Gbenga Odogun, Lokoja
Controversy has continued to surround the upgrading of traditional stools in Kogi State as some affected traditional rulers have alleged manipulation of the process by officials of the Ministry of Local Government and Chieftaincy Affairs.
The state government had last week upgraded no fewer than 85 traditional rulers.
Speaking to journalists on Friday, some of the traditional rulers alleged upgrades were being sold to the highest bidders.
They accused the ministry officials of demanding and collecting between N300,000 and N10m for their upgrading, depending on their present status.
One of the traditional rulers, who spoke on condition of anonymity, alleged that “classless chiefs” were paying N300,000 to be upgraded to third-class chiefs, while the third- class chiefs were made to pay N400,000 to be upgraded to second class.
He alleged that those already in second class were made to pay N500,000 to climb up to first class title, saying, “Your present status does not matter. As long as you have money to pay, you will be upgraded.”
The traditional ruler said as a result of the development, the Office of the Special Adviser to the Governor on Local Government and Chieftaincy Affairs had become a beehive of activities as royal fathers struggle to meet up with the payment demands.
A traditional ruler from Bassa, who pleaded anonymity complained that he was upgraded to third class in 1997 by the then military administrator of the state, Colonel Bzigu Afakriya (retd.).
He said he ought to have been upgraded to a second class monarch based on merit but was denied because he had no money to give.
He claimed he knew a traditional ruler friend who became a third-class monarch in 2007 but had been upgraded to second class after paying N400,000.
When contacted on Friday, one of the directors in the Ministry of Local Government and Chieftaincy Affairs, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorised to speak on the issue, debunked the allegations, contending that all the processes leading to the traditional rulers’ upgrade were transparent.
The official then directed our correspondent to the Special Adviser to Governor Yahaya Bello on Local Government and Chieftaincy Matters, Mr. Abubakar Ohere, for further clarification.
However, all efforts to see Ohere to speak on the allegations proved abortive as he was said to have travelled out of town as of press time.