Governor Ben Ayade of Cross River State has stopped the salaries of all political appointees, elected local government chairmen, councillors and other political office holders in the state who refused to join the governor in his new party, the All Progressive Congress (APC).
Tribune Online gathered that the affected political appointees and officeholders have had their salaries and emoluments withheld by the governor since May 2021, even as salaries of other government functionaries, especially civil servants, had since been paid.
It was further gathered that the refusal to pay the affected individuals was not unconnected with their refusal to stay put in the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) which Governor Ayade dumped for the APC some five weeks ago.
A source in the office of the state Accountant General told journalists in confidence that the governor instructed the office of the state accountant general and that of the legislature to withhold further payments of those elected officers who refused to defect to the APC.
This was just as the PDP, Caretaker Committee Chairman in the state, Mr Effiok Cobham, condemned the action of APC led government, lamenting that some members of the House of Assembly and some councillors in some of the local government councils also had their salaries withheld.
Cobham described the development as worrisome because salaries and allowances remain the legitimate earnings of the affected functionaries, adding that such should have nothing to do with the party, and promised that such political perfidy on the part of the governor would be challenged legally.
“It is criminal to seize elected officers’ salaries and allowances for not defecting to APC with you. It is true that all benefits and entitlements due to PDP legislators at the Assembly and some councillors have been stopped because they are keeping faith with their party.
“The Governor is not paying from his pocket. He has even collected the official cars allocated to some of the legislators. The councillors are being threatened and harassed daily, thereby putting fears into them.
“Well, we as a party would not fold our hands and allow our members to be humiliated just because they refused to join Ayade in APC. We shall seek redress in a competent court of law soon.”
A source at the Assembly Complex in Calabar who pleaded anonymity disclosed that the total amount of money due to the members was in the tune of N11m which includes their allowances of N1.5m each and N200, 000 each for their legislative aides.
The affected lawmakers are Rt.Hon Fred Osim (Ikom I), Okpechi Gabreil (Obubra I), Nelson Ofem ( Yakurr I), Elizabeth Ironbar (Akpabuyo), Efa Esua ( Municipality) and Itam Abang ( Boki I).
The source further hinted that the Speaker had dissolved all the House Committees in line with the House Rules at the end of every legislative session.
“It is possible that none of the seven legislators would be allowed to head sensitive committees anymore,” the source disclosed.
When contacted by newsmen, the Speaker of the House of Assembly, Rt Hon Jones William Eteng, said he was not aware that some members’ allowances had been seized, adding that all salaries due them had been paid to date.