By Chris Gaga
Benue State Governor, Samuel Ortom has dared the EFCC to begin their investigation of Security votes of previous governors of the State from 1999, if their investigation of his administration would be considered valid.
In a State Broadcast to the people of Benue, Wednesday, Ortom denied alleged misappropriation ,diverting and stealing of funds meant for the State, describing his investigation by the EFCC as a clear case of persecution.
The Benue State governor is being investigated by the EFCC for allegedly embezzling about N23billion said to be security votes and LG funds.
Ortom Said “as I earlier alerted the people, EFCC is now probing the state Security vote. So far, I am the only governor in Nigeria whose Security vote is being investigated by EFCC. Recently, the Presidential spokesman Mr. Femi Adesina, said on Channels Television and I quote “ I doubt, world over, if any government would come to say this is how much we have spent on security, because can you quantify the amount of one life? It is not something that any government will begin to disclose”. Why should Benue case be different if not persecution? If the EFCC wanted a genuine investigation of security vote spending they should have started from the Presidency right across the 36 States. If their focus was on Benue State they should have started from 1999. But this is not the case. With the enormous security challenges in the State since my assumption of office it is surprising that any one would expect me to do nothing but keep the security vote in the safe. The security vote spending being investigated spans from 2015 to 2018, a period of grave security challenges in the State. I reiterate that the investigation is a clear case of persecution. I have not misappropriated, diverted or stolen any money. I have nothing to hide. I assure that the investigators can find nothing incriminating against me”
Speaking on the security situation, the Benue State Governor alerted Nigerians of the grand conspiracy by Senator George Akume and other enemies of the State to invade Benue with large number of cattle and mercenaries to cause more insecurity in the State, having failed to entrench impunity in his connivance with minority members of the Benue State House of Assembly to impeach him.
“The wave of illegality with impunity is here with us. On Monday, the impeached speaker of the Benue state House of Assembly, Hon. Terkimbi Ikyange, along with seven members of All Progressives Congress (APC) in the house created a scandalous scene. They were escorted to the Assembly by heavily armed policemen in several trucks to perpetrate the level of impunity we have never seen before in this state.
“The mission appears to be the second phase of the deliberate destabilization of our dear state after the Fulani herdsmen concerted invasion, killings and destruction. All these are coming under the veil of a plan to impeach some opposition governors including the democratically elected governor of Benue State. The ultimate objective of the grand conspiracy is the destabilization of the entire Middle Belt and other parts of the country for the purpose of conquest and occupation.
“Twenty-two out of the 30 members of the State assembly sat and changed their leadership. This is in accordance with the provisions of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999(as amended) as well as the Standing Rules of the House. The twenty-two members approached the Makurdi High Court, sought and obtained an injunction restraining the former leaders from parading themselves as leaders of the house. The restraining order also covered the police and Department of State Services (DSS). They were restrained from occupying the premises of the assembly and interfering with members’ lawful duties.
“Both the impeached speaker who was also suspended for six months, and other leaders mobilized the police and blatantly disobeyed the court order. In disobedience to the court order, the police prevented the 22 members from getting into the house premises while they escorted the 8 members right into the chambers for illegal sitting without the Clerk or his Deputy. They did not also form a quorum for the sitting. However, in that sitting, illegality became the order of the day. These included the purported suspension of the 15 members and passing a resolution to serve an impeachment notice on me. It is clear that this impunity with illegality is dead on arrival. You can see the wide spread condemnations, from President Muhammadu Buhari, right across the country and beyond.
“Having failed to achieve their anti-Benue objectives so far, the next phase is likely to be the unleashing of massive Fulani militia to embark on more devastating attacks and killings in the state. The most unfortunate aspect is that some sons of the state including a serving senator have been recruited and mobilized to lead this phase. My dear Benue people, as your Governor, I swore to respect and protect the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, and that is what I have been doing. Needless to say I have been performing my role creditably well as governor”, Gov Ortom alerted
while refuting claims by the minority 8 members of the Benue Assembly that he has not performed in the last three years of his administration, also gave his score card.
