Benue Governor, Samuel Ortom

The elected chairmen were directed to pay N60,000, while councillors paid N25,000 as “handling charges” for the certificates.

Winners of the Saturday local government elections have accused the Benue State Independent Commission (BSIEC) of “extorting” monies from them before issuing certificates of return.

The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that the elected chairmen were directed to pay N60,000, while councillors paid N25,000 as “handling charges” for the certificates.

But the elected officials, who expressed surprise at the charges, described them as “strange and unknown”.

“I came to receive my certificate of return but was taken aback when I was told that I have to pay a fee of N60,000. It is very strange. It has never happened before,” an elected chairman from Benue Central, told NAN, craving anonymity.

Another elected chairman, who also craved anonymity, wondered what the state electoral body meant by “handling charges” after candidates paid huge sums for forms and screening procedures.

“The certificates (of return) are supposed to be free; chairmanship candidates paid N250,000, while those aspiring to be councillors paid N155,000 to obtain forms from BSIEC.

“To ask us to pay another money now is mere extortion. We shall take it up with the governor,” he fumed.

A councillor-elect for Makurdi Local Government, equally accused BSIEC of extortion, saying that he initially refused to pay.

“I only looked for the money and paid because others were paying. I wonder why this became necessary,” he said.

BSIEC sources indicated that more than N8 million was realised from the “handling” fees paid by the 23 chairmen and 294 councillors-elect, who are expected to be sworn in this week.

Contacted, BSIEC Chairman, Dr. John Tsuwa, said that the fee paid by the elected chairmen and councillors was not illegal.

“It is within the ambit of the electoral guidelines and endorsed by the electoral laws,” Tsuwa, who spoke through BSIEC’s Director of Information, Austin Odiba, told NAN.

He explained that the commission collected money from the elected local government officers before issuing certificates of return because there was a provision for that in the guidelines.

“The money is a small token to cover handling charges. All the amounts are stipulated in the electoral guidelines.

“We stated it very clearly that at the end of the elections, winners must pay the fees before getting certificates of return,” he said.

pulse.ng – Politics