MEET FRANK OSHANUGOR
By Frank Oshanugor
Contrary to the trending video in the social media alleging that the Chairman of Aniocha South Local Government Area in Delta State, Pastor Jude Chukwunwike had ordered the demolition of campaign billboard of a Labour Party House of Assembly candidate, the Council boss has reacted, describing the video as a pure blackmail.
The Council Chairman, Chukwunwike while responding to a phone call put across to him by AtlanticNewsonline Editor-in-Chief, said he had expected this type of blackmail from the candidate Mr. Harrison Gwamnishu who has allegedly taken advantage of the fact that he hails from the same Ubulu-Uku with the Council Chairman to undermine the authorities of the Aniocha South Local Government.
According to Pastor Chukwunwike, he had privately advised Gwamnishu as a brother from the same town in spite of their political difference to obey the existing law on signage and offset his signage fees like other candidates. This, Gwamnishu failed to do, and has chosen to give the action of the TaskForce on Signage a political coloration accusing him of sabotaging him simply because he (Chairman) is a People’s Democratic Party (PDP) member.
The Local Government Chairman told AtlanticNewsonline that in spite of the fact that the Labour Party candidate has the highest number of bill boards in the local government area, he has remained recalcitrant in paying his fees.
Sequel to the Chairman’s explanation, AtlanticNewsonline obtained a press statement earlier made on Thursday morning by authorities of the Council. It reads: “The attention of Aniocha South Local Government Area has been drawn to the antics of an aspirant in one of the political parties that failed to adhere to extant guidelines for the erection of billboards in the council area.
“Mr. Harrison Gwamnishu, a House of Assembly aspirant under the Labour Party had put up some billboards within the council area without recourse to Aniocha South Signage Task Force, a group working in collaboration with the Delta State Signage and Advertisement Agency (DESAA).
“The Signage Task Force has been undertaking its responsibilities which border on regulating the building and utilisation of billboards for all purposes, including business organizations, social groups, individuals and political parties well before political campaigns began.
“What happened to Mr. Harrison Gramnishu’s campaign office was an exercise carried out by the Aniocha South Local Government Signage Task Force. The Signage Task Force had written to Mr. Harrison Gwamnishu officially, three weeks ago, asking him to pay his signage levy for the signages in his campaign office. They had even visited Mr. Gwamnishu in his office, met with him in person and appealed to him to pay the Signage levy. All of these pleas to Mr. Gwamnishu fell on deaf ears. At the end, the Signage Task Force had to do the needful by carrying out its duty.
“They carried an enforcement exercise by removing the illegal signages mounted on the walls of Harrison Gwamnishu campaign office. No one stops any politician contesting for elective office from advertising and erecting billboards as long as they do the needful by paying their signage levy.
“If Mr. Gwamnishu had paid his signage levy as required by law, none of this would have happened. Mr. Gwamnishu is not the only politician in Aniocha South Local Government Area contesting for political office. All other politicians in all the political parties paid their signage levies before putting up their billboards. They are still standing till today.
“Why then should Mr. Harrison Gwamnishu be exempted from paying his signage levy?
As is characteristic of him, rather than undertake the simple task of paying the token required to display his signages, Mr. Gwamnishu resorted to blackmail.
“Mr. Gwamnishu’s action is unfair, unkind and untrue. At this time that the political process is on high gear, it is evil, satanic and mischievous for anyone to wilfully mislead the public in a way that is capable of inflaming the peace in Aniocha South Local Government. This malicious propaganda under the guise of politics is dangerous and is apparently designed to instigate violence and mistrust.
“As can be seen, the local government council and PDP in Aniocha South had no hand in this.
The intention of Mr. Gwamnishu is to mislead the people and instigate the unwary public into violence. We urge the good people of Aniocha South LGA to ignore the antics of Mr. Gwamnishu. Neither the council nor the PDP has any reason to deny him his right to display his signages anywhere he deems suitable. He only has to pay the statutory levy required to do so.
“Members of the public are hereby urged to remain calm and allow the Aniocha South Signage Task Force carry out its responsibilities. In Aniocha South, respect for the rule of law and respect for the rights of individuals and groups to undertake lawful activities are virtues both the council and the people hold on to tenaciously. No individual can disrupt our respect for rule of law, our rights and our freedoms.”
However, when AtlanticNewsonline later got in touch with Mr. Harrison Gwamnishu for his own side of the story, he said he was away to Abuja when he got several calls informing him that the branding in his Campaign headquarters in Ogwashi-Uku has been vandalised by some signage agency officials reportedly in respect of indebtedness for his bill boards.
According to him, he was not owning any fee for all his bill boards at Ogwashi-Uku, Ubulu-Uku and elsewhere. He explained that some days ago, his attention was drawn to the bill board he mounted at Umunede junction whereby one Mr. Special Itua had instructed the signage officials to remove the bill board with the contention that the very position at Umunede where he erected his bill board was a special position for a particular political party.
He posited that his billboard was subsequently demolished in spite of having paid for the space. While waiting for a refund of his NI40,000 earlier paid for the position, a bill of N510,000 was brought to him for branding his campaign headquarters.
The Labour Party candidate maintained that he still did not object to paying the N510,000 but asked that the debt of N140,000 he was being owed for destroying the bill board at Umunede junction should be deducted from the N510,000 while he would arrange to pay the balance.
He said that to his greatest surprise, the signage agency could not give him time to sort out the balance as he was away to Abuja when officials of the agency came and jumped through the fence into his campaign office premises to demolish his branded bill board.
When asked why he did not comply with the “brotherly” advice given to him by the Local Government Chairman, Pastor Chukwunwike to the effect that he should offset his indebtedness in good time to avoid embarrassment from the Signage Task Force officials, Gwamnishu said he never had any discussion with the Chairman privately and was not aware of such brotherly advice.
Meanwhile, the Chairman has assured that if the Labour Party candidate could provide evidence of payment for his bill boards in the various council areas, management of the Council would ensure that his demolished bill board is promptly replaced.