Mr Chairman and Members of the Esteemed Senate Committee
On behalf of the government and people of Benue State, I wish to thank the President of the Senate and all our dear distinguished Senators for giving me this opportunity to present our own side of the story as it affects the killing of innocent people in Benue by armed herdsmen. I wish to also commend the National Assembly for upholding justice by insisting that I be given fair hearing in this matter. The Senate and House of Representatives have indeed demonstrated that they are worthy representatives of the Nigerian people.
- Mr Chairman and Members, permit me to give you a background to the current attacks which have often been ignored and accusing fingers are now pointing at the enactment of the Open Grazing Prohibition and Ranches Establishment Law 2017 in Benue State as the cause of the crisis.
BACKGROUND OF THE ATTACKS
- It is necessary to draw the attention of this important committee to the summary of the Fulani herdsmen attacks. These led to the general outcry and yearning in the state for a law to introduce ranching as a global best practice. Open grazing has been responsible, to a large extent, for the said attacks. Sustained attacks started as far back as 2011. From 2011 to May 22 2017, when the law was signed there were a total of 46 attacks by Fulani Herdsmen across 15 out of our 23 LGAs as listed below.
MAP OF BENUE STATE SHOWING LGAS AFFECTED BY ARMED FULANI HERDSMEN
TIMELINE OF ATTACKS ON BENUE STATE FROM 2011 – May 2017
February 2013 Fulani Attacked Agatu burning Inoli, Ologba, olegeje, olegogboche, olegede, Adana, Inminy and Abugbe communities. Many lives lost.
- April 23 2013. 10 farmers killed in an attack on Mbasenge community in Guma LGA by suspected herdsmen.
May 7, 2013. 47 mourners gunned down in Agatu while burying two policemen killed the Tuesday before in Nassarawa.
- May 14, 2013. Over 200 herdsmen surround Ekwo-Okpanchenyi, Agatu LGA killing 40 locals.
July 5, 2013. 20 people were killed in a “conflict” between Tiv farmers & herdsmen at Nzorov,Guma LGA, Benue state.
July 31 2013 herdsmen invade 2 villages in Agatu LGA killing 8 villagers allegedly in retaliation for the killing of 112 cows.
November 7, 2013. Attackers strike at Ikpele & Okpopolo communities in Ogbadibo LGA killing 7 and displacing over 6000 inhabitants.
Nov 9, 2013. 36 locals killed and 7 villages overrun in an attack by herdsmen on locals in Agatu LGA.
Nov 20, 2013. Attack on communities in Guma LGA, killing 22 locals and destroying properties worth millions of naira.
Jan 20 2014. Gunmen attack Agatu LGA, killing 5 soldiers and 7 civilians.
Jan 20, 2014. Attack on Adeke village in Makurdi LGA. 3 dead.
20-21 Feb 2014. Herdsmen attack Gwer West LGA. 35 persons killed. 80,000 displaced. 6 Council Wards Sacked.
- Feb 24, 2014. Attack on a Tiv community along Naka road, Makurdi, killing 8 people.
March 6, 2014. 30 killed in Kwande, Katsina/Ala and Logo LGAs by attackers dressed in military uniforms. 6 villages sacked.
March 12, 2014. Raid on Ukpam village of Mbabaai in Guma LGA. 28 persons killed. Yam barns and farms burnt.
March 10, 2014. Former Governor Suswam’s convoy attacked by herdsmen at Umenger. He and his convoy managed and escaped.
March 12, 2014. Herdsmen attack Suswam’s village in Logo LGA, 22 slaughtered. Entire village sacked.
March 23, 2014. 25 killed and over 50 injured by herdsmen said to be bearing sophisticated weapons in Gbajimba, Guma LGA.
March 25, 2014. Police recovered 7 corpses following an attack on Agena village, Gwer East LGA by Herdsmen.
March 29, 2014. Herdsmen attacked 4 villages in Agatu LGA. 19 people killed, 15 others abducted.
March 29, 2014. Suspected use of chemical weapons on Sengev community in Gwer West LGA leaving 15 people dead.
March 30, 2014. 19 locals killed and 15 abducted in Agatu LGA.
- April 10, 2014. Over 100 herdsmen attacked 4 villages in Ukemberagya/Tswarev ward of Logo LG, 6 killed, Properties destroyed.
April 15, 2014. Attack on Obagaji, Headquarters of Agatu LGA, 12 youths killed.
September 10, 2014. Herdsmen attacked five villages in Ogbadibo LGA leaving scores dead.
January 27, 2015. 17 persons killed in attacks on Abugbe, Okoklo, Ogwule & Ocholoyan in Agatu LGA by herdsmen.
January 30, 2015. Over 100 attackers stormed 5 villages in Logo LGA, killing 9 persons in the attack.
March 15, 2015. Egba village in Agatu LGA sacked by herdsmen, over 90 locals, including women and children killed.
April 27, 2015. 28 persons killed by herdsmen in attack on 3 villages at Mbadwem, Guma LGA; houses and farmlands razed.
May 11, 2015. Ikyoawen community in Turan Kwande LGA invaded by herdsmen. 5 persons killed & 8 others wounded.
May 24, 2015. 100 killed in an attack by herdsmen in villages &refugee camps at Ukura, Gafa, Per and Tse-Gusa, Logo LGA.
July 7, 2015. 1 local killed and several others injured following an attack on mourners in Imande Bebeshi in Kwande LGA.
November 5, 2015. 12 persons killed, 25 others injured in Buruku LGA following an attack by suspected herdsmen.
Feb 8, 2016. 10 killed and over 300 displaced in clash between herdsmen and farmers at Tor-Anyiin and Tor-Ataan in Buruku LGA.
- Feb 21-24, 2016. Over 500 locals killed and 7000 displaced in an attack on Agatu LGA by Fulani herdsmen. Over 7 villages razed.
March 9, 2016. 8 residents killed by herdsmen in attacks on Ngorukgan, Tse Chia, Deghkia and Nhumbe in Logo LGA.
March 11, 2016. Attack on Convoy of Senator David Mark by suspected herdsmen in Agatu LGA. No casualty recorded.
March 13, 2016. 6 people including an APC youth leader killed by herdsmen in an attack on Tarka LGA.
February 29, 2016 11 killed in Edugbeho Agatu LG including a police inspector.
March 10, 2016 Two killed in attack on Obagaji Agatu.
March 5, 2016 Houses burnt in Agatu. Security forces prevented killings.
January 24, 2017: 15 persons were killed by rampaging Fulani herdsmen, who attacked farmers in Ipiga village in Ohimini Local Government Area of Benue State.
March 2, 2017: No fewer than 10 persons were killed in a renewed hostility between herdsmen and farmers in Mbahimin community, Gwer East Local Government Area of Benue State.
March 11, 2017: Seven people were killed when herdsmen attacked a Tiv community, Mkgovur village in Buruku local government area of Benue State.
May 8: Three persons were confirmed killed by herdsmen in Tse-Akaa village, Ugondo Mbamar District of Logo Local Government Area of Benue State.
- May 13, 2017: Less than one week after many people were killed by herdsmen in three communities of Logo Local Government Area of Benue State, armed herders struck again on May 13 killing eight more people.
ENACTMENT OF OPEN GRAZING PROHIBITION AND RANCHES ESTABLISHMENT LAW 2017
- The Law was passed by the Benue State House of Assembly in exercise of its powers as provided for by section 4 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 (as amended). The bill followed due process with public hearings and the requisite opportunity for stakeholders, including herdsmen, farmers, the police and all other security agencies to make inputs. The Bill was passed into law by the Assembly and signed by me on May 22nd, 2017. Considering the fact that this was a new law, a grace period of six months was given for those interested in the establishment of ranches to obtain permits. The enforcement of the law started by November 1, 2017.
The law is to regulate livestock and ensure win-win solution for herdsmen and farmers. The law is to promote justice, peace and development in Benue State.
THREATS BY MIYETTI ALLAH KAUTAL HORE
- Shortly after the law was accented to on 22nd day of May 2017 for implementation, we received threats from Miyetti Allah Kautal Hore, a Fulani socio-cultural organisation. The group threatened to mobilize Fulani herdsmen from across West Africa to invade Benue and resist the ranching law.
- On Thursday, 1st June, 2017, I raised alarm over media reports particularly that which appeared on page 41 of The Nation Newspaper of 31st May, 2017. The report was credited to Miyetti Allah Kautal Hore, which held a Press Conference in Abuja to reject the Ranches Law. In the aforesaid report, the National Secretary of the Association Engr. Saleh Alhassan, sought to justify the reprehensible, irresponsible and criminal destruction of lives and property in Benue State on the ground that the Fulani herdsmen are the original inhabitants of the Benue Valley. He claimed that they are engaged in a lingering crisis with the current inhabitants in the state, particularly the Tiv, over Natural resources. President of the Association, Alhaji Abdullahi Bello Bodejo, described the Benue State Open Grazing Prohibition and Ranches Establishment Law as “wicked, obnoxious and repressive.”
LETTERS/APPEALS TO THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT
- On the strength of these threats, I wrote to the then Acting President, His Excellency Professor Yemi Osinbajo on June 7, 2017. In the letter I drew his attention to the threats issued by Miyetti Allah Kautal Hore and requested the Federal Government to act fast to prevent the attacks. When President Muhammadu Buhari returned from his medical vacation, I also wrote to him on 27th October 2017 raising similar concerns and fears over the repeated threats from Miyetti Allah Kautal Hore and appealed for his intervention.
I wrote similar letters in June to the Inspector General of Police, (IGP) the Director General of Department of State Services, (DSS) and the National Security Adviser, (NSA) requesting the intervention of security agencies to forestall the impending attacks.
- We called on all Nigerians to stand up and condemn the threat of this association and appreciate our legitimate contribution to the resolution of herdsmen and farmers crises because they remain one of the most protracted problems across our country. We considered the threat by Miyetti Allah Kautal Hore as not only against Benue State but all other states that have or will have farmers and herdsmen crises.
- Not taking lightly the Miyetti Allah Kautal Hore’s threat to rise against the law and invade the state, I as Governor, the Benue State House of Assembly, and leaders of all the socio-cultural organizations in the state made more petitions and calls on the Presidency and all the relevant security agencies in the country.
- The Benue State Government condemned the statements of leaders of the Miyetti Allah and their stand which amounted to open declaration of war on Benue State people. Benue State and its people were under threat and requested the Federal Government to call Miyetti Allah Kautal Hore and its leaders to order before they plunged the country into a conflagration which will be difficult to contain.
- No action was taken by those saddled with the responsibility to protect lives and property at the national level.
- Between January 1 and 2, 2018, herdsmen invaded Benue communities in Logo and Guma Local Government Areas and killed more than 73 persons including seven members of the Benue State Livestock Guards. The communities attacked during the period were Mbabai, Mbadwem, Uvir, Nzorov, Saghev, Kaambe, Mbayer/Yandev and Nyiev in Guma Local Government Area. In Logo Local Government Area, the two major Districts of Tombo and Ukerberagya/Tswarev were attacked.
- We held a funeral and mass burial on Thursday, 11th January, 2018 in Makurdi for 73 victims.
- On 8th January, 2018, I wrote to the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria drawing his attention to the attacks launched by armed Fulani herdsmen on several communities in Guma and Logo Local Government Areas of Benue State between 1st – 2nd January, 2018.
- We also drew the attention of Mr President to the inflammatory statements by the Miyetti Allah Cattle Herders Association that “Expect more bloodshed in Benue” if the Law was not repealed. We accordingly appealed to the President to order the arrest and prosecution of:
Husaini Yusuf Bosso, National Vice President of Miyetti Allah Cattle Herders Association.
Badu Salisu Ahmadu and Umar Amir Shehu, President and Secretary of Fulani Nationality Movement and:
Alhaji Abdulahi Bello and Engr. Saleh Alhasan, President and Secretary of Miyetti Allah Kautal Hore; for their utterances that appeared to be full declaration of war not only against Benue people but the country in general.
