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Political Turbulence in Benue State By Oga Tom Uhia

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The past couple of weeks haven’t been the best for the image of Benue State. Benue is in political turmoil. All is not well with the two main political parties in Benue State. The most troubled is the All Progressive Congress which until last month was the ruling party in Benue State. Then the Governor, Dr. Samuel Iorarer Ortom defected to the opposition People Democratic Party, PDP.
Everybody saw it coming and it was no surprise that the love between the Governor and the party that he rode to power would not last. The Governor came into the party in a strange manner and most people predicted that he would exit in the same way and it came to past.
Prior to his adoption as the candidate of the All Progressives Congress and subsequent election, no one in Benue is in doubt about which political party controls the state: The People’s Democratic Party, PDP. For 16 years, the party was in total control. But towards the end, the goodwill the party had was wasted by the immediate past Governor and flag bearer of the party, Gabriel Suswam. The wave of impunity and total disdain for the will of the people by leaders of the PDP had also reached unbearable level.
As a result, the people were ready to elect even a goat if it were presented against the PDP. Thus Ortom did not win the election because he was popular or admired by the people. His party, the All Progressives Congress only provided a ticket and the window for the people to express their disgust and displeasure for the PDP.
In The Beginning
On the humid Makurdi Friday of May 29, 2015, when in front of thousands of well-wishers Governor Ortom, took his oath of office as the Executive Governor of Benue State at the Ibrahim Babaginda (IBB) Square, there was no inkling that the state will be at its nadir in terms of its image as it is now. Ortom had ridden to power on the wind of change blowing across the country. He acknowledged this in the third sentence of his inaugural speech; “My Deputy, Engineer Benson Abounu and I deeply appreciate our great party, the All Progressives Congress, APC, that provided us the platform to join the wind of change that is blowing across Nigeria”
The wind of change also blew tremendous goodwill towards him. The workers were most voracious in their support. They saw him as the answer to the lingering issues of unpaid salaries. In fact the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) suspended their industrial action as a mark of goodwill towards his assumption of office.
It is important to understand the place of salaries in the “Benue Universe”. Benue State is an agrarian state whose major resource, farm produce, has never prospered due to a cocktail of successive weak, corrupt and visionless leadership, with the help of unfathomable docility of a good number of indigenes who are always quick to take sides with rapacious leaders in exchange for crumbs while fighting each other. This sorry state of affairs has made the civil service, as ridiculous as it sounds in these contemporary times, the most viable and reliable source of income for many, directly or indirectly.
Payment of workers’ salaries is therefore the single most important issue at stake as far as the welfare of the people is concerned and it is no secret that the former Governor, Gabriel Suswam’s inability to pay workers’ salaries was chief among the reasons why he and his party, the People Democratic Party (PDP) lost out during the 2015 elections that ushered in the Ortom administration.

Opportunities…Lost
“Fellow citizens of Benue State, my heart bleeds for Benue workers and pensioners as they have suffered untold hardship as the issues of their salaries, wages and allowances have become a major challenge. We shall immediately make arrangements to determine and verify our indebtedness and work towards the immediate payment of outstanding workers’ salaries and allowances of pensioners. The Bible states that the worker deserves his wages, on that score government must ensure that wages are paid as at when due.” These are words from Governor Ortom’s inaugural Speech, May 29, 2015) Many were elated when they heard the above portion of that speech.
They thought here at last is a governor who understands the place of salaries in the life of the Benue person. However, their elation was short-lived because in the months following this glowing speech, the State government still owed its workers their salaries despite borrowing billions of naira in the name of paying off salaries owed workers. Many thought the governor was trying to redeem his promise to workers and pensioners when he took some bonds and loans to offset salary arrears and ensure that workers get their pay as and when due.
It would be recalled that the Ortom administration had initially headed for the Bond market to obtain a loan of N10billion to pay May and June (2015) salaries of the state workers and running of government.
He followed this up with a commercial bank loan of N5.5billion which he used for the payment of counterpart funding with various international partners.
The state also accessed the N28billion bailout funds from the federal government which was to offset the backlog of salary arrears to the tune of N12.5billion for state workers and N15.5 for local government workers as well as another loan of N10 billion and a Paris Club Refund of 12.5 billion even as another Paris Club Refund is being awaited at the moment.
But despite all these loans and Refunds as well as the monthly allocation accruing to the state from the federation account and monies accruing from Internally Generated Revenue (IGR), the state is still grappling with payment of salaries as state workers are being owed nine months’ salary at the moment with teachers and local government workers as well as pensioners owed even higher.
This however has continued to be a big pain for the governor who at several fora lamented his inability to attend to workers’ welfare, as he wanted due to paucity of funds occasioned by the biting economic recession.
Whatever hope anyone nursed for the Benue worker’s fate was extinguished as backlog of salaries weren’t cleared. Instead Governor Ortom was alleged to have diverted the monies. There was even a presidential directive given to the Independent Corrupt Practices Commission (ICPC) to probe the Benue government alongside Imo and Osun states concerning irregularities in the disbursement of the funds.
The government then declared a state of emergency on this niggling issue. Governor Ortom gave insight to this development recently when he said, “I set up a committee recently and they verified about one-quarter of the workforce in the state and we discovered that within a period of one year and three months, there were fraudulent practices amounting to N1.4 billion. These are things we are going to check. I have declared a state of emergency on payment of salaries and part of what we are going to do is to do screening along with workers to ensure that genuine workers receive their salaries as and when due.”
Whatever goodwill the Ortom administration had on May 29th 2015 was depleted by his poor handling of the salary matter. The same Benue workers who trooped in their thousands to hail the incoming government took to the same venue on 1st May 2017, to show their displeasure when in full glare of the watching world, they marched past the governor with arms on their heads in despair and resignation. Nothing better typifies this slide in fortunes.
At his inauguration on May 29th, 2015, Samuel Ortom made fantastic pledges which made the people believe that at last a Moses had come to deliver the State from the dragon teeth of the PDP. In his speech at that ceremony, Ortom hinged the main thrust of his administration on five major pillars:
Good Governance and revenue security;
Agricultural driven industrialization;
Science, technology, engineering, arts and mathematics (STEAM) based education and Health services;
Investment in critical infrastructure and
Promoting gender equality and empowering women, youth, sports and persons with disabilities.

At the end of three years and with less than ten months to conclude his tenure, Ortom cannot dutifully lay hands on any of these so-called pillars of his administration that he had successfully implemented. It is important to take closer look at each of the pillars and align the outcome of Ortom’s failures.

