TEXT OF A WORLD PRESS CONFERENCE ADDRESSED BY APC STAKEHOLDERS IN BENUE STATE ON THE DEARTH OF DEMOCRACY AND CONSTITUTIONALISM IN THE STATE UNDER GOVERNOR SAMUEL ORTOM ON FRIDAY, SEPTEMBER 14, 2018 AT ABUJA – NIGERIA.
We, the stakeholders of APC in Benue State, wish to use this medium to congratulate our Comrade National Chairman, His Excellency, Adams Oshiomhole and the entire National Working Committee of our party over their victory at the last APC National Convention. We wish you well in the exercise of your various responsibilities to the APC and the nation at large.
2. We also commend His Excellency, President Muhammadu Buhari for the numerous achievements recorded by the APC-led administration in areas like: Treasury Single Account (TSA), Social Investment Programme, including the N-Power graduate job scheme, the Home Grown School Feeding Programme, the Government Enterprise and Empowerment Scheme as well as the Conditional Cash Transfer. Other economic policies such as Ease of Doing Business, the National Economic Recovery and Growth Plan, Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises Clinics, Assets Recovery as well as Whistleblower policy. All these policies and programs are aimed at growing and sustaining the Nigerian economy.
3. The efforts of Mr. President’s administration in tackling security challenges in the country are also worthy of commendation. Boko Haram insurgents have been decimated to an appreciable level in such a manner that most of the Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) are now returning to their native land. The activities of herdsmen and cattle rustlers especially in the North Central States are being checked accordingly. The anti-corruption war of the administration is also yielding good fruits and we urge Mr. President to sustain the tempo.
4. Benue State is under siege by the Governor Samuel Ortom administration of the People’s Democratic Party. May we remind Nigerians for the umpteenth time that on the 11th of April 2015, the people of Benue State, democratically elected Governor Samuel Ortom, as the Executive Governor of the state on the platform of the All Progressives Congress (APC). On the 29th day of May 2015, Ortom took an Oath of office as the Governor of Benue state and swore on the Bible to among other things: not to allow his personal interest to influence his official conduct or his official decisions; that he will to the best of his ability preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria; that in all circumstances, he will do right to all manner of people according to law without fear or favour, affection or ill will.
5. The above are only few extractions from the oath of office to which Governor Ortom took. It is however sad and unfortunate that Ortom has engaged himself in clandestine meetings and plans with other desperate people to trample on and to breach the very Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, which he swore to protect and uphold. Upon the defection of Governor Samuel Ortom to the PDP, he has been engaged in serious constitution breaches capable of igniting violence and total breakdown of law and order in Benue State.
BENUE STATE HOUSE OF ASSEMBLY CRISIS
6. First, the Governor instigated and orchestrated the unlawful removal of the leadership of the Benue State House of Assembly led by Rt. Hon. Terkimbi Ikyange. In accordance with the Benue State House of Assembly Standing Rules, when the House of Assembly is on recess and a matter of urgent importance arises and there is a need to reconvene the House, it is only the Speaker or the Deputy Speaker acting on the instructions of the Speaker that can reconvene the House. The House had, on July 10, 2018 adjourned sitting till August 15, 2018. The Governor on Tuesday, July 24, 2018 illegally caused an emergency sitting of the Assembly wherein some members of the House wrote a letter to the Clerk and reconvened the House and purportedly sacked the Rt. Hon. Ikyange-led leadership of the House.
7. Rt. Hon. Terkimbi Ikyange approached the Makurdi High Court presided over by Hon. Justice Theresa Igoche and the Court gave an order restraining the purported new leadership led by Hon. Titus Uba from carrying out any legislative business pending the determination of the Motion. In her ruling the Judge held thus: “I have read the motion No. MHC/1694m/18 filed on August 10, 2018 together with the other process accompanying it. Particularly, I have looked at paragraphs 22-34 of the affidavit in support and paragraphs 5 to 13 of the affidavit of urgency. This court takes judicial notice of the order of interim injunction made against the plaintiffs/applicants on August 1, 2018 in suit No. MHC/259/18. “It is necessary for the purpose of averting any danger that may be caused and to avoid any breach of the peace, that this application be granted so that the members of the Benue State House of Assembly will not sit in the fifth plaintiff/applicant(s) complex until the motion on notice is heard and determined.”