RENEWED ATTACKS ON BENUE AND KILLINGS
- A few days after the mass burial of 73 persons, Fulani herdsmen resumed their attacks on communities in the State. From the 11th January to now 61 more persons including Police officers have been killed; at least 48 in Logo and 13 in Guma LGAs. Killings are still going on.
- Despite their irresponsible and illegal behavior and our consistent call, armed Fulani herdsmen and their leaders have not been arrested or even questioned by security agencies.
HUMANITARIAN CRISIS IN BENUE
- In addition to the 73 lives Benue lost, the development led to the displacement of over 106, 000 persons who are currently camped in seven Internally Displaced Persons, IDPs Camps at Abeda, Tse Ginde, Gbajimba, Daudu, Agan, Anyiin and Ugba (Logo LGA). Among those displaced 60% are children who are now out of school.
RELIEF MATERIALS FROM THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT
- Following the intervention of Mr. President, Security Personnel were eventually deployed to the affected areas and for a few days, peace seemed to have returned. The President also directed the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) to bring Relief Materials for the surviving victims of the attacks. For 106,000 IDPs spread in seven camps NEMA has so far provided the following items:
150 Bags of parboiled rice,
200 Bags of maize
50 Cartons of peak milk
50 Kegs of Palm oil
50 Kegs of groundnut oil
30 Bags of salts
50 Cartons of tin tomatoes
30 Cartons of indomie noodles
1000 piece of blankets
500 sets women’s cloth
500 sets of men cloth
50 bags of OMO detergent
1000 pieces of mosquitoes net
300 pieces of nylon mats
OUR CONCERNS AND FEARS
- According to the Minister of Defense, Mansur Dan – Ali the blockage of grazing routes across the country is the remote cause of recent killings especially in Benue and Taraba states. The Minister also identified the implementation of Open Grazing Prohibition and Ranches Establishment Law in Benue state as the immediate cause of the killings. He was speaking with State House correspondents at the end of a meeting of the National Security Council presided over by President Muhamamdu Buhari at the Presidential Villa, Abuja when he made the said comments. It has already been pointed out that the unrelenting attacks on the state predate the law.
- His position is very misleading as it represents the facts of the matter. In the 21st century, we should be considering better conditions for herdsmen and their families than insisting on grazing routes. What happens to the education and welfare of their children and families as they continue to move from one place to another. To be sure the attacks and killings in Benue pre-date the law. To suggest that the killings in Benue are due to the Ranching Law is dishonest and mischievous, because even before the Bill was signed into Law in May 2017, over 46 attacks took place where thousands were killed and property worth millions destroyed
- Following the Benue killing, the President directed the IGP to relocate to Benue and stop the killings. However, the IGP spent a night in Lafia, Nasarawa State before moving to Benue. He spent only one night in Benue. While in Benue, he met with a cross section of Benue Stakeholders who confronted him and questioned his intentions. They also asked why the President directed him to Benue and he chose to spend a night in Lafia Nasarawa State? Benue Stakeholders also questioned his sincerity of purpose. In his response, he apologised for his earlier assertion that the Benue killings were mere ‘communal crisis.’
- Spending only one night in Benue, IGP returned to Nasarawa and gave notice to the people in Awe LGA Nasarawa State that he would be there in 3 days’ time to find if armed herdsmen militia were camped in Tunga as earlier alleged by Benue. In Tunga, Awe LGA of Nasarawa State, he was at the market square and asked any youth he met: “are you armed Fulani herdsman? Are you a militia? Do you have AK47?” It is a clear irony that the IGP would claim that he went to Tunga in Awe local government area of Nasarawa State but found no militia. Notice of this trip was given well ahead of time and militias are not camped in the market place. The method adopted by the IGP shows he was not prepared to get any result. It is important to note that IGP never relocated to Benue State, and never picked my calls at the time he was supposed to be in Benue on the orders of the Commander –in-Chief.
- His aide, Police Public Relation Officer (The PPRO) insulted me on Public Television programme by asserting that ‘I am a drowning man.’ The views of the PPRO are implicitly those of his boss and the Police. It also shows that the police he represents are taking side on Benue killings. Note also that the IGP has not apologized, has not arrested or even questioned Miyetti Allah for their threat and execution of their threats. Miyetti Allah Herders Association boldly announced “Expect more blood to flow in Benue,” and more blood is flowing yet IGP has not arrested or even questioned them.
- In my view the IGP has shown that he is not on the side of justice and should resign.
- It should be noted that the attackers did not bring cattle to graze but guns to kill, displace and occupy the land. There could be no greater mischief than that from the Inspector General of Police stating that I am arming a militia and making every effort to justify the claim. Nigerians are aware of the amnesty programme I initiated. I deployed both the carrot and stick approaches to make youths turned in over 700 illegal weapons and ammunition. They were destroyed in full public glare in accordance with specifications of the United Nations which sent experts to carry out the exercise under the supervision of the Presidential Committee on Small Arms and Light Weapons.
- Our administration is not arming militia anywhere. The underworld kingpin, Terwase Akwaza, alias Ghana, who initially embraced the amnesty programme but later reneged, has been declared wanted by our administration and a reward of N50 million placed for information that can lead to his arrest. However, if the IGP is really sincere with disarming militia, the starting point should be with Fulani armed Herdmen militia rated the fourth most deadly on the global terrorism index.
The Benue State Government hereby completely rejects that statement coming from the nation’s top police officer who should have available records to confirm that there have been more than 47 armed attacks by Fulani herdsmen on Benue State before the State’s Ranching law came into being and some of these attacks happened years before our administration . Please refer to https://Youtu.be/K0Lq4F_pve8for preparations for one of such attacks by herdsmen.
- The State Government remains grateful for the tremendous support it has received from within and outside the state for the law which everyone agrees is the win-win solution to the incessant attacks that have claimed many lives over the years with property worth billions of Naira destroyed.
- Mr. Chairman, Distinguished Senators, once more, I thank you and distinguished Senators for availing me this opportunity to set the records straight in our collective efforts to end the invasion. The Open Grazing prohibition and Ranches Establishment Law is widely, indeed overwhelmingly supported by Benue people. The law has good and noble intentions for peace and stability. It does not send any ethnic group away from Benue State. It only provides that anyone including foreigners engaged in livestock business must have the animals ranched. This is global best practice for modern agriculture and development of nations. The Law is devoid of ethnic and religious sentiments.
- Let me assure you all that Benue state Government will not arm any militia as alleged. We believe strongly in our conventional Security Agencies to defend us and also trust in God and His ability to protect us. Nigerians only hope that the Federal Government has not taken side in the Benue killings as perception is as good as reality.
- Chairman, Very Distinguished Senators, I once more thank you for the opportunity and would like to conclude as follows:
May 22, 2017 the Open Grazing Prohibition and Ranches Establishment Bill was signed into law.
A six months grace period was given before the implementation of the law.
Fulani Socio-Cultural Association, Miyetti Allah Kautal Hore, opposed the law and threatened to mobilize Fulani herdsmen from all over West Africa to occupy Benue.
We reported to the Presidency, Security and other Agencies of the Federal Government to avert the imminent attacks.
Benue was attacked on January 1, 2018 and over 73 people were killed in their sleep and property worth billions of naira destroyed.
We now have over 106,000 IDPs in seven camps with all the related humanitarian challenges including disruption of farming, schools, health, markets and the entire economy of the state.
We view the utterances of the IGP and the Defense Minister as those of Security Chiefs who are taking sides with armed herdsmen and of justifying the killings.
The Ranching Law has good and noble intentions for peace and stability. And it is on this law we stand as it offers win-win solution to farmers and herders irrespective of religion and ethnicity.
Ranching of Cattle remains global best practice for modern agriculture and economic development of nations.
Benue State Government does not have and will not have militia, because we have confidence in conventional security. Above all we strongly believe in God and His ability to protect us.
- Finally, we express our confidence in the National Assembly to prevent the present genocide in Benue State. We have confidence in the Federal Government to address the current security and humanitarian challenges.
Thank you Mr Chairman and very distinguished Members for this opportunity. Permit me to appreciate President Muhammadu Buhari for his intervention.
He directed IGP to relocate to Benue, and
NEMA provided relief materials
Military commence Operation Ayem Akpatema (Cat Race),
His efforts to restore peace and rule of law in Benue.
I also appreciate very distinguished
Senate President, Bukola Saraki,
The Speaker, Rt. Hon. Yakubu Dogara
for your patriotic roles in intervening on the side of justice regarding the Benue Massacre.
Governor, Benue State.
Untold Story Of The Military Operations In The Northeast …How Soldiers Fighting Boko Haram Beg for Food and Sleep in Classrooms
Soldiers deployed in the special force unit do not have barracks, they sleep in classrooms
Many soldiers in Maimalari barracks construct zinc houses for themselves
Poor feeding of soldiers across the barracks in Maiduguri and the units in the bushes
Soldiers on the frontline are owed operational allowance and do not get hazard/danger allowance
One of the campaign promises of President Muhammadu Buhari was that he was going to address the problem of insurgency in the northeast when elected into office. As such when he assumed office he embarked on a diplomatic shuttle to neighboring countries of Niger Republic, Cameroun and Chad. President Buhari also deployed military commanders in the theatre of insurgency in the northeast with instructions to dislodge the insurgents belonging to the dreaded Jamā’at Ahl as-Sunnah lid-Da’wah wa’l-Jihād commonly known as Boko Haram. In December 2015 he announced to the whole nation that Boko Haram was “technically defeated” and declared in December 2016 that the group had been entirely ousted from its last stronghold of Sambisa Forest. However it is surprising that members of Boko Haram attacked a secondary school in Dapchi, Yobe state and abducted some girls from the school. Months later and until date some of the girls remain unrescued while the insurgents continue to unleash mayhem.
PowerSteering went to town to get a better understanding of the situation in the northeast and reports…
“Since we have been on this assignment, we have not been eating well. No food for us to eat and we have no money to get food. We were supposed to be paid N1, 000 daily but we were never given. The last time we got money was May, after the two weeks training we had before coming to Gubio. We were living like refugees.” This was the confession of one of the soldiers in the theatre of insurgency in the northeast.
This statement might sound strange however there is some element of truth to it since a visit to Maiduguri and Damaturu in 2016, 2017 and early 2018 would lend credence to the statement. A large cross section of Nigerians have the feeling that the insurgents in the northeast have been dislodged and most likely are on the run but realities on the ground in the northeast prove the contrary. It has been reported that security personnel manning road blocks all the way from Bauchi to Benishek collect bribes from drivers. These bribes are usually collect by force because any erring driver is usually punished by being forced to park his vehicle for all the passengers to disembark and trek long distances. Some of the security personnel would ask passengers to identify themselves and any passenger that fails to do so would be made to part with some money before continuing his journey. The question that readily comes to mind is why security personnel on duty in the northeast should be demanding for bribes if they are well remunerated.
Recently, troops of the Nigerian Military deployed to Gubio local government in Borno state had accused the government and Chief of Army Staff, Tukur Buratai of abandoning them in the state. According to the troops, the Chief of Army Staff sent them to Borno with inadequate ammunition despite the refusal of many soldiers to embark on the trip. The troops were deployed to Gubio 7th of June because of the Army Day celebration that held later in July.
One of the soldiers disclosed that, “When they were asked to go, many of the soldiers declined but they were forced to go. They were given little combative weapons and ammunitions to protect themselves. Many of them were afraid that Boko Haram would attack and overpower them with their superior weapons.
As was predicted, the troops were attacked by Boko Haram. While describing the incidence one of the survivors said, “The boko haram came with nine gun trucks and military vehicles. We were surprised because the trucks were painted in the same color of the army, they opened fire and when we could not face them because of our weapon, we all ran away. They followed us with big torchlights and killed many of us.”