Good Governance and revenue security
Quoting from his inauguration speech in which he said “We will constitute a participatory government where citizens will have their say and way. We will work to allay the fear of marginalization of the minority ethnic groups in the State…. Predictably, it was the sharing of appointments that became the first bone of contention for Samuel Ortom. In the first series of appointments, the governor announced Targema Takema as the secretary to the State Government. That appointment placed him at loggerhead with the Idoma of Benue South senatorial district. It was the first time the Idoma will fail to produce the SSG in sixteen years and that drew its fair share of criticism and this created the first distrust of the Ortom administration. His feeble attempt at balancing the cabinet did nothing to assuage this distrust. The Idoma believed Ortom deliberately did this to spite the entire tribe because he could have corrected the anomaly after Targema was dropped. But after Targema, two other Tiv persons have been appointed to that position: Dr. Bem Meladu and Professor Tony Ijohor, SAN.
Even his attempt to win the Igede to his side through the appointment of Elias Iwanta Adaikwu as Head of Service fell on its face because within one year, he replaced him with someone from Ado local Government, Engineer George Ede thus leaving the Igede who form the third main ethnic group without a significant position. The highest and only position in Ortom’s administration held by the Igede is that of Special Adviser in what one Igede man described as ‘chinkini’ portfolio.
These first steps by Ortom showed he had low marks in governance, indeed very low mark. Even his colleagues were quick to identify these faults. . First it was Governor Nyesom Wike of Rivers State who described Ortom as a weak leader and called for a state of emergency to be declared in Benue State. In his words, “Benue governor has lost control. That is why there is an immediate need to declare a state of emergency for the restoration of security and protection of the people”.
But Governor Wike wasn’t done, and in a boisterous manner, he threw a jibe at Governor Ortom, offering to construct roads for Benue State.
The media, ever looking for the next big thing caught Governor Wike’s jibe by the hem and unsurprisingly it dominated the media space with Benue State having the short end of the stick. This was in March.
But perhaps the biggest dent came in the form of an innocuous post on social media: the pictures of wheelbarrows branded with the inscription, “Gov Ortom for You,” a slogan adopted by the Governor’s appointees to showcase his efforts. The images went viral and by afternoon of Thursday May 17, 2017, “wheelbarrow” was trending on Nigeria social media and blogosphere. Even the traditional media wasn’t left out and the topic is still dominating opinion columns, cartoons and live radio discussions all over the country.

Industrialisation
In his inaugural speech, Governor Ortom promised that his administration would build private sector capacity by creating enabling environment for it to thrive. But in spite of his efforts to remain true to his word, two years into his four-year tenure, there is no industry that one could point to in the state even as moribund industries such as the Otukpo Burnt Bricks, Taraku Mills as well as the Wannunne Tomato factories among others are still far from being revived

Benue People React
A widow and mother of eight children, Mrs. Christiana Akase from Akile Village located on Kilometre 15, Makurdi/Gboko Road, lamented that the administration of Governor Ortom had not impacted on her living standard in any way.
Madam Akase who is a farmer maintained that promises made to farmers by the Ortom’s administration to provide farm inputs and improved seedlings as well as money to enhance their farm business had not been fulfilled.
“I have not seen Ortom fulfilling any of his promises to us. For instance, I am a farmer and he promised to give us money for our farming business but nothing has come to me. I am a widow with eight children who are all in school. I suffer a lot to ensure they go to school. But it is now pretty difficult for me to continue sponsoring them in school with my very meager income. These are areas Ortom should look into; free education for indigent students.”
The PDP state Secretary, Bemgba Iyortom who described Ortom’s three-year performance as a failure said there was nothing to point to as a success story of the Ortom-led administration.
“This is a government that came with the promise to pay salaries but we all know how much salary workers and pensioners are being owed in the state despite the billions of naira that had been borrowed. Crime is on the rise in the state. No project has been completed or commissioned in three years. They only came with a promise of change and we have not yet seen any positive change so far.”