8. Despite the ruling of the Court as stated above, Governor Samuel Ortom has continued to violate this directive by patronizing the Hon. Titus Uba-led faction of the State Assembly. They sit and carryout legislative business in Government House, Makurdi. Contempt proceedings have been filed against the affected law makers but because the Governor has hampered the State Judiciary, actions are still pending. In addition, the Governor has refused to pay the entitlements of the 8 Honourable members of the Assembly who have refused to defect to the PDP.
9. Secondly, Governor Samuel Ortom apart from recruiting and arming militia in order to cause mayhem in the 2019 general elections, has continued to use his Livestock Guards and Vigilante Group to harass and intimidate APC supporters across the State, particularly those who have refused to defect with him to the PDP. Nigerians may wish to recall that in January 2018, Soldiers of the 93 Battalion in Takum Area of Taraba State had arrested nine members of the Benue State Civilian Joint Task Force (CJTF) which was later renamed Livestock Guards with AK-47 riffles. The arrested members of the group are still in custody of the security agencies. We therefore call on security agencies to check the activities of these groups as we gear up to the 2019 general elections. Also, the Governor is pressuring the Police Authorities in Abuja to post a notorious Police officer who had worked in Benue State Command, was indicted and transferred to Imo State Command, as his Chief Security Officer (CSO). The whole idea is for the CSO to recruit and train “bad boys” against 2019. Many of the area boys who had vanished when the Governor was still in the APC have resurfaced now that he has gone back to his own vomit, the PDP.
HARASSMENT OF THE LOCAL GOVERNMENT SYSTEM
10. The plan of Governor Ortom to illegally dissolve the democratically elected Local Government Councils in the State is no longer a hidden agenda. In the wake of his defection to the PDP, he had coerced 12 out of the 23 Local Government Chairmen who were elected on the platform of the APC to follow him to the PDP. The other 11 LGC Chairmen who refused to move with him to the PDP have suffered series of victimization by the Governor. On Wednesday, September 12, 2018, the Governor purportedly suspended 3 local government Chairmen of Ogbadibo, Gwer-East and Vandeikya local government councils. They were accused of gross misconduct and embezzlement of local government funds. These allegations were confirmed by the Governor’s faction of the Benue State House of Assembly. In any case, where is the money for the Local Government Chairmen to embezzle when over 99.9% of the allocation meant for local government councils is retained by the Bureau for Local Government and Chieftaincy for the personal use of Governor Ortom and his cronies? This explains why the Governor is boasting of his ability and capacity to sponsor a Presidential Candidate and his campaign in the 2019 general elections in PDP.
TENURE OF LOCAL GOVERNMENT CHAIRMEN
11. Section 7(1) of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (as amended) Provides thus: "The system of Local Government by democratically elected local government Councils is under this Constitution guaranteed; and accordingly, the government of every State shall subject to Section 8 of this Constitution ensure their existence under a law which provides for the establishment, structure, composition, finance and functions of such Councils.
12. May the Governor of Benue State be reminded that, pursuant to the above provision of the Constitution, the Benue state House of Assembly enacted a law (The Benue State Local Government Law, 2007) which clearly specified the tenure of office of democratically elected local government Councils and pegs same to 2 years. This was reinforced by the introduced operational guidelines for the local government Councils. Section 26(1)(c) of the Local Government Law, CAP 98, Laws of Benue State, Vol. 2, 2004: A person shall hold office of Chairman until being a person whose election was sponsored by a political party, he resigns from that political party or becomes a member of another political party before the expiration of the period for which the Local Government was elected.
13. We are calling on the Local Government Chairmen who defected to PDP to quietly vacate their seats else we shall seek declaratory orders against them in the law courts. We also call on the Federal Ministry of Finance to as a matter of urgency cease the release of Federation Allocation to Benue State as it affects the 13 defected local government and 3 suspended Chairmen totaling 16 out of 23 local government councils in the state.
14. Nigerians are aware of the corruption allegations against Governor Samuel Ortom being investigated by the EFCC since 2016. The Governor who dedicated Benue State to God and promised not to touch the State funds under his watch, is deep into corruption. Governor Ortom since the inception of his administration has collected over N28bn bailout funds without clearing the arrears of salaries of workers and pensioners. This is in addition to other budget support initiatives of the Buhari Administration. The amount of money borrowed by the same administration of Ortom is huge with nothing to justify the loans collected. He is seeking court orders to stop the EFCC from investigating his financial activities after the Commission found out that over N23bn of state funds and N33bn of local government funds have been pilfered under his watch. The EFCC should not be deterred by the antics of the Governor whose game plan as usual is to divert attention from critical issues affecting the state.