Another survivor said, “Out of 700 soldiers that were in Gubio only 150 survived the attack’. He criticized the Federal Government for not sending any aid since the attack and that they were living like refugees.
In another incident in Jakana one of the residents Modu Ba’ masa said, “We are not safe at all because three days ago there were rumours everywhere that they were planning to attack Jakana town, and we went to inform the police and the military but nothing was done about it until they allowed them to come and attack. Thirteen persons were killed and many others sustained gunshot wounds when Boko Haram insurgents attacked a military formation in Borno.
According to the report, the militants stormed Jakana in military fatigues and attacked the Army base and a police station resulting in the death of four soldiers and two mobile policemen. The eyewitness frowned at the security agencies for not being proactive about the attack saying if they had acted earlier, it wouldn’t have happened.
In another incident, some troops of the Nigerian Army, who went missing in action, following Boko Haram terrorist attack on a military base in Jilli, Yobe state, and Bama Borno state, are yet to be found. Also missing were three military gun trucks.
In another incident, At least 27 persons were killed and several others injured when Boko Haram insurgents ambushed motorists on a highway in Borno. The attack took place along Logumani and Musune villages, about 30 kilometers to Ngala town, in Ngala Local Government Area of Borno state.
In the month of July, 2018 alone three officer and 28 soldiers were killed, and unknown number unaccounted for. One officer, 24 soldiers and two members of the CJTF were severly injured and taken to hospitals in Damaturu, Geidam and Maiduguri.
And then, just on Thursday the 30th August reports say the Nigerian Army suffered another attack from the Boko Haram insurgents allegedly leading to the death of 31 soldiers. The report confirmed that the soldiers did all within their powers to repel the insurgents before they were over powered as usual. At the time of filing this report, it was claimed that details of the situation were still being gathered by the authorities. The report says that at least 31 soldiers were reported dead, 19 injured and some others yet to be accounted for as Boko Haram insurgents allegedly invaded a base of the Nigerian Army in Borno State on Thursday, August 30.
The detail of the report alleged that Scores of Boko Haram fighters carried out the attack on the base located at Zari, a small community north of Maiduguri and near the border with Niger. The report said the insurgents stormed the base in 12 gun trucks, while some other came on foot in the early evening of that day. The report quoted sources who revealed that the soldiers earlier showed gallantry by initially repelling the terrorists. However, they failed at a point due to the superior fire power of the insurgents and “the insurgents broke into the camp about an hour of exchange of gunfire. An unknown number of troops were still not accounted for as at (September 1st) morning,” our source said, while the terrorists allegedly made away with armored Personnel carrier (APC), anti- aircraft guns, water tankers, utility trucks, ambulances and other equipment, they also burnt satellite communication equipment and destroyed make-shift tents inside the camp. The report quoted the source as saying that, “the authorities were still trying to ascertain Boko Haram casualties”.
Commenting on the situation in the northeast, Brigadier-General Texas Chukwu, Director Army public relations, debunked every claim saying the Army is not an institution that would send personnel to a war zone and forget them there.
In his comment Colonel Onyema Nwachukwu also discredited the allegation that the Army does not provide adequate welfare for soldiers saying allowance for every official is N45,000. According to him, it is unfair for anybody to say they’ve been in this theatre and they have not been fed. He said the theatre commander in Gubio does not take the welfare of soldiers lightly adding that personnel are supplied with enough ammunition to face insurgent groups in any part of the country.
It would be recalled that the Chief of Army Staff, Tukur Buratai, had circulated a set of operational guidelines warning Nigerian ARMY Commanders of grave consequences should they abandon their positions in the face of fire power from Boko Haram insurgents. Buratai’s memo was a response to recent killings and maiming of soldiers and officers by terrorist, amidst renewed fears of resurgent of Boko Haram.
He said, any commander who abandons his position in the face of enemy fire leading to avoidable death of troops and loss of equipment will be subjected to harsh punishments as enumerated in the Armed Forces Act.
Meanwhile, Gandoki, a corporal with the special force unit of the Nigerian army, walks out of a sport betting shop, scans through the ticket in his hands, then nods as his face widens into a smile. The corporal and many other soldiers fighting Boko Haram insurgents in the north-east do not receive their operation allowance regularly. They find means of survival by gambling, using as low as N50 to predict results of games that could—if by chance their predictions hit it right— enrich them with a few thousands of naira.
“For months now, we’ve not been paid our allowance. How would we have survived if not for the small money that we see from this sport betting?” Gandoki asks, smiling his way to a bar close to where his unit is camped. His predictions on matches in European football league have so far won him almost half the amount of allowance owed him by the Nigerian army.
A few bottles of beer and a plate of pepper-soup are enough consolation for this special force soldier who has just a few days left in Maiduguri, Borno state capital, before returning to the frontline, where the fight continues.
Soldiers Wear Slippers to War Front
A standard soldiers’ footwear is dark green camouflage shoes but some who are fighting Boko Haram walk into battle with open-toe slippers. Soldiers in the trenches would reveal that being ‘poorly kitted’ in the army is an understatement.
“Kitting of soldiers? You are on your own,” Gandoki jeers. Then, he yells: “We have our special uniforms that we use as special force soldiers. But nowadays, none of us is still that specially kitted.
“Soldiers now use any type of uniform they can afford. We were even once told that part of the money owed us would be used to buy our uniforms. We were also assured of getting camouflage T-shirts, rather, what we were given were Etisalat branded T-shirts. And when the uniforms came, if you get a trouser, you will not get the shirt. If you get camel bag, you will not get knee guard.
“When they bring the uniforms, they share it among themselves at the top. Even in Abuja, you will see officers that did not train with us being kitted with special force uniforms.
“In NAPEX (Nigerian Army Post Exchange), the store where military uniforms are being sold, each goes for about N25,000. But then, how much is an average soldier’s salary? So, that is why we put on anything we have. And we do that even in the war front. Soldiers who don’t have desert boots and can’t buy canvass, wear slippers.”
Many of the soldiers have not been given fragmental jackets (bullet-resistant vests) since they got drafted into the war theatre. In the bushes where the action takes place, the soldiers don’t expect a luxurious living. They simply want the authorities to provide them with camp beds.
“We buy the beds and tents with our money. Some of us went to Mali in 2013 for an operation where we were fully kitted. When we came back, and redeployed to operation Lafiya Dole, they collected the bed and fragmented jackets from us and were sent to the bush in Bama, at the time the insurgency was very hot. It was hell.”
“We go for parameter patrol without night vision goggles. We go in blindly, and because we are not equipped with these night vision goggles, Boko Haram will be approaching your camp in the night and you will not see them until they are already closer, firing at you.”
‘Nothing Special About Special Forces Soldiers’
Should soldiers whose unit bears the name special not be given preferential treatment?
Special forces are military units trained to carry out special operations, and in Nigeria, hundreds of soldiers from various divisions and battalions have been specially trained and drafted into this unit where the task is to fight Boko Haram insurgents.
“Anything they call special is supposed to be treated special because of the training you undergo, but there is nothing special in this operation we’ve been in here,” Gandoki says, his chin lowering from disappointment.
“We will be advancing to face the enemies, and all we are given to eat for days is popcorn and biscuits.”
He was a young soldier in one of the divisions in the south-east when a signal was sent to the armed forces; army, air force, navy and the police regarding the assemblage of a select few for special training.
“We were nominated from across battalions, and were assembled at the military cantonment in Jaji,” he said, adding that on arrival, they were told to see themselves as lucky to have been picked for the training. The soldiers saw it a privilege but none of them knew they would end up squaring up against Boko Haram in the north-east.
“The training was in Russia, and we were there for four months. We were supposed to stay up to six months, but there was pressure on us to return and fight.”
‘We Begged Our Enemy For Water’
Before departing for Russia, these would-be special force soldiers were given 30% of their training allowance, and assured of getting the remaining 70% upon their return. Sadly, the soldiers’ hopes were dashed as it never came forth.
They never got what they were promised.
Gandoki is in the first batch of the specially trained soldiers deployed to the operation in the north-east, and their first assignment, upon return in 2014, was to engage Boko Haram insurgents in Sambisa forest.
“We were about 200, advancing into Sambisa, and the first problem started when we weren’t given food or money to feed,” he says as his voice dropped again.
“On this first assignment to the bush, some died and, luckily, some of us returned alive. If you see the kind of food they would eventually give us, you will weep for us. There was a time we were begging our enemy for water, because we were going to die of thirst. The military helicopter, we were told, would bring water but wouldn’t be able to land because where we are is not safe for it. And, I would ask, what about us on the ground here?”
The insurgents may have killed quite a number of soldiers, but these fighters say lack of food and water should also be held responsible for soldiers’ death.
Living With Pain
Gandoki, who has been in the operation for three years, has sustained injuries and not much has been done in taking care of him.
“I have two gunshot wounds on my body,” he says, reaching for his leg and back where the injuries are. “There is rubber inside my leg because the vein almost cut off so they have to brace it with rubber. And, nothing has been given to me to sort my medical bills, even when we heard that money was released to take care of some of us who have been affected.”
He is a victim of Damasak and Gashiga attacks in Borno. The task was to clear a Boko Haram hideout, and the special force battalion was to meet with a strike group in Abadam, still in Borno, where they were to proceed to collectively strike the hideout.
“We took off and on our way we had an issue with our vehicle, and we spent the whole day trying to fix it. In Gashiga, we entered Boko Haram ambush. We called our jet, and there was no response. We started a battle with the enemies and it was there I got hit with multiple bullets.”
Gandoki’s vehicle had run into the mines and while the soldiers were trying to pull themselves out, the insurgents started shooting at them. “With our injuries, we withdrew to Damasak, and after a while, we advanced again and this time, the attacks were overwhelming.”
The insurgents outnumbered and then overpowered the “battalion”. “We call it a battalion but what we have is actually a company, yet those generals at the top get monetary allocations for a bigger battalion while the formation sent to fight in the bush is the smaller company.”
More than 40 soldiers were killed. The soldiers were not the size of a battalion that they should be, and then, the machines they were left to fight with were faulty.
“The two scorpions we had were not working,” Gandoki explains. “The general purpose machine gun (GPMG) mounted on the scorpions were faulty, too. I don’t know why they are not serviceable, and instead of the commanding officer to tell the theatre commander, he was pushing us to the frontline and there we got ambushed.
“They said it is a battalion, but let me tell you the truth, it is not a battalion that is deployed to Gashiga. It is a company. A company has about 200 soldiers as against a battalion of 800 soldiers. Those in authorities label us a battalion so they can get the money meant for about 600 soldiers.”
The soldiers had managed to fire one bomb before the machines stopped working. Advance, attack, withdraw and defense are the four phases of war, and since their machines were not forthcoming, they had to withdraw, but sadly, they couldn’t defend.
While some injured special force soldiers couldn’t get out alive, Gandoki had found himself in the hospital.
The morning after they were “dumped” at the hospital, Gandoki said the pain was becoming unbearable for him, and he started crying, calling for help. An officer who was moved by Gandoki’s plight came to him, helped him get on a wheelchair and he was wheeled to where his bullet-ridden leg got scanned. Even when the scan had showed bullets inside his leg, it took three days before he was moved into the theatre for surgery. He said throughout his stay alongside other soldiers at the 7 Division hospital, the army left them with no food.
Since the surgery, Gandoki says he has not had any post-surgery treatment. Apart from his leg injury, sounds of gunshots and IED explosions had affected his eardrums— such that until a word or phrase is repeatedly said, he can barely understand. His left ear functions no more.
“From the army hospital, I was referred to the University of Maidugri Teaching Hospital,” he explains. “But, it is better you sit at home and find a way of treating yourself than go to any of these hospitals. You will spend money transporting yourself to and fro the hospital and you get there, sit for hours because nobody would attend to wounded soldiers. They will keep telling you doctor is coming. We will be there, tired, in pains and waiting on empty stomachs.”