The Bursting Of The Dam
Although many expect the dam would burst because of the signs that had been emerging, it took almost everybody by surprise when the disharmony between Governor Samuel Ortom and his god-father, Senator George Akume came to a head. Following an open confrontation between the two, a barrage of actions has kept developing and had made Benue the center of attention.
The whole incident happened during a meeting which was arranged at the Presidential Lodge of the Benue government house in Makurdi by a former permanent secretary (Establishment), Mr. Akange Audu, to broker peace between Governor Ortom and Senator Akume.
At the meeting, Akange Audu, whose wife is presently the chairperson of Makurdi Local Government, said that it became imperative for him to invite the duo of Ortom and Akume in order to find a lasting solution to the internal crisis which has been going on between the two of them.
Specifically, Akange Audu mentioned the issue of replacing Ortom with Emmanuel Jime as the APC flag bearer in 2019 arising from what Ortom had witnessed at the last APC National Convention in Abuja when Akume’s loyalists were alleged to have publicly campaigned for Jime, among other issues that must be resolved at the meeting.
Just as Audu who was to be a mediator at the meeting had finished, Governor Samuel Ortom signified his intention to talk, and said that he was ready to leave the APC for Akume and his people if that would give him back his peace.
According to Ortom, he could no longer tolerate all the public insults which he said Akume had been giving to him since the issue of salary crisis started. Immediately Ortom had finished, a visibly angry Akume raised his voice and tongue lashed the governor by saying several derogatory words to him in the presence of Akange Audu who sat down helplessly.
“I have been hearing that you said you want to leave the APC just because I have found a better candidate. Jime is going to represent APC at the election and I dare you to leave the party. If you are sure that you can leave the party peacefully, then try it and see what I will do to you and your brother-in-law (Oliver Mtom)
“You are a thief. You eat all the monies meant for salaries payment and yet you will go about and lie that I, Akume, is the reason you cannot pay salaries. Leave the party and see if I will not expose you.
“I also heard that you go about telling people that I use to insult you anytime I drink alcohol and get drunk. You that call yourself a man of God and someone who doesn’t drink, aren’t you fetish? You call yourself a holy man but you are into cultism and fetish stuffs. A man of God who has been stealing, stealing and stealing. I shall expose you, you just try and leave the party first.
“The last time, you, your permanent secretary and brother-in-law stole N22 billion and you lied to me that it was N18 billion when you needed me to intervene so that the EFCC could drop their investigations. You forget that it was during the EFCC investigation that they discovered all the N22 billion from the bank accounts of your wife’s brother and two other people. You just try and…..”
While Akume was saying all these, Ortom stood up angrily and said: “I agree that I am a thief. I agree that I steal. I agree that I am a common criminal like you have said but I want you to know that I use to give you your own share from the stolen funds. You have been getting your own fair share”
In his response, Akume asked the governor to mention any money he had given him from the stolen funds since he became governor.
While reacting to that, Ortom said: “I have been eating the stolen funds with you and your family. Your wife (Regina Akume) who is presently in Germany now, I gave her N8 million when she wanted to go on the trip. Where did I get that N8 million from or do I earn N8million as my salary? I am ready to leave your party for you if that will make you happy”
Realising that he couldn’t broker peace between the governor and Senator Akume, the mediator, Akange Audu, advised that they should go to the larger waiting room of the lodge where some other party stakeholders were waiting for them so they could throw the matter open.
Waiting for the trio at the larger waiting room were a former deputy governor of the state, Mr. Steven Lawani, Speaker of the State House of Assembly, Hon. Terkimbir Ikyange, Chief Mike Iyortye and some others.
On getting to the larger stakeholders meeting, Akume stood up and said that he would never sit down with “this criminal” (pointing to Ortom) in his life again. He pressed further that he is ready to sacrifice his return to the Senate rather than sit down with the governor or even allow him to fly the party’s flag in 2019. He then walked out of the meeting.
When this bubble burst, Ortom took the first shot by his partial dissolution of his Cabinet which everybody knew was largely put together by Senator Akume.
Many however were not impressed by Ortom’s action. A blogger and social media commentator, Josephine Akioyamen said Ortom partially dissolved his cabinet, not because he wants to change the direction of governance but because he is in the political fight of his life. He needs to enthrone men and women whose livelihood depends on him, people with skeletons in their cupboards who could be blackmailed to be loyal and people naturally loyal to him. He cannot afford to populate his government with people whose loyalty he can’t count on in the fight ahead.
“Ortom has done nothing revolutionary. He is a lame duck governor. He ran a government people by the most concrete footed individuals ever to walk Benue and he stuck by then for three unproductive years. Now that his term is winding down, now that he is seeking a second term and now that he is in a do or die tussle with his benefactor. Now that he is pushed to the wall. Now that he is about to lose all of his privileges. Now that his pockets are about to be hit he is showing ruthlessness we never know existed.”
This cabinet dissolution thing is not about Benue. It is about Ortom and Ortom alone. He simply wants people that could help him make sure his EVACUATIONS OF BENUE RESOURCES TO CHINA continue unabated for the next 5 years. There is nothing to be cheerful about in this other than to prime ready our PVC and send him back to Guma, another blogger wrote.
Ortom went further to declare that he had been given a red card from the All progressive Congress,APC. Since then the Benue people and indeed Nigerians have been treated to one drama or the other. The first was the pseudo crowd of youths who allegedly waylaid the Governor at the Government House gates and deterred him from heading for his second meeting with Adams Oshiomole over his clashes with Akume.
How can the governor’s convoy be blocked by a crowd of unarmed loyalists? His security men would probably have fired a few teargas canisters in the air and the entire government house entrance would be free in seconds. More importantly, how did this crowd get wind of the proposed trip? Funny enough how did the councilors and local government chairmen managed to be seated in government house in less than one hour after Ortom detoured from the gates. If Ortom was determined to leave the APC, he should simply have been man enough to tell Adams Oshiomole so. That’s what brave men do. This kind of cowardice and faking of support show that he is not in control of his actions and that he needed to fake his defection. Events later had shown that his claim that he was defecting with all councilors and local government chairmen was also false.
Ortom went ahead to divide the state House of Assembly through he got the group loyal to him to impeach the principal officers of the House, a move observers said was intended to check the House controlled by the APC from impeaching him. The other side also took the battle and initiated the steps towards his impeachment. A notice of impeachment was generated and both sides are now in court.
Ortom since then has tried to justify his defection by attacking his former god father and the APC. He was particularly piqued that the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission should initiate probe into his security votes.
The All Progressives Congress (APC) in Benue State has called on Governor Samuel Ortom to attend to the main issues contained in the Preliminary report released by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) on Monday, July 31, 2018. The Governor was linked to an alleged fraud to the tune of over N22bn by the report. A statement by the Party chairman, Comrade Abba Yaro said instead of advancing satisfactory explanations to the Benue people and indeed on how the over N22bn was expended, the Governor has resorted to his usual antics of herdsmen invasion. One would have expected that during the live broadcast to the good people of Benue State on Radio Benue, Joy FM and Harvest FM, on Wednesday, August 1, 2018, the Governor would have explained how his government that preaches accountability and transparency is accused of diverting over N22bn. He rather alleged that over 1,000 herdsmen and 10,000 herds of cattle have already invaded Guma, his local government as confirmed by the Local Government Council Chairman of Guma.
The people of Benue State would like to know from His Excellency how he knows the exact number of herdsmen and herds of cattle that have invaded Guma LGA? Has the Governor taken over from his cousin, Alhaji Aliyu Tershaku, as the Grand Commander of the Livestock Guards in Benue State? We commend the security agencies in Nigeria that since the arrest of Commander Alhaji Aliyu Tershaku, of the Ortom Livestock Guards, killings in Benue State have subsided.
On the allegation by Governor Samuel Ortom that the Leader of the APC in Benue State, Senator George Akume is mobilizing herdsmen to invade Benue State, the party dismissed the allegation saying as sane minds, of what purpose will it serve Distinguished Senator George Akume to mobilize Fulani herdsmen to invade his Constituency and State? Let the security agencies hold Governor Samuel Ortom personally responsible for any invasion of the state under any guise.
