Umuahia — TRADITIONAL rulers in Abia State have accused the state House of Assembly of extorting about N80 million from autonomous communities in the state.
The royal fathers claimed that the House asked each of the autonomous communities to pay N100,000 as levy for re-accreditation. There are about 800 autonomous communities in the state.
The monarchs, who made the report to Governor Theodore Orji when they visited him, decried the levy which they said was illegal.
According to the monarchs, it is only the governor that can save them from the alleged extortion by the House of Assembly.
Chairmen of the traditional rulers in the 17 local government areas of the state was led by Chairman of the Abia State Traditional Rulers Council, Eze John Akaliro, when they made the complaint to the Governor and asked him to intervene in then matter.
"You are the only person we can come to for protection and we want you to save us sir," the royal fathers said.
According to Eze Akaliro, the lawmakers distributed forms to autonomous communities in the state, asking them to fill and return the form with the sum of N100,000 per community.
The form, according to the House,is for the verification of autonomous status of each community.
The monarchs said the same House of Assembly had about two years ago issued similar forms which the autonomous communities also filled and returned with N40,000.
Akaliro told the governor that the House had fixed February 19,2013, as deadline for the return of the forms with the N100,000 levies, which the autonomous communities were not willing to pay.
The traditional rulers wondered what the House of Assembly was up to as similar levy and exercise were carried out not long ago. The monarchs also urged the governor to prevail on the lawmakers to restore the five percent monthly stipends accruable to them through the Local Government Councils which they alleged was slashed to 2% by the lawmakers.
In his response, Governor Orji denied knowledge of the said levy, explaining that all three arms of government were independent of one another.
He, however, promised to investigate the allegation to determine the real motive of the lawmakers, even as he pleaded with the royal fathers to be patient until he met with the leadership of the House.
"I don't think they will start hatching plans that will jeopardize your interest because they are all from your autonomous communities," Orji stated.
Deputy Speaker of the House, Chief Alwell Okere, who doubles as the House Committee Chairman on Information, denied the allegation.
According to him, the autonomous communities were not asked to pay any levy but to fill and return the forms.
"I think this issue has been resolved. They should fill and return the forms," Okere explained.