If a soldier is wounded and goes for treatment and has not returned within three to five days, Gandoki says such soldier’s account would be frozen.
“They will say he has gone AWOL. If you sustain a bullet wound while fighting in the bush, you are supposed to RTU (return to unit). But now, they will ask you to return to front line.”
When Gandoki refused to return to the front line, he was slammed with a two-count charge; disobedience and failure to perform military duty.
Gandoki has lost hope in the hospitals. He had thought as a special force soldier, he would have enjoyed some special medical treatments. The strong-willed fighter now uses salt and water to mop his injured leg, a post-surgery treatment he can afford. And for his bad ear, he uses cotton wool to cover it.
Soldiers Sleep Inside Classrooms
Special force soldiers deployed for operation Lafiya Dole have been camped in classrooms of a secondary school along Gubio road, outskirt of Maiduguri.
“When we return from the bush, these are the classrooms we live in,” Gandoki says, shaking his head. “One has spent six months in the bush, and when you return to Maiduguri to shop for a few things— after being on the road for about 12 hours— you come to sleep on the floor of this classroom, because you have nowhere to sleep. Even when the commanding officer came and saw our condition, he shook his head, pitying us.”
He adds that soldiers who have mattresses got them from deserted villages.
“I sleep inside the tank,” Gandoki’s friend who does not have a space in the classroom says. “We get mosquito net ourselves for N400, because if you wait for the army, mosquitoes will kill you here.”
‘If I Do Not Wet this Floor, the Dust May Kill Me Overnight’
Rusty zinc houses where hundreds of soldiers rest their heads are scattered on the dusty expanse of land inside the Maimalari barracks in Maiduguri.
One evening, Danje, one of the old serving soldiers in operation Lafiya Dole, returns from Konduga, tired but he still had to fetch water some metres away so he can wet the sandy floor of his zinc house.
“If I do not wet this floor, the dust may kill me overnight,” Danje says, flashing a smile as he drops his rifle and picks up a bucket. For three months, he has not been paid, too, but as soon as he gets his operational allowance, he intends to buy five bags of cement and fill the room with concrete.
“When we arrived here many years ago, with all our loads, we were told all the blocks of flats in the barracks have been occupied,” he explains. “And you know, as soldiers, we just have to find our way.” For almost a year, Danje says, he will spread his mat atop one of the abandoned and faulty vehicles at a mechanic workshop to spend the night. He did this until he was able to save enough money, like other soldiers, to construct his own zinc house.
“This is my own self-contain apartment,” he laughs. “I built this place myself, with my money and my hands. A sheet of fairly used zinc sells for N700, while the new goes for N1,000, we can only afford the former. And to put this whole structure together, you will spend at least N31,000 on zinc alone.”
Danje says soldiers have been abandoned and that the authorities do not make an attempt to refund them. “Soldiers would go to the bush to fight, and when some of us are lucky enough to return here, are we supposed to be spending our own money to construct where we will rest our heads? Is it not the responsibility of the Nigerian army to make provisions for our accommodation here?”
The soldier says his condition is better than some of his colleagues who still have nowhere to put their heads. “The system here is; carry your cross, I carry my cross.”
Food Without Meat
Willie has just been posted to Maiduguri. The young soldier is three weeks old at Giwa Barracks and he is struggling to come to terms with being served food without meat.
“Not once, in my three weeks here have I tasted meat,” Willie says, as he waves off the teeming flies on the wrap of semovita and watery soup by his side.
“All they give us here; beans, rice and semo, we have never eaten vegetables here. They will share food by 5:00 pm and if you do not rush, you will not get food.
“By right, our feeding timetable says every Saturday, I will eat food with soft drinks or bottle water or sachet water. We are also supposed to get fruits twice in a week, but we don’t get all of those. They said they will give one soldier one bag of water for a week but we don’t get it. Before, from theatre command, we heard they used to give soldiers popcorn and juice but not anymore, and we don’t know why.”
Once, the soldiers were to advance to the bush for a task and they “had to buy garri and take along, because we were not given food, and we were going to walk some 15 kilometres”.
The experience is the same with soldiers in Maimalari Barracks and those currently in the bush.
“Yesterday, they gave us one soup you cannot even describe as okra or ewedu,” Jacko, a soldier in Maimalari turns their feeding into a subject of mockery. “The food was tasteless, and this morning, they cooked beans and pap; the pap, oh my God, o my God!”
‘We Started Eating Human Flesh When Food Supply Stopped’
His eyes are almost covered with blood clot, with his eyeballs uncomfortably positioned. He looks strange — like a character in a horror movie.
Gimzy, a sergeant, has spent the last three years, from one bush to the other in the dreaded Sambisa forest, and now he is back in Jimtilo Barracks, Maiduguri.
“I lived in Sambisa for three years,” he begins, adjusting the rifle dangling around his arm, and groping for a stick of cigarette from his chest pocket. Like many others, Gimzy and Motu, his brave wife who lived with him in Sambisa, have not had an accommodation in the barracks since they returned. “And, I don’t have any money, my wife and I just found one corridor to sleep when it’s dark. But, they keep telling the whole world we soldiers are fine that they are taking care of us, that they are paying us.”
Gimzy is more worried about food than accommodation. While in the bush, they were being supplied food, but at a point the food stopped coming and soldiers were left to fend for themselves.
“Normally, they bring in food for us with gun trucks and escort. And it takes days before they get to us, that is if they are not ambushed by the enemies. But for almost three months we didn’t get food and we had finished all we have, we gathered that the enemy had set ambush everywhere and it was hard to get food across to us.
“And they don’t use helicopter to supply us food, because the hovering helicopter would reveal our location to the enemies.”
Many Soldiers Have Either Salary Or Allowance Problem
The administration of former President Goodluck Jonathan had re-initiated the integrated payroll and personnel information system (IPPIS) where payment of salaries and wages were to be directly paid into the government employees’ accounts. The main aim of the system is to pay accurately and on time with the statutory and contractual regulations.
About N75 million was appropriated to implement this. In September 2017, the presidential initiative on continuous audit (PICA) wrote to the armed forces to submit its payroll for migration to IPPIS, but soldiers at the frontline accused the army authorities of not responding as irregularities continue to dog their payment.
“We heard the navy and air force have submitted the payrolls of their personnel for IPPIS, but it does not appear the army has,” says Kazau, a soldier who is yet to get his two months pay.
“Our money comes through the army authorities, and before it gets to us, they would have cut from it. And that is why we have been praying they agree with the IPPIS so that we can get paid directly from the government.
“Seventy percent of soldiers in Maiduguri here either have salary or allowance problems. Some soldiers are owed nine months allowance, and you will still be sent to the bush despite the suffering because you don’t have an option.”
No Danger Allowance, Shortchanged On Operational Allowance
For each soldier fighting insurgency, N45,00, they understand, is the approved sum for operational allowance. But, of this approved sum, N30,000 is what eventually gets to them. N20,000 is paid into their account, and N10,000, a hand-to-hand payment. A deduction of N15,000, the soldiers are told, is used for their feeding.
The soldiers feel cheated. They say their counterparts in the navy and air force who are also in the operation get the full N45, 000, and they are given food.
“In fact, we heard the operational allowance is originally N75,000 from which N30,000 is for feeding, and the remaining N45, 000 is to be paid to us,” a soldier in Baga explains.
“Apart from that, if a soldier is going on pass, he is supposed to be given transport allowance or a military vehicle drops him, but we don’t get that here.”
Soldiers who have been in the operation for over three years and are daily exposed to danger on the frontline have not, for once, been paid danger allowance, and this, the soldiers say they are entitled to.
But, What Has Happened to the Billions Appropriated by the Army?
“We will devote a significant portion of our recurrent expenditure to institutions that provide critical government services. We will spend N369.6 billion in education; N294.5 billion in defence; N221.7 billion in health and N145.3 billion in the ministry of interior. This will ensure our teachers, armed forces personnel, doctors, nurses, policemen, fire fighters, prison service officers and many more critical service providers are paid competitively and on time,” President Muhammadu Buhari said in 2016 when he presented his ‘budget of change’ to a joint session of the national assembly.
Eight billion naira, N25 billion and N78 billion were appropriated for operation Lafiya Dole in 2016, 2017 and 2018 respectively.
In the 2017 appropriation, the ministry of defence budgeted N2.2 billion to rehabilitate barracks nationwide. There is also a separate budget of N1.7 billion for the construction/provision of barracks while another N1.6 billion is budgeted to construct special force barracks.
In the same budget, the Nigerian army is to purchase defense equipment for N5.8 billion, construct barracks for N5.2 billion while N51 million on is for rehabilitation of barracks.
N2.56 billion is budgeted for the provision of uniforms and other kitting items, and N670 million for the purchase of health/medical equipment.
N5.5 billion is for the provision of barracks and N1.4 billion for uniforms and kitting in the 2016 budget.
In spite of these huge budgeted sums, the soldiers at the end of the chain feel no effect.
Army Authorities Not Saying Anything
Twice, the army refused to respond to a FoI request sent for budgetary and fund release records.
Same request was also sent to the office of the accountant-general of the federation, and there has been no response.
When contacted, the Nigerian Army Finance Corps asked TheCable to return to the army headquarters in Abuja. An officer at the corps office in Lagos who pleaded to be anonymous, however, said the top generals are to answer for these funds.
“Indeed, funds were released for our troops but they boys in the bush are being shortchanged,” he says. “Check out those generals, and ask them where they get money to build mansions and estate in Abuja and soldiers don’t have where to sleep when they come out of the bush.”
The information requested from the army were; a breakdown of amount released for the construction/rehabilitation of barracks across Borno, Yobe and Adamawa states; the name of each construction/rehabilitation project for which funds were approved from January, 2014 to October, 2017; a breakdown of total amount released to kit soldiers and officers in Borno, Yobe and Adamawa states from January, 2014 to October, 2017; a breakdown of total amount released as operational/danger allowance for soldiers and officers drafted into the Operation Lafiya Dole across Borno, Yobe and Adamawa states.
Interestingly, in the 2017 appropriation, the ministry of defence earmarked N20 million for a line item it called “implementation of FoI”.
Jude Chukwu, army spokesman wouldn’t hide his anger when he was reached for comment over the poor welfare of troops fighting insurgency.
“Which soldiers? I am with the soldiers you are talking about and I don’t know who is giving you that report,” he said with an unfriendly tone.
“Sometimes you people will just be asking some questions that one would just imagine how you people came about it. Do you know the meaning of a soldier? If you know the meaning of a soldier, you wouldn’t ask that question. You wouldn’t ask me whether a soldier can comfortably be taken care of or not. People are fighting war, and you are talking like this? Do people stay in the room and be fighting war?”
Chukwu, beating his chest, said no soldier ever complained of poor welfare.
“You journalists just pick up something. Soldier have enough, they have food to eat. No issue with welfare, I don’t know why you are asking.”
Chukwu, however, did not respond to why the army authorities failed to make available information on how funds have been spent on the soldiers’ welfare.
*Names and designation of soldiers have been altered to protect their identity.
This investigation is supported by the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation and the International Centre for Investigative Reporting, ICIR
Battle for the Soul of Benue Deepening Masses’ Suffering Revealing Extent of State’s Backwardness By Ogbaniko Onunugoga
There is no gainsaying that Benue State is currently embroiled in a war of supremacy sweeping through the state arising from the rift between Governor Samuel Ortom and Senator George Akume, a former governor of the state, known as his godfather.
The obvious crack in the relationship between the two political gladiators has no doubt generated political tension of unimaginable proportion leading to a sudden alignment and realignment of political forces in the state.
Just like in the previous struggle for the soul of Benue, the condition of state in terms of development has remained the worse for the current fight.
The state has been buffeted by what many describe as “poor governance and an unabated sleaze by power obsessed politicians who lead the state.
Or so it is believed in many circles.