The party reminded the good people of Benue State that Governor Ortom was the first Benue indigene who called for the concession of land in Agatu for grazing by those he called indigenous Fulani herdsmen. The Governor and his counterpart in Nasarawa State Alhaji Tanko Al-Makura had embarked on a peace shuttle to prevail on the natives to readmit the herdsmen after the Agatu Massacre of early February, 2016 in Obagaji, the Agatu local government headquarters.
According to the report of Vanguard Newspaper of February 5, 2017, Governor Ortom particularly lamented what he described as the massive and unprecedented destruction of Agatu and killings by herdsmen but said there was no alternative to peace for development and progress to take place. While restating his stance on ranching as panacea to the crisis, he urged Agatu people to “forgive and allow the indigenous Fulani return because vengeance belongs to God. If you remember, my kinsmen were similarly killed and property including my ancestral home destroyed by herdsmen but the people of Guma have since forgiven the attack and moved on.”
No citizen of Benue State knows indigenous Fulani herdsmen more than the Governor himself and we are sure it is his indigenous Fulani herdsmen that are returning to Guma if at all it is true there is an invasion.
Governor Ortom has failed to execute any project in the over three (3) years of his administration. Instead he has resorted to cheap blackmail of APC leaders and use of Fulani herdsmen crisis to cover up for his abysmal performance. During the said Radio broadcast, the Governor highlighted some of his achievements to include: renovation of several facilities such as School of Nursing Makurdi, which was built by the administration of Late Apollos Aper Aku which Governor Ortom merely repainted at over N2bn; the College of Health Technology built by the George Akume administration as well as Accreditation of School of Health Sciences of Benue State University, Makurdi built by the same Akume administration.
Most laughable is the claim by the Governor that his administration had executed over 800 water schemes in the State whereas nothing of such is on ground. The people of Makurdi, Gboko, Katsina-Ala and Otukpo which had long standing water schemes are even groaning in search of portable water.
It is quite unfortunate that the Governor claimed to have executed 11 major roads and over 100 rural access roads. These so-called road project only exist in the imagination of the Governor. The only major road contract awarded by Governor Samuel Ortom is the 40.397km Origbo-Imande Akpu-Gbajimba, his home town at a cost of N4.766bn awarded to M/S Tongyi New International Construction Ltd, a company which belongs to Mr. Stephen Amase, his Principal Private Secretary. Even then, the project awarded on March 23, 2016 is yet to be 20% completed despite over 80% payment of the total contract sum.
The case of renovation of over 740 primary schools in Benue State is another story for the gods. The massive fraud in the award of those contracts by SUBEB can only be imagined. Apart from the fact that funding for the projects came from the Federal Government’s Universal Basic Education Board, more than 2/3 of the projects were allocated to the Governor’s cronies. Contractors who bided for the projects have a lot of stories to tell. Most of the contracts have been abandoned by the cronies who have diverted the money for other uses.
The agricultural sector has suffered serious neglect under the Ortom administration. As a state that parades itself as the food basket of the nation, farmers do not get fertilizer and other farm inputs courtesy of the government. No single tractor has been purchased by the Ortom-led administration. Rather the few broken down tractors at the Benue Tractor Hiring Agency (BENTHA) bought by previous administrations have been rehabilitated, refurbished and confiscated by Ortom’s Oracle Farms Ltd. Mr. Governor has made over 12 purported investment trips to China at the state expense but the few Chinese investors have ended up in his Oracle Farms Ltd.
On the aspect of heavy wage bill as claimed by the Governor, the people of Benue State and indeed Nigerians are aware that the Governor has over bloated the wage bill for his pecuniary gains. We call on the EFCC to investigate the bailout funds, Paris Club refunds and other budget support initiatives of the Federal Government. Records available from the Revenue Mobilization and Fiscal Commission shows that the Benue State Government under Ortom has received well over N300bn and IGR of over N45bn in the ensuing period not including other revenues sources such as grants, bailout funds, Paris refund and budget support. The Governor is owing 7 months of salaries and gratuities/pensions in excess of 14 months, more than any other state in Nigeria.
It is on record that Governor Samuel Ortom has completely killed private sector initiatives in the Benue State. The only viable private investment is the Oracle Conglomerate which is owned by Governor Ortom. Oracle farms produce virtually everything that other entrepreneurs ought to provide. Incidentally, most of the Oracle industries were acquired from the State moribund industries established by his predecessors at no cost to the Governor. In the broadcast, the Governor sited the Soya Oil company owned by one Ndyerkaa Hule in Wannune, Tarka LGA as one of his achievements. This is a personal effort of Mr. Hule, which has been in existence before the Ortom administration. Let Nigerians know that Benue State is the only state whose indigenes have not benefitted from the numerous Small and Medium Scale interventions of the Federal Government because of the Governor’s conflict of interest. The Bank of Industry loan scheme has been hijacked by the Governor and members of his family to the detriment of the Benue populace.
The APC is advising Governor Ortom to leave land mark projects such as Schools and hospitals so that his successors can also renovate or rehabilitate in future. The Governor can still turn around the fortunes of Benue State within the few months left of his administration if he is repentant, focused and avoid waste of state resources in search of his second term ticket.
On the allegation by Governor Samuel Ortom that the Inspector General of Police has withdrawn Police security at the Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) camps, let the general public note that since the inception of those camps, it is Ortom’s Vigilante Group and Livestock Guards that have been providing security at those camps and not the Police. This allegation by the Governor is to enable him turn around and kill people at those camps, as he has always done, in the name of Fulani herdsmen. By the way, the Federal Government has made adequate arrangements for the return of IDPs to their ancestral homes, why is the case of Benue State different? Where is the money meant for settlement of the IDPs provided by the Federal Government?
The party insisted that the Governor should answer the EFCC over allegations of fraud by his administration and stop the diversion of attention. The issue of Fulani herdsmen clashes though condemnable is not peculiar to Benue State but those other states affected such as Plateau, Nasarawa, Zamfara and Sokoto are making tremendous progress. The APC then called on Governor Ortom to refrain from making comments that are capable of inciting ethnic and religious violence in Nigeria.
We have had enough of bloodshed in the Benue Valley. What the people of Benue State need now is the dividends of democracy which they have been denied by the Ortom administration.
The purported move to impeach Ortom was not an end in itself. It was a means to another political end. Akume is shrewd enough to know that Ortom has an unofficial consigliere who has outwitted in every metrics of Realpolitik in the last two months. He also knows that Ortom using the resources of the state as an instrument in his bargaining manoeuvres has all but crumbled his political edifice with the exception perhaps of the APC scrawny party administration led by Abba Yaro which remains tightly in fealty to him and the support of the Big Fulani in Aso Rock.
He, therefore, harped upon two threads with which to rattle Ortom and or remove him.
The first was to be of Ortom own doing. In his negotiations to camp with PDP, Ortom failed to string the deputy governor along. The deputy was one of his disposable assets towards his acquisition of the vaulted gubernatorial ticket of the PDP. It was no surprise, he sent the deputy governor to Kaduna on an inconsequential junket the day he was to decamp to the PDP to make it seem they were not on the same page or for the deputy governor to seem disloyal so that Ortom could do away with him and bring in the unofficial consigliere’s loyalist.
The plan was for the Deputy Governor to be served a notice of impeachment by the 22 mutinous members of the House of Assembly along with the CJ Adam Onum. The plan failed because Ortom got the Intel that Akume wanted him exactly to toe this line so as to have evidence to present to his Big Fulani bosses that Benue was in a state of constitutional crisis that requires the intervention of the Federal government. Ortom backtracked and instead ask the deputy governor to make a proclamation disassociating himself from the APC.
The second was to be of Akume’s making. It was what we saw playing out at the state House of Assembly where the factional speaker of the House along with 7 other members loyal to Akume were given cover by the Big Fulani bosses of Akume to issue a notice of impeachment to Ortom, even though they knew from the start that it was doomed. What Akume wanted was (a. to rattle Ortom and (b. to create a condition fortuitous to his plan to get the Fulani to issue a state of emergency proclamation in Benue, which could enable his choice of a sole administration to take over the affairs of Benue for six months.
Unfortunately for him, Ortom’s unofficial consigliere was ten steps ahead of him. Akume didn’t reckon that the Big Fulani needed the NASS for this coup to come to fruition. He seemed to have forgotten that Saraki and Dogara, both clients of Ortom’s consigliere, maintain a tight grip on the NASS and that there was no chance in hell. Leaving the APC is Governor Ortom’s easiest and only political survival strategy to escape from his obvious under-performance as governor as well as cleverly milked from ‘some political moods in Benue: anti-APC and the anger from the ‘Herdsmen killings’.
