Landlord seals ABSIEC office •Director of Administration removed
Posted by Boniface Okoro, Umuahia | 21 December 2016 | 2,250 times
Activities were disrupted Tuesday at the headquarters of the Abia State Independent Electoral Commission (ABSIEC) on Library Road in Umuahia as an angry landlord of the Commission’s office building sealed up the premises to press home his demand for the payment of about N8 million arrears of rent owed him in the last seven years by the state government.
The action took workers of the Commission who rushed to work early in the morning to put finishing touches to preparations for the local government election slated for today, Wednesday, December 21, by surprise.
Though the gate of the Commission was latter opened to the workers following appeals by government officials that the demand of the landlord would be looked into, the Director of Administration of the Commission, Kingsley Ogba Nwokoro, was relieved of his position hours later with immediate effect.
It was gathered that efforts by the ABSIEC landlord to secure the payment of the arrears of rent owed him have proved abortive, even when the state Governor, Dr. Okezie Ikpeazu, has given a directive to that effect since June this year.
After the governor’s approval, the Attorney-General and Commissioner for Justice, Chief Umeh Kalu (SAN) was to work out modalities for paying the over N8 million rent arrears with Chief Dennis Ekumankama, the lawyer of the landlord.
The parties agreed that the money should be paid in three tranches.
However, the government paid just one tranche of N3.5 million and all efforts to get her to honour the agreement hit the brick wall.
In a bid to draw the attention of the Governor to his plight, the landlord had to seal the premises.
However, following the intervention of the office of the Attorney-General and promises that the matter would be handled with dispatch, the landlord unsealed the commission.
A family source told News Express that there was no intention to derail the council election or a display of any anti-government feelings.
“The governor is a nice man. He has been kind to us and has listened to us. He has shown us that he has a human face. We cannot do anything to hurt him.
“Our action was to send a signal to him that his instruction that we be paid the arrears of rent owed us has not been complied with.
“It could be that somebody, somewhere decided to sit on the Governor’s instruction and he may not have known that we are yet to be paid,” the source said.
Another family source said that the same accommodation had been given to the Local Government Service Commission upon the creation of Abia State and they stayed for four years without paying a dime before they packed out.
He said the landlord had similar experience when officials of Arts and Culture were accommodated in the premises, stressing that they vacated without paying their arrears of rent.
He said that by February 2017, the arrears owed by ABSIEC would climb to over N11 million.
He appealed to the governor to show mercy to the family and liquidate the mounting arrears of rent.
Meanwhile, news filtered in from the commission later in the afternoon that the Director of Administration, Kingsley Ogba Nwokoro, had been replaced with a new hand.
It was said that he was summoned to the Government House and on his return, he removed his personal belongings from his office and left.
As at press time, it was not clear what led to the replacement of the director but a staff of the Commission confirmed the development.
When News Express visited ABSIEC office in the afternoon, normal office activities and preparations for the local government election were in top gear.