The Chairman of the Akure North Local Government Area, Ondo State, Bankole Ogbesetore, has been accused of leading hoodlums to beat up workers at the local government and used thugs to disperse members of the Nigerian Union of Local Government Employees (NULGE) protesting in front of the council secretariat, SUNSHINETRUTH has learnt.
During the protest, it was learnt that the thugs, who stormed the premises on motorcycles around 12pm on Wednesday, allegedly used different weapons to attack and disperse the union members.
The workers were demonstrating over funds allegedly embezzled by the previous council administration.
One of the injured protesters, Adedeji Fagoroyo, said the hoodlums used iron rods to smash his head.
The 42-year-old said, “During my administration as the NULGE chairman, I secured a loan of N160m for the local government workers. We fixed a time to repay the loan.
PUNCH reports that the agreement was that part of the beneficiaries’ salaries would be paid into the local government’s account, from where each beneficiary would be issued a cheque to be taken to the bank that granted us the loan.
“The last administration embezzled N4m of the loan repayment in its account and till date, we have not been able to repay the bank. The bank has threatened to blacklist the names of beneficiaries of the loan, which had accumulated to N12m. Since this is a new administration and it inherited the liabilities of the past administration, we held the protest because of the issue.
“We protested for two hours when the hoodlums sent by the chairman stormed the front gate of the secretariat and used different weapons to brutalise us.
The chairman pointed in my direction and told the hoodlums to kill me and they used iron rods to hit my head, face and body.”
Another picture showed him lying on a hospital bed, with one of his eyes bandaged.
Another victim, Alaba Olafusi, said she and other protesters scampered for safety when the hoodlums started attacking them.
She said, “We wanted to do the protest to create awareness about our loan that was embezzled by the last administration and complain that the interest on it has accumulated. We have written a series of letters to the past chairman and the new chairman, so we could get back our money, but nothing has been done.
“We feel maybe if we protest, they will respond to our request. But on getting to the place, the chairman called the hoodlums to beat us up and we had to run away from the premises. I saw when they were beating Fagoroyo yesterday (Wednesday).”
Ogbesetore, however, denied sending hoodlums to attack the protesters.
He said, “During my tough election, I didn’t use thugs, so, how can I mobilise thugs to the council? Yesterday, I was having a meeting with some people in the office when I heard a noise where I parked my car. I also saw some people fighting and I was thinking maybe the police came to arrest some people without notifying us.
“We rushed out and on getting to the place, he (Fagoroyo) was trying to get my car key and lock it; he sent people out of the office and wanted to lock my door when people exclaimed. I was surprised and he said he did not want to look at anybody. They started dragging with a woman and everything went on like that until I called the police.
“The people that embezzled the money have gone; they know the plight of the local government that there is no money, but if they had come to me, I would have gone to the commission to look for a way out.
“They already sent a letter to the office and when I got the letter, I sent it to the director of administration in the council to treat.
“When the misunderstanding was on yesterday, the current NULGE chairman came to settle the matter and we concluded that everybody should come to the state ministry of local government on Monday.”
The state Police Public Relations Officer, Tee-leo Ikolo said, “We are investigating the issue. Some said they (protesters) were not peaceful and some said they were peaceful. The state Commissioner of Police has asked the division to commence investigation.”