On the other hand, the APC has gotten an opportunity to reduce the many political baggage brought on its head by Governor Ortom – Some of Ortom’s negative political values- workers’ salaries issues, weak governance etc.
Furthermore, the APC as a political party will have the opportunity to present a new face for governor and only battle with anti-Buhari and the politics herdsmen crisis in Benue state in 2019 general elections. As expected, the PDP has welcomed Ortom back into its fold, saying he was welcome back home to help salvage the nation.
The APC said it was surprised, but the signs were already there for quite sometimes- The APC shouldn’t be taken aback- July 9, Ortom dissolved his cabinet; the ‘I have been given red card’ statement and the politics and intricacies that surrounded the herdsmen crisis in Benue including the stage- managed youth blockage of the governor’s convoy.
Governor Ortom joined the APC from the PDP ahead the 2015 elections.
He served as Minister of State of Industry, Trade and Investment during the Jonathan administration.
Ortom also served as the director of operations of the PDP gubernatorial campaign in Benue State in 2007, and later as director of administration and logistics of the Goodluck/Sambo Presidential Campaign Organization in 2011. Ortom was also a former national auditor of the PDP.
Going to election without an incumbent governor is a minus for the APC but a plus to the PDP.
Ortom on the other hand may have been offered an automatic ticket by the PDP, but he is coming to the PDP as an orphan- the deal has already been done- Ortom will have only the PDP governorship ticket but party structures from wards to national level are in some other peoples’ hands.
And, he will face the likes of David mark, Barnabas Gemade and many PDP bigwigs.
The PDP may have promised Governor Ortom as automatic ticket; but the party will also witness a backlash from other governorship hopeful as well as carry Ortom’s political baggage.
But in politics it is normal, politicians and political parties will strive at all cost to survive a political storm- whoever finds himself in Ortom shoes, will do same- He has grossly unperformed, then a rare opportunity to temporarily get political-relief presented itself. Ortom smartly grabbed it.
The APC can smartly, milked from Ortom’s exit, if the party plays its politics very well.
The Governor on the other hand, can also utilize his exist from the APC for political gains.
This is politics – Nigerian standard. Could it allow a state of emergency motion to pass or even be debated on the floors of the NASS. They have since signaled their thoughts about the Benue’s shenanigans in a joint statement.
So far Ortom is using Akume to wipe the floor in this endeavour but whether it is going to continue like this is yet to be seen.
By its very nature investigations serve one of two ends. It either finds a suspect culpable for the wrong for which he is being investigated OR exonerates him, wipe him clean of blame and help to burnish his reputation. A person who is not culpable or guilty sees investigations as an opportunity to show the public he is what he says he is. That is what you see is what you get.
This is where I find the turn of the Ortom’s administration funny. For more than three years Ortom has been mouthing the terms transparency and accountability as the organizing principle that undergird his operations. Meaning he owed the public accountability and transparency in how much he gets or generates as revenue and how it is spent.
However, and unfortunately, he and his administration has taken this principle to mean supplying the already available public figures of how much it gets from the federation account and the ever shifting figures of what it generates from the Benue Inland Revenue Service (BIRS) to the Benue people but never how those incomes are expended.
The request by the EFCC for him to provide the minutes of his Security Council meetings should provide Ortom the opportunity for transparency and accountability as to how N19bn of the N22bn he claimed to have spent on security in Benue was actually expended. It should help him burnish his “self-created image” of a pastor, a man of God, a conscientious and moralistic man who would never deign to coral funds meant for public purposes into his own personal or private use.
This should be seen as God’s given opportunity for him to be known forever as a man who ran a clean government, instead, what we see is he and his government running from pillar to post trying to whip up sentiments or an emotional reaction from the good people of Benue by taking a persecuted and victimized stance.
For instance, the Chief Press Secretary to Governor Ortom was quoted as saying this; “What does EFCC want to do with minutes of Benue State Security Council meetings? Has EFCC moved from fighting crimes to a security regulating agency? It has asked for minutes of the state Security Council meetings between 2015 and 2018.
What does EFCC want from Benue State?” This is to topple over the emotional content of the Benue people. To reduce us into sentimental sissies as to forego all rationality. Thank God the Benue people are wiser than he gives them credit for.
But why is Ortom afraid of investigation if he has nothing to hide? Why is he afraid of a little light being shined into the seemingly seedy opacity of the boondoggle that is his government? Why is he taking the Trumpian turn of appealing to emotions instead of supplying exculpatory facts that could launder him forever? It could be the guilty are afraid. And Ortom is afraid. He may be guilty of looting penurious Benue dry. What a pity.
Two numbers to consider today. N107bn. N22bn.
Two years ago Ortom put his predecessor Gabriel Suswam on the wash line and accused him of swallowing N107bn along with some apparatchiks in his administration. A figure over which Ortom, who never tires of calling himself the patriot, is silent about these days showing that throwing up this figure in the first place was for his political profit, to diminish the rising popularity of Suswam to garnish his own; a classic case of a witch hunt. If this is not the case a patriot, a person who truly believes in Benue would do everything within his powers to get back what was stolen from Benue. The fact that Ortom is not doing this at best shows absence of patriotism in him, or at worst, he is a man who bore false witness against his neighbour, a very unchristian thing to do.
Under Ortom, Benue became the crime capital of Nigeria. People were butchered for no other reason than attending markets to earn their living or shop. Incidence of cultism spiked. Robbery became the order of the day. Tribal clashes resulting in deaths became common occurrence. Political assassination became the method of scoring points in Benue especially among Ortom’s goons. Then from February 2016-June 2018, within the currency of his administration, more than 2000 Benue residents lost their lives to Fulani herdsmen. None of the towns pillaged, looted and destroyed were never rebuilt. No victim of such attacks were ever given any recompense, resettled or rehabilitated. Instead, they are sardinned into IDPs camps for Ortom’s political ribaldry. They are being treated worse than animals in a zoo with Ortom as the zoo master. They are there today being used by Ortom and his wife as evidence of their humanitarian bent.
Just where did he spend the money you might ask? The security agencies admitted to the EFCC he gave them less than N3bn out of the N22bn.
While N19bn was looted with one Mr Oliver Mtom as the conduit. This was at a time family are being ruined for Ortom’s inability to pay salaries, and pensions. This was at a time no single ‘nylon tarred’ kilometre of road was constructed by Ortom. This was at a time when our General Hospitals became morgues. This was at a time when our primary and secondary schools remained an eyesore; when contracts done through counterpart funding by UBEC/SUPEB were given to the Ortom goons as reward for their loyalty and were never executed. Yet Mr. Ortom looted N29bn of Benue’s wealth. Yet, he would turn around and say he is being witch hunted. He is not to be trusted. Benue was being robbed on an average of N610 million every month as security vote in the last 3 years of Ortom’s administration.
What did that security vote buy us? Deaths.
Akioyamen Josephine the blogger who had been vehement on this further
said“Yes. I stand by my words that Ortom killed the people of Benue over Security Vote. Do you realize how many pensioners and workers would have died from his non-payment of salaries, pensions in order to create enough funds for himself as Security Vote of N22Bn? These are the people he is directly responsible for their deaths. As for the Fulani killings of our people. There is a lot of blame to go around.
The Federal govt led by the BIG FULANI in Aso Rock shares a large part of the blame. I have documented this severally. However, Ortom is not blameless. The basis for the passing of the Open Grazing Prohibition Law and the Establishment of Ranches Law was to solve or lessen incidences of Fulani attacks. The Law was to make open grazing illegal and gives incentives to Benue indigenes to create Ranches where the owners of the cattle who have been prohibited from grazing their cattle openly pay to have their cattle ranched. Ortom didn’t do it. No part of the N22bn he took as his security vote was ever used this way.
While Buhari failed to implement the first prong of the law. Ortom failed woefully to do anything about the second prong of the law which is about Ranches. This is how the blood of the people is on his hand too. If he has no control of any security apparatus or that the Federal Government is not cooperating with him, what did he admit he spent N22bn on? What security did we buy with it? Nothing.
The real traitor here is Ortom. While we were crying, weeping, gnashing our teeth; while we were hopeless, Ortom was making noises all over the place in faux sympathy to the people. He was also using the cover of the herdsmen killings to feather his nest to the tune of N19bn.”