“In spite of our challenges especially insecurity instigated by Fulani herdsmen invasion and financial crunch, we have constructed roads and bridges across the state.We have mobilized Contractors to site on 11 roads, two of which have been completed. These are Oshigbudu-Obagaji and Zaki- Biam- Gbeji Roads. There is ongoing work on several other roads including Origbo-Imande Akpu-Gbajimba and Mobile Barracks-Yaikyo Roads. We have over 100 ongoing rural access roads with many of them completed, and 43 completed electricity projects with several still ongoing. We have 740 primary school projects with 60 percent completion. We have renovated Secondary schools including Government Girls Secondary School and Government College both in Makurdi. We have improved the facilities at the College of Health Sciences of the Benue State University, Makurdi which led to the graduation of five sets of 175 doctors after 12 years of stagnation. We have renovated and re-opened the School of Nursing and Midwifery as well as College of Health Technology Agasha which have now received full accreditation and resumed academic activities. In addition, it is worthy of note that our School of Nursing is now affiliated to Benue State University as a degree awarding institution. We have constructed 42 Primary Health Care Centres fully equipped and handed over to communities and you are using them in your various communities. Similarly, we have constructed Enterprise Development and Innovation centers popularly called Skills Acquisition centers in Gbajimba, Apa- Agila and Makurdi. All these are completed. An ultra-modern Deputy Governor’s Office has been completed and is being occupied. In Partnership with International Development agencies we have over 800 water schemes providing water in Benue communities. In the area of education, health, poverty alleviation and infrastructure, we have done well and it is left for you to judge.
“In Agriculture and agro allied industries we have also performed creditably well. We have made fertilizer easily available at subsidized prices. We have renovated and equipped laboratories at Akperan Orshi College of Agricuture, Yandev. Agricultural productivity has improved. In partnership with the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) we have developed 35 kilometres of access roads in Five Local Governments and four Aggregation centres in Logo, Guma, Gwer East and Ogbadibo. We have completed Rice Processing Centres in Gwer East and Otukpo Local Government Areas. We have also completed Garri Processing and Packaging plants in Agatu and Ohimini Local Government Areas. We have Sesame Seed Cleaning and Packaging plant in Oju, and we completed the one in Daudu which was inherited from the past Adminstration. We have Soyabean Cleaning and Packaging Plant in Wannune, Orange Cleaning, Packaging and Juice making Factory in Ushongo and Yandev, Gboko. How can anyone say we have not performed given our enormous challenges?”,Ortom wondered.
On the issue of salary, governor Ortom said, “My challenge has been payment of salaries which is a result of the N69 Billion I inherited as arrears of salaries, pensions and gratuities as well as another N70 Billion commitment on contracts and other obligations. Benue State also has very low Internally Generate Revenue (IGR) but has the third highest salary bill in the country. It is surpassed by only Lagos and Rivers States. During the recession we used two months allocation to pay one month. However, from January this year, we have faithfully paid each month up to June and by next week, July salaries will be paid. But for Benue State University staff, their salaries are paid up to date.
“We have repeatedly assured the Benue people that we are sourcing funds to pay arrears of salaries, pensions and gratuity. I will continue to do my best to pay because I know that a worker deserves his wage. I have also directed the reinstatement of workers who were wrongly included on the list of ghost workers. I am totally committed to meeting the yearnings and aspirations of my people. Democracy is nothing more than doing what majority of people want their leaders to do”
The embattled governor of Benue who admonished the People of the State to resist any attempt by anti-Benue individuals to destabilize the State and propagate impunity and illegality, appealed to the federal government to rescue the nation’s democracy from total destruction noting that he did no crime for defecting to the PDP.
“I am calling on His Excellency, President Muhammadu Buhari, to protect the democracy that brought him to power by directing the Police and other security agencies to respect the rule of law for the survival of democracy in Nigeria. I say this because the President is the ultimate head of all security agencies in the country. I call on our traditional and religious leaders, civil society organizations, Mass media, Unions and all people of conscience, who love democracy to help avert the emerging impunity in our beloved state. Impunity is dangerous and destructive. Its negative effects on people and institutions can be very far reaching. If unchecked, its unexpected consequences will consume all, including those deploying it as an instrument of power.
“My fellow patriots. I have committed no crime. Today I am facing persecution just because I love my people. I am being persecuted because I am a true democrat. I am giving you concrete dividends of democracy. You asked for the Open Grazing Prohibition and Ranches Establishment Law 2017 to regulate the relationship between farmers and herders in the State which I obliged. Now that the Ranching Law is in place, the enemies of our State are out to harass and blackmail us. I assure you that we will not be deterred. What exactly is wrong in asking the people of Benue to ranch their cattle? The world is not waiting for us. If we don’t ranch now, we will be forced to do so soon because there will be no land to practice open grazing anywhere in Nigeria.
“What is wrong in changing party? When I left PDP some years ago to join APC, I was exercising my democratic rights. I have left APC back to PDP where I served for over 12 years at various times as executive committee member. I left as a Minister in the PDP government and joined APC but I was not persecuted. Permit me to call on you, my dear people of Benue state to remain prayerful, calm, and law abiding. As I have always told you “Though the giants may be on the way to hinder, God will surely give us victory”, the Benue governor Said.