Sections of the public in this school of thought say that since 1999 when Nigeria returned to democracy after many years of military intervention in the nation’s body polity, many states of the federation that were created in 1976 by late Gen. Murtala Muhammadu, have attained some marked levels of growth in the area of ICT, governance, infrastructure, agro-allied industry, capital, human capacity and economic evolution.
But Benue, despite hitting 42 years since its creation, has never passed the assessment of any analyst on development and governance.
Analysts and experts alike have never ceased to thumb down the development status of the poorly run state that is peopled largely by Tiv ethnic nationality, whenever the state is in the news.
This is since indices of development are either non-existent in the state or a few structures once built by First Republic governor, late Aper Aku, are abandoned to decay.
Even the younger states of Enugu, Delta, Ekiti, Osun, and Akwa Ibom, among others, that were birthed post Gen. Murtala era have no less believably dwarfed Benue when it comes to comparing the levels of development of the agrarian middle belt state with its counterparts.
In the view of analysts and newspaper columnists, among them, Sam Omatseye, Benue, a state which has refused to get off its cradle is still crawling, more than four decades after its creation in 1976, despite all the human capacity and natural endowment.
For its particularly present poor status, a state governed since 1999 by three successive governors, Sen. George Akume, Gabriel Suswam and the incumbent Ortom, the latter had once come under the knocks of Omatseye.
His words: “Ortom is wagging the dog’s tail. He has been an abysmal failure as governor, owing about a year in salaries and presiding over Makurdi that still looks only a little better than a village in the 1980’s . The herdsmen crisis is an opportunity to ride to a second term. It is a boon for him from the enemy.”
In tacit corroboration with the ace columnist, critics generally opine that Benue is not developing as it ought to, despite the billions of naira that have been accruing to its treasury from the Federation Account over time, especially from the period 1999 to date, a time the country was said to have enjoyed unprecedented boom in its mainstay – Oil.
As part of the results of the grisly situation in the Food Basket of the Nation which many would want to attribute to mis-governance on the part of the leadership of the state in the period 1999-2018, and true to Omatseye’s words, this magazine’s findings show that workers in the employment of third-tier of government across the 23 council areas have currently been worse hit.
Eleven months’ salary arrears have not been paid to the local government workers, while civil servants in the fold of the state government are not paid their monthly emoluments for seven months, running.
Also payment of pension and gratuity has been difficult, resulting in death of scores of many salaried workers who for survival depended only on their earnings from the government, but which are not forthcoming to them.
At some point in the midst of the salary crisis it had become so grisly that two government workers in Obi LGA of the state dropped dead same day.
Apart from that, reports had been rife of increased death toll in other local government areas occasioned by the inability of Ortom to pay workers’ salaries.
The Ortom administration, however, believes it could not be wholly blamed for the grisly state’s situation.
The governor had said that he inherited parts of the problems buffeting the state from his predecessor, Gabriel Suswam, adding for the umpteenth time that he has nevertheless not rested on his oars in the face of the crisis, because to him government is a continuum. And that he has been up and doing to fixing the state. So he wants the public to believe.
Ortom had cried out at the inception of his administration that he inherited N69billion debts in salaries, pension and gratuity put together, from Suswam administration.
PowerSteering learnt some of the measures the governor had advanced towards bringing solution to the state were the interventions his administration had sought from the federal government.
He was subsequently granted some loans including a near-zero-interest N28billion bailout from the Central Bank for the purpose of clearing a backlog of salaries he said he inherited from the Suswam administration, albeit he has been hit severally by cynics for allegedly diverting the funds, reason, his critics say, he has been unable to clear the outstanding salary arrears from the previous administration, in spite of the grants by federal government.
According to the governor, however “the interventions which included the bailout and Paris Club refunds could not avail much because the huge shortfalls from the monthly allocations have made it impossible to clear the arrears.”
Ortom had explained further that, “at the time we took over, the monthly wage bill of the state, including pensions, overheads and gratuity was N8.2 billion and with the implementation of minimum wage for teachers by our administration, the bill increased to about N8.5 billion.
“But after a series of screening exercises, the bill has been reduced to about N7.8 billion, which still remains one of the highest alongside industrialized states like Kano, Kaduna, and Ogun, while the total monthly allocation to the state stands at an average of N6 billion.”
He said following the development, the state government had reached an understanding with the state workers whose leaders had been involved in the disbursement of state bailout funds, that two months allocations would be combined to pay one month’s full salary.
According to the governor, “we have kept this arrangement since 2015 and sometimes more is paid with the interventions,” he added.
Ortom had laced his excuses for the woes of his government and by extension the state in the past three years with a number of things including the once dwindling allocation from the federation account to the state, due to two factors: the drop in oil sale at the international market due to crude price drop too, and two, the bombing of oil facilities at Niger Delta by militants, a situation which had occasioned a reduction in the supply of crude to the market from Nigeria.
The misfortune from the oil at the time of recession, as explained by Ortom administration, tapered down to the collapse of the Benue economy, because being a state that is largely dependent on accruals from the Federation Account to be able to power itself, any shortfalls in the allocation to the state had, therefore, meant his administration would not be able to pay salaries, neither have the funds to execute projects and bring the state to par with its counterparts in terms of development.
Apart from the dwindling accruals to the state, the Ortom administration had also blamed its woes on the deficit treasury bequeathed to it by Suswam administration.
It has also cried out many times over that salary padding, ghost worker syndrome in the state civil service which acted as a drain on the state treasury had weakened the capacity of the administration to perform, to deliver on its campaign promises.
One of the reasons beside general corrupt practices for which the Benue people preferred Ortom’s candidature on the platform of the All Progressives Congress, APC, to the People’s Democratic Party, PDP candidate, Terhemen Tarzor, in the 2015 election, was the inability of Suswam of the PDP to pay salaries for more than four months.
Non-implementation of minimum wage for primary school teachers which forced the teachers into a prolonged strike combined during the last lap of Suswam administration, with over four months unpaid workers salaries was the gap created in the governance of the state by the PDP that the APC’s Ortom had come with a bang to fill – to clear all the outstanding salary arrears, diversify the state economy, reinvigorate the Internally Generated Revenue system to boost economy and or perhaps reduce the overdependence on allocation from the federation accounts.
But more than three years into the four-year tenure of Ortom, and at 42 years of the state, the narrative of the agrarian state has believably not changed from its poor development, economic or political status. Instead, many believe the crawling state still remains a tale of backwardness, a fest where politicians who struggle for the soul of the state do so for the sake of enriching themselves and leaving the people and the state in deeper impoverishment.
Observers of the happenings in the state are quick to point to Justice Elizabeth Kpojime probe panel report that indicted former governor, Suswam and 51 other people for allegedly looting over N107billion during a period that spanned the eight-years that Suswam governed the state.
Despite the shocking amount involved in the looting of the state treasury by only 52 out of six million people of the state, it was later to be seen that political dynamics as they played out in the build up to 2019 elections had made those who should prosecute the recovery of the loot to abandon it. Or so it has appeared.
The seeming non-pursuit of the indictment of the former governor and his 51 minions – which has left the culprits walking the Makurdi streets free men and women – has been interpreted either rightly or wrongly to mean that Ortom has abandoned the state’s cause for selfish political gains. He has allegedly gone ahead to reconcile with Gabriel Suswam and gone on his knees to beg for forgiveness from his political opponent.
And the situation in the state is said to find expression in the unfolding battle for the control of the state which has pitted the governor and Sen. Akume the adjudged godfather and leader of APC in the state against each other on one side, then executive and legislative arms of government on the other, just barely months to another general elections in the country.
Genesis of the power tussle
Having resigned his appointment as a minister of the Federal Republic of Nigeria prior to 2015 General Elections, seeking to be governor of Benue State, a desperate Ortom who was said to be denied the People’s Democratic Party, PDP ticket by former Governor, Gabriel Suswam, defected to the opposition APC.
Typical of desperate Nigerian politicians, Ortom subsequently emerged candidate of the APC in the April 2015 governorship election in the state.
As it were, until the day Ortom was pronounced candidate of the party by the state’s APC leader, Sen. Akume, he was a member of the PDP and guber aspirant of the party.
But moments after losing the party’s guber ticket to Tarzoor, Ortom surfaced at the state APC secretariat in Makurdi where Akume handed him the APC ticket.
Analysts say that was in utter negation of the principle of primary as prescribed by the Electoral Act and INEC.
Ortom himself would later gleefully declare, before Television cameras that he did not emerge candidate of APC through any primaries but ‘through God’s doing’.
His controversial emergence polarised the state APC, with original members of the party wondering why a stranger should be allowed to reap where he did not sow.
As it were, the defeated PDP candidate relied on this to ask Tribunal to declare that the APC did not have any candidate for election, Ortom having emerged through ‘God’s doing’, a process alien to the law.
Tarzoor’s case was helped by INEC which also testified that APC never conducted guber primaries. He was, therefore, in his petition, asking the Tribunal to declare him winner of the governorship polls.
In the election in point, Tarzoor polled 313,878 votes to come second against Ortom’s 422,952 votes.
Ortom’s woes were also compounded by his opponents in his party who were pained by the manner he was imposed on the party as its guber candidate.
One of them was his rival for the APC ticket, Emmanuel Jime who was in January 2015 chosen by the party as its consensus guber candidate before Akume gave Ortom the party ticket.
A leader of the party in the state, Sen. Joseph Waku was once equally up in arms against the governor.
Apart from Tarzoor, Jime and Waku were also in court contesting Ortom’s choice as their party’s governorship flagbearer. But the duo of Jime and Waku later reconciled, when the Gen. Muhammad Buhari presidency intervened, by also settling Jime with a federal plum job, in the interest of the party.
The whole legal tussle that was taken to court by Tarzoor seeking nullification of Ortom’s election ended in favour of the governor and the APC at the apex court – The Supreme Court.
Enter Akume factor of godfatherism in Ortom administration.
No sooner did the litigation ended than the effect of Sen. Akume’s alleged overbearing influence on Ortom’s governance of the state began to be felt in the manner in which the senator representing Benue North West was allegedly calling the shot while the governor seemingly acted as a puppet.
Before the ongoing fight between Akume and Ortom over who controls the state broke out, this magazine gathered that almost everybody that mattered in the past three years in the recently sacked state executive council was allegedly there on Akume’s say-so. This can clearly be seen from the allegiance shown by those loyal to Senator Akume amongst the House of Assembly Members, the sacked Executive Members and Heads of Departments and Parastatals.
The senator allegedly dictated to Ortom in matters of appropriation of money, appointment into key ministries, bureaus, parastatals and boards.
Akume alongside the chairman of the governing party in the state, then, Abba Yaro, also reportedly controlled the structures and organs of the party not only to the negligence of the interest of the governor, but also to the detriment of internal democracy in the party, as the situation would later have Ortom cry out.
The allegation of lack of internal democracy had become evident in the primaries of the local government election that held last year and the congresses of the party that followed later this year, in such a way that virtually all the local government chairmen and party exco from ward to the state level were all an imposition on the APC by one man, Akume.
There were also allegation of how some of the Ortom aides loyal to Senator Akume received a large sum of money from Hon. Emmanuel Jime with the view of talking to their godfather, Sen. Akume to reconsider fielding him for the 2019 governorship election without Akume’s knowledge. It alleged that Hon. Abuwa and one other close aide of Sen. Akume collected a large sum of money from Hon. Jime and printed banners, T-Shirts, Caps and Handbills purportedly campaigning and publicly chanting praise of Emmanuel Jime’s governorship aspiration during the last APC Convention in Abuja after graciously benefitting from Ortom government without Senator Akume’s knowledge. Both of those people were sacked by Gov. Ortom last month. This itself is very unhealthy for the image of Senator Akume who many people respect for his uprightness.
In the midst of all of these allegations against Akume, the Distinguished Senator has always denied them and said that all he had always demanded from the Governor was responsive, honest, transparent and productive governance of the State, which was the reason he left the PDP in the first place, bringing APC to rescue the people of Benue. The people of Benue should experience the needed change and a sharp departure from the past system, he asserted.