Benue Coalition For Good Governance
No. 30 Abdullahi Shelleng Road, High-Level, Makurdi, Benue State Tel: 0805 143 3862
Why Gov. Samuel Ortom Should Not Be Voted Back In 2019
Governor Samuel Ortom is the Executive Governor of Benue State. He was anointed Candidate of the APC after he lost PDP primaries in 2014. His emergence as the flag bearer of the APC in the 2015 Governorship election in Benue State drew a lot of bad blood from aspirants who were members of the APC and felt short changed by the leadership of the party. With the firm stand and mass mobilization of the APC leadership, he won the election on the platform of the APC and was sworn in as the Executive Governor of Benue State on May 29, 2015.
On assumption of office as the Executive Governor of Benue State, His Excellency, Samuel Ortom assured Benue people that his administration was to be anchored on transparency, accountability, good governance, rule of law, prudency and above all, the fear of God hence the “In God We Trust” slogan. He assured the people that his policies and programs were aimed at eradicating poverty, ignorance and disease among the populace. In the spirit of anti-corruption, the Governor instituted a Judicial Panel of Inquiry to investigate the financial activities of Benue State from May 2007 to May 2015 covering the tenure of his predecessor, Rt. Hon. Gabriel Suswam. The Commission headed by Justice Margaret Kpojime did not just indict the former governor of financial misappropriation of state funds, it went further to request that the sum of over N107 billion of looted funds be recovered from Gabriel Suswam and 52 others. This singular step gave the Benue people confidence in the administration of Governor Samuel Ortom who had just commenced his tenure.
However, little did the Benue APC family and the entire populace know that the Governor had his own agenda different from what he kept professing. The Governor changed from his position and commenced high level of abuse of power. The Governors’s abuse of power is not limited to unconstitutional breach of duty, criminal and civil negligence, nepotism, and conflicts of interest, his Administration, some of its Appointees, and Associates have additionally engaged in unprecedented wage theft and over bloating of the state pay roll resulting in the non payment of salaries to Benue State Civil servants, local government staff, teachers as well as pensioners for several months.
The Governor has exhibited his woeful failure and abuse of office in the following areas:
1. Since the inception of the Samuel Ortom administration on May 29, 2015, no single project has been initiated, executed and commissioned by the Governor. In over three (3) years now, the governor parades the rehabilitation and accreditation of the School of Nursing and Midwifery, Makurdi, the accreditation of the Medical School of the Benue State University, graduation of Medical students as well as installation of electricity transformers as the major projects executed by the administration. While Mr. President has visited other states to commission numerous developmental projects, he is yet to embark on a state working visit to Benue State for such a purpose. The only major road contract awarded by the Ortom administration is the road from Daudu to Gbajimba, the home town of the Governor. The road was awarded to Tongyi Group Nigeria Ltd at a whooping sum of over N4 billion. Tongyi Group is owned by family members of the Principal Private Secretary to the Governor, Mr. Stephen Amase. The project has since been abandoned despite huge sums of money paid on fake valuation certificates that were raised.
2. Insecurity: Insecurity in Benue State has risen to an unprecedented level. The so much talked about amnesty granted to criminals by the Governor that earned him an international award is a disaster and a monumental failure. While the Governor claimed that arms were recovered from these so-called criminal elements, he 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 also attached security personnel to protect them in government branded vehicles. On daily basis, people especially of Sankera extraction, are maimed, kidnapped and slaughtered like animals. It is estimated that over 249 persons have been killed in Sankera by Gana killer squad who also attacked General Malu when he visited his ancestral home in Katsina-Ala. The notorious gang leader of the group, Mr. Terwase Akwaza AKA Gana was given prominence by His Excellency, Samuel Ortom. Though the motive is yet to be established, feelers are that the Governor was recruiting these thugs to facilitate his re-election bid in 2019.
The Governor has also used the Open Anti Grazing Prohibition Law 2017 to cover up for his non-performance. He has succeeded to a large extent in diverting attention of the Benue people from his abysmal performance and shifted the narrative to Fulani Herdsmen crises. It is a truism that the Fulani herdsmen have contributed in the deterioration of the security situation in the State, that not withstanding, the Governor has over blown the activities of the herdsmen beyond proportion to attract public empathy and attention.
Again, we cannot pretend not to know those who killed the two priests and their parishioners in Mbalom, in Gwer local government area. Rev. Fr Joseph Gor (one of the slayed Priests) in his vote of thanks at the funeral of Ortom’s Senior Special Assistant on Protocol, Denis Uchin Jande on 17th Feb, 2018 at Mbalom in Gwer Local Government Area of Benue State, in a soul piercing message, reminded Governor Ortom of his mandate to the people, stating that the Governor has disappointed the masses who voted for him by owing them several months’ salaries and pension and if the Governor continue in that manner, the masses will revolt against him in 2019.
It was after the funeral that one of Ortom’s Senior Special Assistant (SSA) on Special Security to the Governor and Commandant of the Livestock Guards, Alhaji Aliyu Tashaku allegedly organised the gruesome murder of the said priests and other unfortunate worshippers. This position was confirmed by Godwin Nev (Police Prosecutor) who told a Magistrate Court in Makurdi through the Police First Information Report (FIR) that the Ex Boko Haram member Alhaji Aliyu Tashaku had on the 25th of April, 2018 conspired with five (arraigned) others to kill Fr. Joseph Gor for daring to speak against the administration of his boss. No Fulani man was charged along with the accused persons who are cooling their heels at the Medium Security Prison, Makurdi.
This we reliably learnt couldn’t have been without the prior knowledge and approval of the governor who himself may have ordered the action to be taken.
This singular act of the Governor’s Aide was capable of degenerating into a religious war in the country if not for the intervention of security agencies and a few religious leaders.
3. Corruption: Despite the campaign against corruption by President Muhammadu Buhari and his administration, which is yielding positive results, the rate of corruption under Governor Samuel Ortom can only be imagined. The Governor has ignored the Federal Constitution to use his public office to further his private agenda at the cost of the public trust. The Ortom-led administration has borrowed over N100 billion in the last three (3) years more than any other administration in the history of Benue State. First, the Governor who preaches transparency has refused to make public, the monthly Internally Generated Revenue (IGR) and the total IGR that has accrued to the state since the inception of his administration. While the Board of Internal Revenue (BIRS) claims to be generating over N1 billion monthly including VAT in some cases and over N1 billion without VAT in most cases, the Governor usually declares N200m to N250m monthly. This discrepancy has not been resolved till date.
The allocation from FAAC since 2015 is in billions. Yet, workers are not paid; state civil servants are owed 6 months and have been asked to forget about it and start counting from 2018 (Governor Ortom has criminally skipped 6 months and started a new leaf), pensioners 14 months, Teachers 11 months, Local Government staff 10 months and no one knows when these arrears will be paid. This is despite the misappropriation of the bailout fund collected from the federal government for the payment of arrears of salaries.
Bailout funds and several tranches of Paris Club refund have come to Benue State in billions and misappropriated by the Governor and his cronies.
The story of corruption in the Bureau for Local Government and Chieftaincy Affairs is not different. The Governor collects allocation from the Federal Government and collapses same into a common pool where disbursement is made at will. Illegal deductions from the account has made it practical impossible for local governments in the state to operate. Elected local government Chairman in some instances are given an administrative running cost of N15m in a month and are directed to return N10m to the Bureau for reasons best known to the Governor and his Special Adviser in Charge of the Bureau.
During his campaign to be Governor of Benue State, Samuel Ortom at a political rally in Otukpo publicly wept for Benue workers that Governor Gabriel Suswam (as he then was) did not pay workers for about 4 months and promised to put an end to the issue of owed salaries in the state if elected as Governor. However, since May 2015, Governor Samuel Ortom for pecuniary reasons has not be able to ascertain the actual wage bill of Benue State. He has at various fora dished out outrageous figures ranging from N7.5 billion to N8.5billion leaving the Benue people with the option to take which figure they like. This has clearly shown lack of capacity by the Governor to ascertain the actual wage bill of the state after 3 years of his stewardship as Governor and several committees to verify salaries of workers. The Governor had at some point declared a state of emergency on salaries in the state but to no avail.
Social Investment Program; a wonderful initiative of the Federal Government, meant to empower the poor women in the villages through the Home Grown School Feeding Program has been grossly abused in the state. Apart from the insertion of fictitious names as food vendors and collection of funds (meant for the individuals), they carry out illegal deductions such as N25,000 for 10kg rice and so on. The Senior Special Assistant (SSA) to the Governor and State Focal Person for the program, Engr. Conrad Terhide Utaan was accused of illegal and unnecessary deductions from food vendors amounting to N90 million monthly and remittance of same to the Governor and Her Excellency, Eunice Ortom, the wife of the Governor. These illegalities and wanton criminality brought about the suspension of the state focal person, Engr. Conrad Terhide Utaan. The said Conrad Utaan has opened an account with the Bank of America with the name: Conrad Terhide Utaan; Account No: 381036633979. The same focal person bought exotic cars for his girlfriends, concubines, and boys worth millions of Naira. The latest one is the Mercedes Benz AMG SUV worth N66 million he acquired for himself with Chassis No. 4JGDA6EB9HA967882 and a customised plate number – NOM OR. Conrad Utaan is from Nzorov Council Ward in Guma LGA, same with Governor Ortom.
However, the acting focal person for the program, Dr. Terris Damsa has directed through a Radio Announcement on Radio Benue that further illegal deductions on the accounts of the food vendors should cease forthwith confirming the fact that actually, illegal and unnecessary deductions were carried out by his predecessor. He subsequently appealed to the food vendors for understanding.
The Governor has devised means of extorting money and weeping sentiments from members of the public. In 2017, flash flood occurred in Makurdi the Benue State Capital as a result of heavy downpour and blockage of drainages. The Governor created an impression that over 21 local governments in the state were affected thereby attracting attention even from the international community. Donations from well meaning individuals were made for the plight of the victims’ notable among them was that of Alhaji Aliko Dangote, who donated N200m. Typical of Governor Ortom, those funds were misappropriated and no singular action was taken by the Governor to avert future reoccurrence of the flooding. We appreciate the Federal Government for the award of contract for the completion of construction works on the Idye flood basin. This project upon completion will help solve the problem of flooding in Makurdi metropolis. Also, the award of contract for the complete rehabilitation of the stretch of road from Keffi-Lafia-Makurdi-9th Mile to Enugu and the overhaul of Makurdi – Gboko road. These road projects will no doubt be of immense benefits to people who ply them.
A Governor that cannot ascertain the wage bill of his state now parades figures of Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) from the Fulani herdsmen crises from 150,000 to now over 170,000 in Agasha, Daudu, Abagana, Anyiin, Tse-Asanyi and Agan Primary School as official camps. How big are the camps that they can accommodate this magnitude of people? Items donated for the IDPs are diverted especially rice, which is now packaged and sold to food vendors for the Home Grown School Feeding Program under the directive of the Wife of the Governor. In like manner, we appeal to the Federal Government to facilitate the return of the IDPs to their various places of abode particularly now that the farming season has commenced to enable them engage in farming activities.
There has been massive corruption going on at the Sustainable Development Goals (SGDs) office in Benue State. The Special Adviser, Dr. Magdalene Dura, from Saghev in Guma local government where the Governor comes from is in charge. This office is considered the exclusive reserve of the Wife of the Governor and operated like her kitchen; she determines who gets what and at what percentage. The first lady’s brother Aondoana Mtom as well as the duo of Ochoga Peter and Aorga Emmanuel who have been the ones fronting for her and executing contracts on her behalf. They operate accounts with various banks such as UBA, GTB and First Bank where the proceeds of crime are deposited. Most of the contracts awarded are not executed and money is paid for them.
The State Universal Basic Education Board (SUBEB) is not left out in the corruption saga. In 2016, Governor Samuel Ortom made the whole world to believe that the State had accessed funds of over N7 billion for the renovation of primary schools across the state. Tenders were opened and members of the public were made to participate. At the end of the exercise, the Governor selected his cronies, relatives and associates as settlement or compensation and directed Rev. Dr. Phillip Tachin, the Executive Chairman and his Nzorov Kinsman to issue award letters to those selected. Works have been executed by some contractors with conscience but payment has not been made to them due to lack of funds as claimed by SUBEB.
Governor Samuel Ortom’s frequent trips to China are for his personal investments in Oracle Farms Ltd, a conglomerate he owns. He tells those who care to listen that the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria allows public office holders to own farms and the fact is that Oracle Farms Ltd has actually served as a conduit pipe for the looting of the Benue treasury by the Governor. He has acquired most of the state-owned moribund industries and given out others such as the Fertilizer blending plant in Makurdi to his business associates who are operating it on his behalf.
We are therefore appealing to security agencies in Nigeria especially the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) as well as the Independent Corrupt Practices Commission (ICPC) to step up investigative activities in Benue State before Governor Ortom loot the state to death. The war against corruption by President Muhammadu Buhari should not be seen to be selective. There should be no sacred cows as corruption is corruption not minding whether the Governor involved is of APC or not. Recently, senior government officials including the Permanent Secretaries of Government House, Mr. Iangba Kapu and that of Internal Affairs were arrested for their alleged involvement in misappropriation and money laundering to the tune of over N22 billion. They were subsequently released and the Governor brags that as long as he is an APC Governor, nothing will happen. Also, nothing has been heard of Alhaji Aliyu Tashaku, who has been in detention at the Defence Headquarters facility. Members of the public would like to know what is going on even though his arrest borders on issues of security.
Finally, for the APC, the party should know that Governor Ortom has destroyed the image of the party in the state. On various occasions, he often refers to the APC as Miyetti Allah’s Party and the President of the Federal Republic as the General Overseer of the killer party. At some instances also, the Governor calls the President a monumental failure and the APC as a party that has failed Nigerians. He has put the party against the people of the state. Ortom’s sins coupled with the image he has created for the party in the state will require the leadership of the party to take a wise decision. The man who got the ticket of the party on the platter of gold has now denigrated the party.
We were reliably informed too that his desperation knows no bounds as he had given the Social Democratic Party (SDP) in Benue State about N200m to assist them in formation of the party. Already, he has constituted a 30-man committee in all the council wards and local governments in the state as Ortom/Abounu Campaign Team in opposition to the current Exco members alleging exclusion in their selection.
God bless Benue State and the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
Comrade Terlumun Audu Comrade Agboh Paul
Chairman Secretary

