By Wale Ibrahim, Lokoja
Controversies have continued to trail the grading and up grading of some traditional rulers by the Kogi State government as some community leaders accused the Ministry of Local Government and Chieftaincy Affairs of manipulations.
This followed the recent announcement by the State government that its has up graded a total of 88 traditional stools to various status across the 21 local government area of the state .
However, barely 24 hours hours after announcement of up grading in some communities leaders have started accusing the state government of meddling with their age long traditions ,saying the actions of the State government were repugnant to cultures and traditional values of their forefathers.
Some affected rulers have alleges hijack of the process by officials of Local Government and Chieftaincy Affairs who sell positions to highest bidders.
Some traditional rulers in Kogi State who lost out in the recent upgrading by the state government have accused officials of the Ministry of Local Government and chieftaincy affairs of commercialising the exercise.
The traditional rulers who spoke with newsmen in Lokoja alleged sales of the traditional titles to highest bidders.
They accused the Ministry officials of demanding and collecting between N300,000 and N10million for upgrading depending on their present status.
One of the traditional rulers disclosed on condition of anonymity that classless chiefs were paying 300,000 to be upgraded to 3rd class chiefs while the 3rd class chiefs were made to pay N400,000 to be upgraded to 2nd class.
He further explained that those already in 2nd class were made to pay N500,000 to climb up to First Class tittle, adding, “Your present status does not matter as long as you have money to pay you will be upgraded.”
The beaded chief said that as a result of the development, the office of the special Adviser to the Governor on Local Government and Cheiftaincy Affairs had become of a beehive of activities as 4th w royal fathers struggle to meet up with the payment demands.
One of the traditional rulers from Bassa, (names withheld) who visited the premises of the Nigeria Union of journalists (NUJ) to lodge his complaint said that he was upgraded to 3rd class in 1997 by former Military administrator in the state.
He said that ordinarily and in the order of seniority, he ought have been upgraded to 2nd class position on merit but was denied he had no money to give.
He alleged that a traditional ruler who was upgraded to 3rd class in 2007 was upgraded to second class at his own expense because 400,000 changed hands.
According to him, when he approached the ministry about the abnormally, he was advised to go and look for 400,000 and pay for him to be upgraded.
The traditional ruler who was in tears said there is no way he could raise 400,000.
He therefore cautioned the state government against setting a bad precedence that would impact negatively on the integrity of the traditional institution in the State.
The traditional ruler expressed worry over a situation where non-indigenes of the state holding ordinary chieftaincy titles were also graded and by implication, had become members of traditional Council.
He feared that such development would create crisis between the royal heritage who own the domain and the title holders who were visitors and without domain.
The royal father questioned where such upgraded title holder would exercise his rulership and over who.
When contacted, one of the directors in the ministry debunked the allegations saying they were false adding that it was not possible as all the processes leading to the upgrading were transparent.
He stated that is not possible to sell traditional tittles, saying that it a figment of imagination of those saying traditional stools are for sales in the state.
He directed the newsmen to the Special Adviser to the Governor, on Local Government and Chieftaincy Matters, Engineer Abubakar Ohere for further clarification.
However, all efforts to see the special Adviser to speak on the allegations proved abortive as he was said to have traveled out of town as at press time.