15. Let the Governor of Benue state be warned that, he cannot change the rules of the game whilst it last or subsist. If the Governor does not desist from the planned onslaught against the Constitution and against the people of Benue State and the All Progressives Congress (APC)-led local government councils in all the 23 local government councils in the state, we the law abiding people of Benue State will use all constitutional means available to defend our rights. We urge Mr. President to take necessary actions to forestall the total breakdown of law and order in Benue State.
16. The APC Stakeholders in Benue State empathize with the good people of the State over the untold hardship occasioned by the non-performance of Governor Samuel Ortom. Our hearts go to the families of the civil servants, teachers and pensioners who have lost their lives as a result of the non-payment of salaries, pensions and gratuities. We assure the people of Benue State that the APC will continue to seek the support of the electorate to correct the wrongs of the Ortom administration in the forth-coming general elections. We commend our teeming supporters across the state for the confidence they have in the party and plead that they remain law abiding. All members of other political parties who share the vision of redeeming Benue State are warmly welcomed to the progressives family.
1. THE GOVERNOR SHOULD ALLOW THE LEGISLATIVE ARM OF GOVERNMENT IN THE STATE TO FUNCTION IN ACCORDANCE WITH THE PROVISIONS OF THE NIGERIA CONSTITUTION.
2. THE INCESSANT HARASSMENT AND DISLOCATION OF THE LOCAL GOVERNMENT SYSTEM IN BENUE STATE BY GOVERNOR SAMUEL ORTOM MUST STOP.
3. THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT IS INVITED TO INVESTIGATE THE STOCKPILING OF FIRE ARMS BY GOVERNOR SAMUEL ORTOM IN PREPARATION FOR THE 2019 GENERAL ELECTIONS. THE ARREST OF ALHAJI ALIYU TERSHAKU, THE COMMANDER OF LIVESTOCK GUARDS AND COUSIN TO GOVERNOR ORTOM IS FURTHER PROOF OF THESE FEARS.
4. THE SECURITY AGENCIES IN THE COUNTRY SHOULD CALL GOVERNOR SAMUEL ORTOM TO ORDER AS HIS CONTINOUS UNGUARDED UTERRANCES ARE CAPABLE OF INCITING ETHNIC AND RELIGIOUS CRISES IN NIGERIA.
17. Finally, we pass a vote of confidence on the President Muhammadu Buhari-led APC administration in Nigeria and urge Nigerians to support his re-election bid in 2019 to enable him continue with the program of repositioning Nigeria among the comity of nations.
Signed for and on behalf of Benue State APC Stakeholders:
1. Senator George Akume – LEADER
2. Sen. Ameh Ebute
3. Gen. Lawrence Onoja (rtd), mni
4. Gen. India Garba (rtd)
5. Gen. H. O Adoga (rtd)
6. Gen. Emmanuel S. Eihoda (rtd)
7. Chief Steven Lawani
8. Senator Jack Tilley-Gyado
9. Hon. Sam Ode, mni
10. Chief John Ochoga, Esq.
11. Chief Simon Shango
12. Hon. Nelson Alapa
13. Amb. Dickson Akoh
14. Rt. Hon. John Dyegh
15. Hon. (Mrs.) Dorothy Mato
16. Hon. Benjamin Wayo, Esq.
17. Hon. Jacob Ajene, Esq.
18. Rt. Hon. Terkimbi Ikyange
19. Hon. Mrs. Patricia Kupchi, Esq.
20. Dr. Chiichii Ashwe
21. Alhaji Usman Abubakar (Young Alhaji)
22. Rt. Hon. B. B. Nungwa
23. Rt. Hon. Benjamin Adanyi, Esq.
24. Rt. Hon. Terhemba Chabo
25. Rt. Hon. Nick Eworo
26. Hon. James Okefe
27. Hon. Evang. John Adam Okloho, Esq.
28. Hon. Bem Mngutyo.
29. Prof Chief John Enyi
30. Prof Eugene Aliegba
31. Dr. Terhemen Tarzoor
32. Hon. Emmanuel Terhile Ayua
33. Hon. John Tion
34. Prof Jonathan Uever
35. Barr. Vincent Uji
36. Mr. Adaa Maagbe
37. Hon. Sekav Iortyom