Interestingly, allegations are milling in public circles without a scintilla of rebuttal that each local government chairman loyal to the godfather paid a monthly sum of N5million through the sacked chairman of the Bureau for Local Government and Chieftaincy Affairs, Titus Zam.
However, a very close aide of the Distinguished Senator, Mr. Chris Tarka, said in defence of his principal: “You know Oga is a moralist so he can never do such a thing. People are just lying to rubbish the image of my Boss.” But it is evidently clear that Mr. Titus Zam may have, through such backhand dealings with the Local Government funds, made so much money for himself. He is alleged to have risen from virtually nothing and nobody, apart from being an LGC chairman almost twenty years ago, to the status of “One of the richest men in Benue State.” This implies that he had used Sen. Akume’s name and position to extort money from LGA Chairmen and enriched himself from the LGC funds.
This can be buttress by the recent happenings – 30th August, 2018, to be precise, when he gathered the Benue State Indegenes in Abuja to declare his ambition to contest in the next election for the governorship of Benue State. It was discussed in some quarters during the event that Zam is worth over N10 billion and ready to spend all of that the next gubernatorial election in Benue State from primaries to finish at the detriment of development in Benue State.
The recent sack of Zam and Mimi Adzape-Orubibi who was in charge of Benue Internally Generated Revenue Service, among numerous others considered to be Akume loyalists during the cabinet shakeup, lent credence to the allegation that Akume was dictating to Ortom while the governor on his part was believed by many to be guilty of conspiracy of silence because the senator drafted him into APC on which platform he became governor of the state.
Thus, Akume adjudged to be the godfather of Benue politics believably played the Lord of the Manor in the current administration of Ortom, until the recent move by Ortom was beginning to be seen by many as good to shake off Akume’ burden of godfathering on his administration, but the timing and approach was wrong.
The alleged stranglehold on Ortom administration, which many believe is false, has left the state evidently impoverished, retrogressed and backward in such a way that not only are state and local government workers unable to get paid of their arrears of salaries, but payment of pension and gratuities too have become problematic.
Worse still, observers say, it has been difficult to point to any new project executed or completed in the current administration, leaving the masses to groan under penury and lack of development of the state, despite that economy had since picked up at the federal level with more funds now accruing to the state.
Consequently, the ticking of clock close to 2019 has meant to the electorate that the forthcoming election is going to be issues-based.
Discourses in public spaces and especially on the social media is rife, pointing to near certainty that Governor Ortom was not going to have it rosy over his reelection bid, if the grisly situation in the state remains what it has being in the last three years.
Ortom vs Akume
In what was perceived to be the beginning of a long drawn battle to wean his administration of the alleged godfather influence and control of Akume, the governor in a do or die fashion in July sacked almost all members of his cabinet in the first cabinet dissolution of his government. All the members of the cabinet affected by the dissolution were perceived loyalists of Akume.
Buoyed by the unchallenged sacking of the “Akume loyalists”, the next lieutenant of the senator to come under the axe of the governor was the BIRS boss, Mimi Adzape-Orubibi and Richard Agwa. No reason was given by the governor for the sack but the public understood the action with mixed reactions. While some hailed the removal of the BIRS boss and the Akume loyalists, saying such action was long overdue on the part of the governor, others who berated Ortom for allowing his godfather call the shot for the better part of his four-year term, said his second term ambition informed his sudden wake up rather than the masses’ plight. They promise him loss of reelection on the ground of his inability to clear unpaid salaries, still.
Ortom jacked up the onslaught against Akume and the APC by defecting to the People’s Democratic Party, PDP citing a red card given to him in the party implying that the leader of the APC did not want him for a second term under its fold. He also described the party as having slided to a one-man-show. But Akume says what the APC demanded of the governor was good governance.
Akume’s fight back
Akume’s perceived reply on the war declared against him by the governor was to come in form of impeachment to be meted out to Ortom using his loyalist members of the Benue State House of Assembly when the last time the full-30-member House sat before it adjourned its plenary to August 15, 2018, to reconvene.
Before the adjournment, plots by members loyal to Senator Akume to use impeached speaker Terkimbi Ikyange to impeach Governor Ortom were reportedly foiled by the governor’s loyalists in the Assembly. This was the beginning of the crisis that has now enveloped the state House of Assembly.
In a tough action that seem to have outsmarted Akume and his loyalist lawmakers, 22 members loyal to Ortom did not wait for the August 15 date to reconvene, as they found their way into the heavily police-blocked complex of the legislative assembly through the back door from the Government House and impeached Ikyange and other principal officers of the House with a borrowed mace from the Local Government– all Akume loyalists.
But the remaining seven members led by the impeached speaker, enjoying police protection, later re-entered into the assembly complex and issued the governor with an impeachment notice in a melodrama playing out between Akume and Ortom forces. The public and experts had been condemning the action of the minority 8 lawmakers as illegal, unconstitutional and null and void though. But legality cannot be built on illegality. Analysts have argued that the entry of the 22 members through the back door when they were supposed to be on recess in the first place was illegal. Therefore, any illegality done as a reaction to legality is still illegal.
Who Is The Current Speaker Of The Benue State House Of Assembly In The Eyes Of The Law?
On the 24th day of July 2018 or thereabout, the social and mainstream media was avid with the news that the Speaker of the Benue State House of Assembly Hon. Terkimbe Ikyange and his Deputy, Hon. James Okefe had been impeached unanimously by about 22 members present and voting at a reconvened session of the house.
Section 101 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999(As Amended) empowers the house to regulate its own procedure, “including the procedure for summoning and recess of the House”
It is pursuant to the above cited provision of the constitution that Benue State House of Assembly made rules for the regulation of its activities in the House. The Rules being premised on the clear provisions of the constitution is sacred and not merely sanctimonious.
The Speaker of the Benue State House of Assembly was elected by the house in accordance with its Standing Rules and the same House reserves the right to impeach him in accordance with the same rules.
The Benue State House of Assembly Standing Rules 3(11a) states that when a sitting is adjourned and a matter of public interest has arisen, a petition by 1/3 members addressed to the Speaker of the House notifying him of the House’s intention to convene earlier than the adjourned date, the Speaker may give notice accordingly to the members to reconvene.
On the 24th day of July 2018 the House was reportedly recalled from recess for a matter of “urgent public importance” which was to have the Speaker and his deputy impeached!
Before a successful impeachment can take place, there must be a duly convened or reconvened session of the house. The first question is whether there was a duly convened session of the house. The indisputable fact is to the effect that the house had earlier been adjourned to the 15th day of August 2018. The speaker, Hon. Ikyange has maintained that he was neither given notice of any request for a reconvention of the house, let alone notice of any allegation that precipitated the purported impeachment to enable him react. These assertions have not been contradicted.
There was not even a preliminary remark to the effect that the requirement of reconvention pursuant to Rule 3(11a) of the standing rule preceding the purported session and subsequent impeachment.
From the foregoing, it means that there was no valid legal session of the House on the said 24th day of July 2018 and anything done in any such purportedly reconvened session of the house is null and void and of no effect. Yes, it simply never happened! This is why Hon. Ikyange has maintained, quite rightly, that the House remained adjourned to the 15th day of August 2018 as earlier unanimously agreed and that remains the Speaker of the House.
The House can only be reconvened from recess under matters of urgent public importance. The matter of urgent public importance was for the purported impeachment of the speaker and his deputy for alleged “high handedness”. Is this a matter of urgent public importance? The notorious fact is that the Governor of the State, Samuel Ortom had just decamped from the APC to the PDP and there was that unethical urgency to change the Speaker of the House who is of the APC. There is certainly not an iota of any matter of urgent public importance here.
The rules of fair hearing, natural justice, equity and good conscience were recklessly breached when no notice of allegation and/or notice of reconvention of the house which was for the sole purpose of the purported impeachment was given to the Speaker and the Deputy Speaker of the house before their purported impeachment.
Furthermore, no activity was reported to have happened during the recess. The question that readily comes to any reasonable mind in view of the allegation of “high handedness” against the Speaker is at what point did he commit the offence stated as the reason for his impeachment? The allegation sounds more spurious when it is recalled that about a week to the date of the purported impeachment, the same house passed a vote of confidence on the speaker before it went on recess and was adjourned to 15/08/2018
The Police intervention on the 26th July` 2018 at the instance of the Speaker, Hon. Terkimbe Ikyange, to prevent the purported new speaker and his crew from sitting in the House is proper and apt in the circumstances of this case to maintain law and Order.
The purported new leadership of the House must be careful and immediately rescind their patently illegal acts as they could be liable for criminal impersonation and breach of peace.
On Friday July 27 2018, I received another information that there is a pending Order of the State High Court obtained via Eparte application restraining Hon. Terkinbe Ikyange led Leadership of the House from parading itself as the original leader of the House. If this is true, then the Leadership of the House is advised to immediately take steps to challenge the Order. Once a step is taken to challenge such order, the law is trite that they are not under any obligation to obey such Order and no contempt proceedings can be maintained against them.
The Judiciary has always cautioned against Ex Parte Orders obtained without a hearing from the other party. An Ex Parte Order is given when only there exists an urgent need to preserve a perishable res. What is perishable or liable to be destroyed beyond repairs if Hon. Ikyange leadership of the House is first accorded a right of hearing before the Order?
Many Judges have been punished for giving such exparte Orders. A petition accompanied by a verifying affidavit to the National Judicial Council (NJC) is enough to galvanize the NJC into action.
We all have the collective duty to make the system work. This can only be done through adherence to the rule of law. We must not ridicule our judicial system by dragging it into politics. If anybody is desirous of dissolving the leadership of the House, the relevant procedures must be observed. Otherwise, a head-on collision with anarchy is inevitable.
Yours Most Trusted,
Alexander Oketa Esq.
Alexander Oketa Esq is a Legal Practitioner and APC pioneer Member, one time sole Administrator and APC Candidate for House of Assembly in the 2015 general elections from Ado LGA, Benue State.
There is also a court injunction on ground as prayed by the 22 lawmakers, restraining the speaker and the seven other lawmakers loyal to Akume from parading themselves as members of the state Assembly, since they were earlier also suspended from the Assembly for act of misconduct.
Fulani Killer Herdsmen and EFCC
In the ensuing tussle between Akume and Ortom, it is believed that the first reason the APC does not want to field the latter as its governorship candidate in the forthcoming election may be because of his brush with the presidency.
Suspected Fulani killer herdsmen have, and still upend the state with killings.
Governor Ortom has constantly accused and has been raising alarms that a group, Miyetti Allah, has been responsible for the killing of Benue people, yet he says no arrest has been made of the leader or member of the group also accused of being behind the killings and sacking of Benue people from their ancestral land for the purposes of occupation to graze their cattle on the land.
Ortom was particularly deemed by the presidency to have disobeyed its order not to give a mass burial to the Logo and Guma over “70 victims” of the killer herdsmen massacre, but which he carried out against the will of the federal authorities.
The fall out of that was that the APC controlled presidency would never have wanted Ortom back for a second term. In his place, this magazine gathered that the former aspirant, Emmanuel Jime is preferred to take over from Ortom.
But the counter-allegation is that Gov. Samuel Ortom and his cohort have been crying wolf when there was none. It is alleged that the Governor had severally raised false alarm about the killings in Guma and Logo Local Government Areas of Benue State and when security operatives had responded promptly and rushed there to find out that it was a mere ruse. Ortom is alleged to have done this severally to the point that even some of his close aides hardly believed him anymore, just to justify his security vote spendings.
He would raise false alarm at Guma end of the State boundary with Nasarawa State and while the security operatives will be rushing to Guma, he would now raise another in the direction of Logo LGA. The power tussle between Senator George Akume and Governor Samuel Ortom has also revealed another dimension to the mass burial in Benue State in January, 2018. A close aide of Gov. Ortom who is loyal to Akume has alleged that the number of people killed during the January 1st 2018 were fewer than the reported 70 victims.
