By SaharaReporters, New York
A monumental fraud involving millions of Naira is rocking the Delta State Independent Electoral Commission (DSIEC), with the Secretary, Deacon Eric Osharode, accused of stealing and converting the commission’s property into private use.
Deacon Osharode, a career civil servant and the chairman of the forum of Administrative Officers in the state, was drafted to the commission pending the constitution of a substantive commission. He has allegedly been giving kick backs to the state Head of Service, Sir Okey Ofili. In turn, he is said to have given the secretary some level of support to run the commission as a private estate.
Investigations by our reporter revealed that misappropriation of funds meant for the running of the commission has been on the increase, alongside the autocratic attitude of the secretary.
Deacon Osharode is alleged to have been giving a top government official and Sir Ofili the sum of N100,000 each per month out of a N280,000 account meant for buying diesel fuel to run the commission’s plant.
An impeccable source in the commission who confided in our reporter said, “The Commission hardly has power supply, especially when the public power supply is not available, to carry out normal office functions and staff are often seen outside under shade for air and comfort. This is so because the generating set in the Commission which is supposed to supply power has suddenly been abandoned as the Secretary often claims that there are no funds to purchase diesel to run it. Whereas, he spends the sum N200, 000 monthly from the N280, 000 Diesel Funds as PRO to a top government official and the Head of Service for no reason while staff of his immediate constituency suffer. To worsen matters, the additional eighty thousand naira left for the monthly purchase of diesel is further slashed down to N40, 000 by Deacon Osharode as part of his “fallout” from the diesel funds.”
Sources disclosed further that Deacon Osharode barely reports for duty as he is currently running a full-time law programme at the Oleh Campus of the Delta State University. They said that the staff has written severally to the Head of Service on this matter, but that no action has been taken on the matter. “The inability of Deacon Osharode to differentiate and/ or decipher the workings and laws establishing the Delta State Independent Electoral Commission and that of the core Service has remain one our biggest challenges,” one of them said.
It was also gathered that as soon as the state governor sent the names of would-be commission members to the Delta State House of Assembly for screening, the embattled Secretary connived with one Mr. Steven Idogun to hurriedly do a letter purportedly from the office of the SSG for boarding of over 10 official vehicles of the commission and he (Osharode) sneaked one of them to his private apartment while the rest were taken to an unknown destination.
Deacon Osharode was also accused of indiscriminate and illegal deployment of civil servants from other ministries such as the Health, Agriculture and Education as against the laws guiding the commission.
A source said it is on record that the pioneer Secretary to the commission, Pastor I.E. Agbeyeke built a foundation which succeeding Executive Secretaries to the commission were expected to build upon, saying that that legacy has been destroyed by the current Secretary.
“On assumption of duty, Deacon Osharode came up with his plans to restructure the Commission which according to him was standing on a base that was too groggy. As a follow-up to his ‘master plan’, he embarked on “streamlining” of the various cadres of officers which he said were wrongly placed on “questionable” Salary Grade levels. Consequently, Deacon Osharode downgraded most officers of the Commission. Deacon Osharode has boasted to staff that he would sit tight and remain as the Secretary to the commission till his retirement whether staff liked it or not and that if he was a Permanent Secretary, he would ensure he is transferred back to the commission and as the chairman of forum of administrative officers in Delta state, the state government would have no option but oblige his request.”
Deacon Osharode who was described as an ethnic chauvinist with an unparalleled hatred for the Itsekiri ethnic nationality is said to be promoting a system of divide and rule in the Commission.
“He believes so much in the extant rules of the Delta State Public Service but has failed to prove to officers of this Commission a section of the Public Service rules that promotes and emphasizes ethnicity in the placement of staff in the Service.”
Deacon Osharode is also being accused of misappropriation of DSIEC funds as he is alleged to have acquired landed properties including filling stations and hotels, among others, in the state barely six years he assumed duty in DSIEC.
The DSIEC was established in 1999 in consonance with the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. The Commission’s Enabling Law was also enacted within the same period thereby giving the Commission the powers and working tools to operate as an institution of the Delta State Government.
The Commission’s staff was employed according to laid down procedures as spelt out in section 202 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and sections 11 and 18 of DSIEC Law. The people have called on Governor’s Uduaghan, as a matter of urgency, to remove withdraw and or transfer the embattled Secretary of the Delta State Independent Electoral Commission as it is obvious that he cannot work in tandem with staff and officers of the Commission anymore and should be posted to any other government department.
The current amended/enabling law of the commission which was assented to by the state governor a few months ago states that the Secretary of the commission shall be appointed from the commission and its staff recruited independently, with no affiliation to the civil service. By that amendment, Deacon Osharode ceased to be a secretary of the commission, but the head of service has allowed him to continue.
When approached, the embattled Secretary denied his involvement in any fraudulent practices in the commission, but he told our correspondent in his office that actually took one of the vehicles for his private use and has since paid for it. It is not on record that such a vehicle, to have been purchased by anyone, was ever put before the public according to the regulations.
Indeed, when the reporter contacted the Secretary to the State Government (SSG), Comrade Ovuozorie Macaulay on the boarding of DSIEC vehicles, he denied that such a letter emanated from his office. “If government wants to dispose disused and unserviced vehicles there are procedures to follow, not a one man show. Government stopped the boarding of its vehicles since a year ago, as such I can tell you that no letter for boarding of vehicles came from my office.”
The SSG also frowned at the attitude of the secretary for allegedly carrying for himself one of the purported boarded vehicles without following the legal and open procedure.
On the allegation of “servicing” the head of service with N100,000, Deacon Osharode said, “I have tried not to involve myself in chopping alone so that I don’t die alone in this commission since I assumed office. Is there anything wrong assuming I am using money to do PRO to persons whom we felt always assist us to fight for our approval and speedy release of such approvals.”
On the deployment of civil servants to the commission, Deacon Osharode also displayed a letter purportedly endorsed by the state governor, Dr. Emmanuel Uduaghan, giving approval for the action.