Editor’s Note: This piece is a petition written, circulated sometimes in June, 2018 and copied PowerSteering News Magazine. It does not represent the opinion of our magazine in anyway, but the undersigned petitioners. Therefore, PowerSteering should not be held responsible in anyway.

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CISLAC Demands Independent Probe into $5 Million Bribery Allegation

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The Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre (CISLAC), the National Contact for Transparency International (TI), has expressed concern over the committee set up by the Kano State House of Assembly to investigate the recent $5million bribery allegation attributed to the State Governor, Abdullahi Umar Ganduje, as displayed in a widely shared video clip. This was contained in a statement signed by the Executive Director, CISLAC Auwal Ibrahim Musa (Rafsanjani)

While CISLAC commended the effort and ability of the Kano State House of Assembly at setting up an ad hoc committee to investigate the alleged bribery, Rafasanjani said “we are worried that the outcome of such investigation would not command public trust and credibility respect except if handled by independent and competent ICT professionals with track record of integrity.

“We are confident an independent inquiry outside the instrumentality of Kano State governance structure will to a large extent assure Nigerians of fearless fact-findings on the true nature of the video clip in fulfilment of the Federal Government’s readiness to combat corruption within and outside the ruling party.We must, therefore, reiterate that anything short of an independent investigation would seem stage-managed before the public” Rafasanjani said.

Rafsanjani said that we are also not unaware of the infringement of human rights, intimidation and harassment of the whistle-blowers and citizens who stepped out to peacefully protest this allegation against the Governor. We find this disheartening and reiterates our persistent demand for the adoption of a Whistle-blower Protection Law Citizens’ right to freedom of association and expression should in no way be muzzled in this issue.

And called on the President and the Inspector General of Police to guarantee the rights of the people for a peaceful protest and ensure lives are secured.

We call for the Governor to immediately step aside to allow high level transparency, accountability and rule of law in the process of the investigation and prevent possible influence of the “fact-findings”. This will guarantee fairness and discourage undue interference in the investigation.

Rafsanjani also call on the National Assembly and anti-corruption agencies to live up to the expectations and trust placed in them by Nigerians in ensuring perpetrators of corrupt practice are brought to book, while guaranteeing adequate protection for whistle-blowing effort through enabling policies implementation and transition into legislation.

“We also call on the Ruling Party to stay silent on the issue if the party is really going to be believed that it is fighting corruption” he said.

Rafsanjani assured that CISLAC remains committed to monitoring the government at all levels to ensure that she fulfils her promises to the citizens of our great country.