He added that in order to make up for “the lies” already told by “the servant of God” –Gov. Ortom, yams were packed into the empty coffins in place of dead bodies in order to win global sympathy and acceptance. This allegation however, could not be verified immediately.
Akume on the other hand has been accused of doing the bidding of the presidency to ensure Ortom is kicked out because as alleged he is also said to have been promised the senate presidency on his return to the red chamber of the National Assembly in 2019, reason Ortom believably had to strike or resign to fate by forgetting his 2019 ambition.
It was why, as learnt, the minority lawmakers loyal to Akume had to summon Ortom to explain how he spent N20billion security vote or face impeachment.
But when the attempts of the minority lawmakers to impeach the governor were deemed as unconstitutional, the weapon of coercion left in the hands of the federal authority would be the next to be deployed. Hence the use of EFCC to probe the governor’s security votes and others.
Meanwhile, the battle for the soul of Benue State between Sen. George Akume and his ex while political godson, Governor Samuel Ortom has taken a more dangerous dimension as the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) has renewed a petition filed by the former Commissioner of police, Alhaji Abubakar Tsav and are investigating Benue State Governor Samuel Ortom and many members of the House of Assembly for alleged diversion of N23,088,586,206.
The governor who said that he had no fear over the probe, only demanded fairness, even as there are speculations that, Sen. Akume could be behind the renewed case to influence the assembly members to crush the Governor out of government house through impeachment. “Akume is using a renew case against Governor Ortom and assembly members as “haagedege” to frighten the already caged assembly members to booth Ortom out of government house through impeachment.
According to EFCC, about N22, 713, 586, 206 was withdrawn in cash, allegedly on the governor’s instruction as security votes and other “curious” overheads.
The Assembly members are also expected to account for N375million.
The anti-graft agency said some of the cash withdrawals were made in bits of N10million over the counter.
The EFCC found it “ridiculous” that N500 million was cashed in one day.
Besides the governor, more than 30 suspects are being investigated. They include 21 members of the House, three permanent secretaries, four cashiers, a contractor, directors of Finance, some accountants, and bank managers.
The EFCC believes that most of the funds were diverted, with, according to the agency, the governor directing permanent secretaries to destroy the disbursement lists.
Below are the breakdowns of the funds allegedly diverted:
N1,916,635,206 (withdrawn from the Government House two accounts);
N19,468,951,590 (cash taken from two accounts of the Bureau for Internal Affairs and Special Services);
N1, 328, 000, 000 (withdrawn in cash from the account of the Bureau for Local Government and Chieftaincy Affairs); and
N375million meant for the purchase of Prado SUV for House of Assembly members but N275m shared by 21 lawmakers
These highlights were released at a session in Abuja by top officials of the anti-graft commission.
On the alleged diversion of N1, 916, 635, 206, the fact-sheet said: “On the 31st of January, 2018, an intelligence was received that some officials of Benue State have diverted about N8billion. Based on the intelligence, the EFCC commenced investigation. It was discovered that between June 30, 2015 and March 2018, cash was withdrawn from the Government House accounts and diverted.
“Two accounts actually belong to Government House.
“These accounts received about N1, 916, 635, 206 between June 30, 2015 and March 2018. The huge sum was withdrawn by some cashiers, namely Emmanuel Aorga; Patrick Aba; and Ochoga Peter.
“From bank details, Aorga withdrew N369, 728, 950; Ochoga cashed N704, 041,000 and Patrick Aba N130, 199, 386.
“In most cases, they were issued N10m cheques in order to withdraw the money in bits.
“For the Government House, the Permanent Secretary, Mr. Gabriel Iangba, who was interrogated, claimed that these are funds for security, governor’s travels, protocol services and security votes, among others.
On the N19, 468, 951, 590 taken from the Bureau for Internal Affairs and Special Services, the EFCC’s fact sheet indicated that the money was withdrawn from the Bureau’s two accounts.
“The N19.4billion was withdrawn between June 30, 2015 and March 2018. These funds were cashed in similar manner like that of the Government House Accounts. The withdrawal was effected by a cashier in bits of N10million. In a day, the same man withdrew N500million in a N10million per transaction method.
“During interrogation, the Permanent Secretary for Bureau for Internal Affairs and Special Services, Boniface Nyaakor, claimed that they normally gave six security outfits some of the cash. When asked to give details, he said while the highest remittance of N10million will go to one of the outfits, the rest will get N5million each.
“He said memos were usually raised and the governor was always approving. He said once the funds were cashed, he will list out how the funds will be disbursed. After the disbursement, he will bring back the paper to the governor Ortom and he will ask him to tear the distribution list.
“We discovered that once the monthly allocation hits these accounts, the withdrawal of all the funds is a maximum of two days.
“It should be noted that all the cashiers were invited with their supervising accountants. They confessed that once the money was cashed either in Government House or at the Bureau, they have a place they used to deposit it and the affected permanent secretaries will take over disbursement.
“And apart from banking transactions, all records of disbursement have been destroyed.”
Asked if a governor can be questioned on security votes, a top EFCC official said: “The governor has to show records of how security funds are spent.
“In the case of Benue, the Security Votes Schedule was not even captured in the State Appropriation Act. They only put ‘Tentative’. This is done as a cover-up.”
Concerning the N1, 328, 000,000, the EFCC gave details of how it came about the discovery.
The commission’s fact-sheet said: “A petition was received from a Commissioner in the Public Complaints Commission (PCC), ex-Commissioner of Police Abubakar Tsav on June 10, 2016 alleging that pensioners and workers were going through hardship due to non-payment of salaries and pensions. The petition by Tsav was against Governor Ortom and his former Adviser on bureau for local government and chieftaincy affairs Mr. Titus Zam.
“The petitioner alleged that the governor withdrew N 929, 903, 967 from the account of the Bureau of Local Government and Chieftaincy Affairs.
“Based on this petition, an investigation was carried out and it was discovered that about N1, 328,000, 000(N1.328b) cash was withdrawn from the account between October 2015 and June 2016.
“In the course of further investigation, it was one John J. Bako, who is said to be a member of security outfits in the state that withdrew N28million from the account while N1.3billion was withdrawn in cash by Andoor Festus, who is said to be a cashier of the Bureau. The money was withdrawn in cash in bits of N50m, N100m, N120m, and N260m.
“A letter of invitation was sent to the State Government. The first letter was sent on July 18, 2016 and reminders were sent but no reply. The last letter was sent to the Permanent Secretary, Bureau of Local Government and Chieftaincy Affairs on July 9, 2018 but Bako and Andoor are yet to come.
“These are people the EFCC cannot trace. This commission believes the state government should know who they are since they were linked to the account.”
In a follow up to the allegation that apology was sent to Ortom by Tsav recently, a top official said: “The petition bordered on a case against the state. The money he claimed was being diverted was not his money but it is public funds.
“We owe Nigerians a duty to see to the conclusion of this investigation. If Tsav apologized, he has blown the whistle, he cannot retrieve the petition.”
As part of the sleaze in Benue State, the EFCC also uncovered how the state government allegedly paid N80million into the account of a killer Boko Haram suspect Aliyu Yaminu, who is nicknamed Tershaku.
Tershaku, an aide and a relation of Governor Ortom who was arrested by the Nigerian Army in April, has since been in custody.
Alhaji Aliyu Tershaku was the Commander of the Benue State Livestock Guards, a quasi-security outfit established by Governor Samuel Ortom to enforce the State’s anti-open-grazing law that came into force last November. Aliyu Tershaku, an identity he has been known with from his days in Maiduguri, Borno State, when he stayed and worked with the Late founder of the Boko Haram Sect, Mohammed Yusuf, before the group was proscribed in 2009. A known notorious Tiv Muslim from Benue State and a Boko Haram ranked commander said to have repented and granted amnesty by the Benue State Government of Samuel Ortom, was alleged to have been behind some of the killings of hundred of Christians across the Country including the killings of the two Catholic Priests and the Parishioners.
There are unverified allegations about how Gov. Samuel Ortom, who is known to be carrying the heaviest Holy Bible in Nigeria today, could be behind some of the killings in Benue State in the name of the Herdsmen Invasion.
While the Governor had claimed that arms were recovered from these criminal elements, he had at the same time empowered them economically by appointing them as revenue consultants to render revenue services to the Benue State Board of Internal Revenue (BIRS). He had also provided adequate security for them by attaching security personnel to them with State Government branded vehicles. It is estimated that over 249 persons have been killed in Sankara by Gana Killer Squad empowered by Gov. Ortom. This notorious criminal elements had once attacked General Victor Malu when he visited his ancestral home in Katsina-Ala. The notorious gang leader, Terwase Akwaza, a.k.a Gana was also given prominence like his comrade-at-arms Aliyu Tershaku by Gov. Ortom.
The EFCC said: “Between December 20, 2017 and April 6, 2018, the Joint Account Allocation Committee (JAC) had remitted N20 million to the account of Al-Tershaku Global Security Limited allegedly owned by Tershaku. JAC posted N80million to this account as at the time of Tershaku’s arrest. This is aside suspicious cash lodgments by Tershaku himself into the company’s account.”
In the same vein, the EFCC confirmed that about 21 members of the Benue State House of Assembly and a contractor have a case to answer over N417million contract for the purchase of 30 Prado SUV for lawmakers in the state.
Some of the lawmakers were said to have allegedly conspired with the contractor, Alh. Ahmed Baba, who owns Mia Three Nigeria Limited.
“It is a case of diversion of contract funds. A N417million contract was awarded to Mia Three Nigeria Limited (owned by Alh. Ahmed Baba) by the Benue State Government for the supply of 30 Prado SUV for members of the Benue State House of Assembly for oversight functions.
“With less Tax and Value Added Tax (VAT), the worth of the contract amounted to N375million. The cost of each car was around N12.9million. But out of the N375million, about N275million was diverted by the contractor in connivance with members of the Benue State House of Assembly.
“Eight members of the Assembly took delivery of the Prado SUV, one did not benefit because he hijacked a vehicle from the convoy of the Deputy Speaker but 21 others only collected cash from the contractor instead of vehicles.
“The EFCC team has so far recovered N244million from the affected members of the Benue State House of Assembly. Four members refused to pay back the full value of the SUV after remitting. They reluctantly refunded N1million each to EFCC after much pressure.
“These four members and outstanding sums are as follows: Addingi Ngunan (N9million); Kester Kyenge (N9million); Terkaa Ucha (N4million) and Terseer Adzuu (N9million).
On the allegation the, Sen. Akume is using the Commission to frighten assembly members to finish his battle against Ortom, EFCC said;
“We have been interacting with the lawmakers since 2016; it is not as if we have just started the investigation. Some of them, including the Deputy Speaker, came to honour EFCC’s invitation last Thursday. It was while we were interacting with the Deputy Speaker that he was impeached.
“They were asked to report on Monday (30th, July 2018) except a member that applied to perform this year’s Hajj.
“These lawmakers and the contractor have a case to answer because the Prado SUVs were not meant for leisure
“The members have been reporting because their case file is with the Legal Unit of EFCC. We asked them to be reporting because we do not know the exact date they will be arraigned.”
More than 30 suspects are being investigated. They include 21 members of the House, three permanent secretaries, four cashiers, a contractor, directors of Finance, some accountants, and bank managers.
Meanwhile, Governor Samuel Ortom had challenged the commission to be fair in the case hence according to him, his hands are clean. “Let the probe be fair’
Benue State officials also reacted to the planned probe of Governor Samuel Ortom. His Chief Press Secretary Mr. Tever Akase called for a fair investigation.
“The point is that Governor Ortom’s government is transparent. He has nothing to hide. Since he became the governor, every year he published the statement of account in national newspapers.
