asking the communities to raise N6million. It only request only 2000 members of these communities that claim to be viable to pay N3,000 each”k