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Fayose must not die in your custody, Frank warns EFCC

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…Accuses Buhari of persecution

The immediate past Deputy National Publicity Secretary of All Progressives Congress (APC) Comrade Timi Frank, has strongly condemned the continued detention of immediate past Governor of Ekiti state, Ayodele Fayose, by the Economic and Financial Crime Commission (EFCC), warning that no harm must happen to the former governor.

Frank said the alarm is necessary because of the information available to him that the agency has been instructed ‘by the powers that be’ to either poison or render the outspoken politician (Fayose) incapacitated ahead of the 2019 general elections.

In a statement released on Wednesday in Abuja, Frank wondered why somebody who voluntary released himself to the agency should be kept in custody more than 24 hours.

The former APC spokesman said that in as much as he will never support corruption, justice must be done to all and sundry.

Frank revealed that Fayose is being held by the EFCC not because of any currupt act but because of his outspokenness against the administration of President Muhammadu Buhari and the APC.

He wondered “why former Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Engr. Babachir Lawal was not detain over allegation of grasscutting scandal, why EFCC refuse to invite the wife of the President Aisha Buhari over recent allegation involving his ADC, why MTN scandal involving Chief of Staff to the President is not investigated, why NNPC scandal involving the GMD Kanti Baru and why allegation of corruption against the National Chairman of APC, Adams Oshiomohle does not interest the agency, among so many others in the ruling party.

“The truth is that once you are not a member of APC, you are corrupt but once you join the evil party, your sins are forgiven,” he state.

On the plan to render Fayose incapacitated, Frank said: “A Senior staff of the agency last night had to call attention of some opposition leaders to the instruction given to the agency by the presidency to ensure that Fayose does not leave EFCC custody a healthy person.

“Another operative early this morning also informed us that a healthy Fayose who walked into headquarters of EFCC yesterday was seen vomiting this morning. I called on Nigerians to pray for Fayose because the evil plan of APC government against the PDP leader is not known yet.”

Frank, who urge the former governor not to eat or drink anything coming from the operative of EFCC, also called the attention of the international community to what he described as a selective manner in which President Buhari is fighting corruption in Nigeria.

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Mining Union faults FG on planned sale of ASCO, wants CBN Gov sacked

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The umbrella body responsible for the affairs of mines workers in Nigeria, the Nigerian Union of Mines Workers (NUMW) has called for the resignation or outright sack of the Governor of the Central Bank (CBN) of Nigeria, Mr Godwin Emefiele over what it described as the inability of the apex financial institution to articulate policy measure that will lead to the rejuvenation of the moribund Federal-Government owned Ajaokuta Steel Company (ASCO), adding that government’s disposition to selling ASCO, a decision supported by the CBN, reflects the intellectual poverty of the country’s apex financial institution.

It could be recall that while briefing the Nigerian delegation at the end of the International Monetary Fund/World Bank Group meetings in Bali, Indonesia, recently, Emefiele said Ajaokuta Steel Company and other national assets will be sold to service the 2018 deficit budget.
While describing ASCO as the bedrock of Nigeria’s industrialization which must be nurtured and prioritized as an emblem of National Pride, the National President of the Mining Union, Comr. Hamza Mohammed called on government to ensure that ASCO remains under domestic ownership and control, adding that countries which developed their indigenous steel sectors have become better for it.

He tasked Emefiele and the Minister of Finance to articulate a policy direction for the funds needed to resuscitate ASCO, he called on the Senate to intervene by ensuring that the nations institutions in the finance sector work toward articulating a poly measure to address the problem.
“The Nigerian Union of Miens Workers entirely kicks against any form of sale or transfer of ownership of ASCO to foreign bodies or organizations as it is not the best for the development of Nigeria’s industrial sector,” he said.
Hamza who commended the Nigeria Metallurgical Society (NMS) and other professional bodies in the sector for condemning the idea of selling ASCO, called on the federal government to urgent articulate policy measures for the utilization of ASCO in the industrialization of Nigeria, adding that unless Nigeria develops her industrial sectors, it will not be able to play big in the committee of nations.
Hamza noted that it is not a good policy proposal to say that ASCO should be sold for the purpose of financing the 2018 budget, adding that only a mindless government will sell such a highly strategic institution to finance a year’s budget.

While stating that “the industrialization of ASCO, National Iron Ore mining Company (NIOMCO), Delta Steel Company (DSC) and the development of Nigeria’s iron and steel sector have never been negotiable and is still not negotiable, and will never be negotiable,” Hamza warned that the National Executive Council of the Mining Union will soon convene to deliberate on the necessity of embarking on a nationwide strike action if government does not heed the clarion call to shelve plans of selling the steel complex.
Hamza said: “It is socially, industrially and economically injurious to Nigeria to transfer in any way the ownership and control of ASCO to any individual or corporate entity,” adding that the federal government must ensure that it retains one hundred percent ownership and control of the systems.

Hamza who explained that Nigeria’s current economic challenges are the result of the failure of various governments to utilize the country’s human and natural resources, adding that government must act beyond the rhetoric of saying that ASCO can create huge number of jobs. “We know that ASCO can create huge number of jobs and we know that government also knows that, what we want government to do is to resuscitate ASCO so that it will deliver the beautiful promises of the sector to Nigerians.”
“No country can join the rank of super powers unless it develops its steel sector. I expect that government knows that the development of a country’s steel sector is will ignite the development of all industrial sectors of the country’s economy,” he said, and explained that it is only when ASCO begins the production of liquid steel that Nigeria can become a manufacturer of steel products like motor vehicles, airplanes and various steel instruments that symbolize national power and glory.

Discussing the strategic nature of ASCO to the industrial development of Nigeria and the African continent, Hamza said: “The Mining union laments that government handles with levity the importance of ASCO,” saying that ASCO is reputed as the largest steel plant in Africa.

Discussing other advantages of resuscitating ASCO, Hamza noted that apart from being able to generate more than five hundred thousand direct and indirect jobs, ASCO has the ability to become a major revenue earner for the government while also improving the Nigerian economy, if resuscitated.
Recalling one of the campaign promises that thrilled the union during the electioneering campaign of General Muhammadu Buhari, Hamza said Gen Buhari has assured that the steel sector will be developed as a major revenue earner for the country. He therefore tasked the federal government to live up to expectation of Nigerians in the steel sector saying that if ASCO is sold, it will augur well for the industrial development of Nigeria.
While calling on government to stop the exportation of unprocessed solid minerals, Hamza stressed the need to ensure value addition to solid minerals before they are exported to other countries, adding that a lot of jobs will be created for Nigerians if government effectively outlaws the export of processed solid minerals.

While he lamented that Nigeria suffers huge revenue losses when businessmen foreigners mine and export undeveloped solid minerals, he said government must exercise the strong will requisite for the resuscitation of ASCO, stating that if ASCO was resuscitated, steel raw materials will be mines and used to feed the production needs of the integrated steel complex.
“It is only when Ajaokuta Steel Company is resuscitated, the iron ore is mined in Itakpe would be easy moved to ASCO for onward use in the production of steel,” he said.

While he specifically noted that the potentials of the Nigerian steel industry have dastardly abused by foreign nationals, notably Indians, who were entrusted with the task of managing it, he tasked the Buhari administration to activate its institutions to develop a framework for the urgent activation of Ajaokuta Steel Company, Delta Steel Company and the National iron Ore Mining Company (NIOMCO), Itakpe, stating that apart from these, government should stair up the interest of the organized private sector to participate in the development of the country’s steel sector.

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