“This is to show that he has nothing to hide. So we welcome the EFCC investigation. This is anti-graft and we believe they are doing their job. However, we are asking that they should be fair in their investigation. A man who is suspected is not guilty until he is found guilty.
“As I said, we hope that the investigation by the EFCC will be fair without any political undertone. We don’t want to read any conspiracy into it because we have nothing to hide.
“Governor Ortom has been faced with security challenges and he is expected to address them. And this he has been doing. He has not embezzled public funds. Neither has he converted public funds to his personal use. In all, we want a fair hearing, fair investigation.
Special Adviser to the Governor on Media Tahav Agerzua said: “The EFCC can probe any person or organisation based on allegations which may turn out to be true or false. In the case of Governor Ortom, they can probe but I assure you that they will find nothing at the end of the day.”
Notwithstanding, Governor Samuel Ortom has publicly complained about the EFCC constant harassment and subjection of the government officials in Benue State to intense grilling. He has described the action of the anti-graft agency as persecution and rather “ridiculous”.
Ortom’s Chief Press Secretary, Mr. Terve Akase, who raised the alarm on Wednesday, August 15 in Makurdi, said no day passes without the commission adding one more angle to their harassment of Benue Officials.
Where and when the struggle of supremacy for the soul of Benue state will end, and when real governance and development will take over for the betterment of the condition of common man is at the mercy of the hegemonists, the power mongers of the Tiv ethnic who have been governing the state from its inception to date as elected governors.
The answer is also in the womb of time to tell.
COMMUNIQUE ISSUED AT THE END OF CISLAC SIDE EVENT DURING THE UNITED NATIONS GENERAL ASSEMBLY 73RD SESSION IN NEW YORK, SEPTEMBER 24TH 2018 AT 4 WEST 43RD NEW YORK.
The Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre (CISLAC), on the 24th of September, 2018, held a parallel session during the United Nations General Assembly. The event drew participants from different sectors across the globe of notable repute and from different backgrounds including the Chairman Senate Committee on Health, Senator Olanrewaju Adeyemi Tejuosho, Mr. Hilary Ogbonna, Programme Specialist and coordinator Africa and middle East UN SDG Action Campaign, Prof. Tijjani Muhammad-Bande the Nigeria Permanent Representative to United Nations ably represented by Mr. Muyiwa Onifade, Representative of UNICEF- Mrs. Chizoba Steve-Edemba, civil society groups, development partners, the international community, private sector, Nigerians in the diaspora and the media. Ultimately the purpose for the side event was to provide Multi-Stakeholder Approach in Promoting Accountability and Investments in the SDGs.
In his opening remark, Mr. Auwal Ibrahim Musa (Rafsanjani), the Executive Director of CISLAC after welcoming participants, intimated all that the event aimed at proactively brainstorming, provoking critical discussions and harnessing potentials for what will ultimately lead to delivering on the goals of the SDGs. He stated that the meeting will be delving into some specific issues such as financing for health and nutrition and also looking into what key influencers can do to effectively aid implementation of the SDGs.
Rafsanjani noted that adequate and optimal health care delivery constitutes components of governance and national development. He however observed that in Nigeria, adequate access to Health care services is hindered by quite a number of factors including inadequate financing for health, dearth of healthcare personnel, poor maintenance culture, unethical attitude of health providers, ill-equipped and poor infrastructural services, which lead to high maternal and infant mortality rates, low life expectancy, lack of productivity and deepening of underdevelopment. He further observed that about one thousand Nigerian children die of malnutrition-related causes every day; a total of 361,000 each year. Approximately 2.1 million Nigerian children under the age of five are affected by malnutrition, which constitutes one tenth of the global total.
CISLAC Executive Director further observed that there is poor financial and political commitments towards addressing the health menace in the country. He remarked that there is crass lack of political will to seriously tackle the health challenges and in cases where there have been pronouncements, they have been partially or entirely not implemented. He further remarked that many interventions by development partners, government and civil society groups are currently on-going to tackle malnutrition but there are still strong indications of severe acute malnutrition (SAM) in the country.
Driving his points home, he opined that CISLAC on her part has engaged several national and state legislators in the past especially on prioritizing funding for health. He observed that only through serious engagements with policy and legislative realms can this gory situation be overturned, hence the need to continuously engage all relevant stakeholders to draw political will necessary for prioritizing funding for health and specifically nutrition which impacts women and children.
Rafsanjani expressed concern on the slow implementation of the SDGs and the high level of corruption which inadvertently drags the implementation of the SDGs. He noted that while the country’s SDG implementing body – Office of the Senior Special Assistant to the President on the SDG is bothered about paucity of funds to be used in executing the SDGs, the country on the other hand is bleeding from corruption, illicit financial flows and lack of transparency and accountably. He therefore called on all relevant financial institutions and government bodies to exhibit high level of seriousness in this fight against corruption and steer the ship of sustained development.
Prof. Tijjani Muhammad-Bande, ably represented by Mr. Muyiwa Onifade, in his welcome remark observed that promoting government’s anti-corruption efforts is the panacea towards solving Nigeria’s developmental issues including health. He noted that health is very important to the SDGs and that the Mission is very much aware of the health challenges in Nigeria. He observed that asset recovery and repatriation of funds to Nigeria would go a long way towards addressing and implementing the SDGs in Nigeria. He opined that asset recovery is long over-due in Nigeria and stressed the need for bilateral relationships with other nationals to fast-track the process of asset recovery in Nigeria.
He further noted some key health interventions by the Federal government to restore confidence in the health sector such as the scheme to revitalize over 10,000 primary healthcare centres (PHCs) across the country. The event, revitalization of PHCs for Universal Health Coverage, he said, took place at the renovated Kuchigoro model PHC, Kuchigoro village in Abuja, in 2017, that President Muhammad Buhari called on state governors to adopt the initiative by prioritizing revitalization of PHCs in their various state development agendas.
Mr. Onifade stressed the importance of civil society actions towards stemming the tide for sustainable development in Nigeria. He said that what CISLAC is doing is paramount to Nigeria as well as Africa. He remarked that the Permanent Mission counts on CISLAC as champions against corruption. He called for more stringent measures to be put in place in order to refocus the issue of illicit financial and arms flows in the country. He stressed that if the country can rid itself off corrupt practices, then there will be less need to focus on health issues in Nigeria anymore. He further urged civil society groups to continue with the struggle against corruption which he said will lead to achieving universal health coverage and sustainable development.
Senator Olanrewaju Adeyemi Tejuosho in his presentation on “the Role of Parliament in improving domestic investment in nutrition”, during the technical session at the CISLAC event, narrated the effects of malnutrition such as impaired brain development and lower intelligence quotient (IQ), low productivity, increased healthcare cost, weakened immune system, high risk of diabetes, cancer, stroke among others. He noted that Nigeria has many nutrition policies but lack the will to implement them. He further stated that the reasons why we need to invest in nutrition are enormous. He opined that for every dollar spent on nutrition has a dividend of sixteen dollars! He further observed that everyday Nigeria losses about 2,300 children under the age of five and 145 women of childbearing age due to malnutrition. Investment in nutrition he said is crucial to the achievement of sustainable development goals, it is required for increased productivity, reduced cost for health, reduces child mortality and increases productivity and economic growth. He further lamented the poor state of budgetary allocation to nutrition which he tied to the Nutrition Global Report 2017 which recommends 4% of national budget to nutrition whereas Nigeria invests the meagre sum of 0.02% on nutrition.
Senator Tejuosho reflected that it was for the purpose of active involvement of legislators that the Legislative Network for Universal Health Coverage and Nutrition was adopted. Since its adoption the network has garnered some landmark achievement for the country among which is increased budget for nutrition in 2018, inclusion of nutrition services in the Basic Health Care Provision Funds, development of legislative monitoring frameworks to oversight healthcare facilities, among others.
Mr. Hilary Ogbonna deliberated on Citizens’ Perspectives in promoting accountability and investment on the SDGs using My World Survey. Mr. Hilary presented a survey held by millions of people across the globe to ascertain which of the sustainable development goals, SDGs, they require most. He opined that it was through this survey that the 17 goals of the SDGs emerged. He remarked that the reason why the SDGs are more acceptable than its predecessor millennium development goals is because it is people oriented. He observed that the SDG agenda is transformative, he said that most development agenda are not people driven development.
He opined that most development agenda are isolated and alienated development goals but the SDGs is about economies, about transparency and accountability. He observed that if the SDGs is properly implemented, it will lift millions of people from poverty. The SDGs he said is interested in resource mobilization through trade and for SDGs to be successful, it must invest in people using medium term plan. Like every other presenter, Mr. Hilary agreed that for the SDGs to thrive there must be proper investment in health, social security, access to water and sanitation and above all amplifying people’s voices. The SDGs he said is a product of peoples’ participation and multi-sectoral participation. The major outcome is that this survey can be presented to the parliament and other government bodies.
He concluded by saying that the accountability mechanisms embedded in the SDGs helped to ensure that such process is inclusive bringing stakeholders such as CSOs together to chart a course for the future in the spirit of leaving no one behind.
Finally, Mr. Okeke Anya, Programme Manager Democratic Governance, CISLAC, made a presentation on the challenges of implementation of the SDGs. He assessed the SDGs through some of the key milestone goals such as poverty, gender and affirmative action, access to justice, access to energy, cost of corruption etc and found that Nigeria is still lagging behind on most of these indices.
He explored the nexus between corruption and implementation of the SDGs and finds that there is a strong correlation between wastes of so much money by the government which would have been applied to better use in the implementation of the SDGs and providing quality health to the people.
He observed that the issue of money laundering is still a major setback in Nigeria, although he pointed out that there are some improvements in terms of conviction of politically exposed persons but that money laundry is the bane of our country’s development in that it drains the country of millions of useful dollars. On the issues of illicit financial flows, he said that about 50billion naira leaves Nigeria on regular basis that those are funds that would have been used to develop the country. He gave example with Financial Intelligence Unit (FIU) reporting on financial institutions of Nigeria. Looking at the money laundry act since 2010, he observed that not until 2015 was there any prosecution on this. Financial intelligence unit (FIU), asset recovery, bribery, are all channels or financial pools that would have been used to finance the SDGs.
In conclusion, he added the importance of conscious collaborative efforts by all the arms of government to work together to curb corruption. He enjoined the Office of the Senior Special Assistant to the President on SDGs to explore common ground to coordinate with other relevant ministries, departments and agencies for the achievement of the SDGs.
At the end of the event participants observed that:
• There is high prevalence of malnutrition in Nigeria.
• The gravity of malnutrition and its effect on economic growth and development in Nigeria is acknowledged
• Legislative arm of government has an enormous role to play in ensuring nutrition-secure Nigeria through enactment of relevant laws, adequate budgetary allocation and release of funds
• There seem to uncoordinated effort by Ministries, Departments and Agencies to work together which inhibits sustained development.
• Corruption is still pervasive at all the levels of government.
Participants recommend the following:
• Advocacy from the perspective of political and investment case for nutrition needs to be intensified
• More coordinated and deliberate efforts are needed to mobilize and apply technical and financial resources domestically and globally;
• Partnership with Parliament and executives to institute transparency and accountability for each live lost.
• All arms of government including CSOs and media must work together to ensure implementation and proper coordination of the SDGs
• The international community to champion, Support and Promote efforts towards increased resources (Cash & in-kind) for scaling up implementation of National Nutrition Plan to improve nutrition outcomes in Nigeria.
• Media and civil society to leverage their legal mandate as watchdogs to monitor the implementation of the SDGs as well as utilizing all necessary media to address poor performance and lack of accountability and corruption.
In conclusion, participants commended CISLAC for galvanizing the voices of civil society, diaspora, legislators and government on the pressing issue of implementation of the SDGs and called for more conscious effort by the African region to be more proactive in the implementation of the SDGs and eschew encumbrances that will undermine effective implementation of the SDGs.
Auwal Ibrahim Musa (Rafsanjani)
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