August 4, 2018

Impeachment notice: Benue rise up against 8 rebel lawmakers


Gov Samuel Ortom

By Peter Duru, Makurdi

The Benue political space was last Monday engulfed in a political whirlwind when eight members out of the 30 members of Benue State House of Assembly, curiously embarked on what many described as a an impossible mission to impeach Governor Samuel Ortom.

Gov Samuel Ortom

The eight lawmakers, who were emboldened by the protection provided by the police and the Department of State Service operatives announced their decision to serve impeachment notice on the state governor after the governor had defected from the All Progressives Congress, APC to the Peoples Democratic Party.

But aside the position of the law which does not support the move by the eight lawmakers, their action   drew the ire of many political egg heads in the state including the man in the centre of the storm, Governor Samuel Ortom, federal lawmakers from the state, former minister of Interior, Comrade Abba Moro and leaders of the Benue ethnic nationalities. They all rose up in unison to condemn the rebel lawmakers

It’s a threat to our democracy —National Assembly

Reacting to the development in the state, National Assembly Members who spoke through Senator Barnabas Gemade berated security agencies for descending into the political arena and for being partisan which they said was a threat to Nigerian democracy.

According to him, “we are in great shock and disbelief with what had taken place in Benue where in a commando style, the Nigerian security forces made up of Police and DSS would storm the state and cause the minority group of the legislators, loyal to one political party to meet and allow them to make pronouncement on issues which are supposed to be deliberated by every member of the 8th Assembly.

Abba Patrick Moro

“This is an illegal action and we are extremely surprised that under democracy, a minority group can be given this kind of unimpeded access to security to cause illegality.

“The prime duty of a legislator is to represent his people and therefore he should never be stopped from representing his people.   22 members that formed the majority, were stopped from exercising their fundamental rights in attending the Assembly and doing what they were elected to do because they belonged to a particular political party.

“It’s absolutely wrong and we condemn it with all seriousness. The National Assembly will take action as is expected of them following the provisions of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 as amended.”

Our land must not be turned to a war zone —Ethnic leaders

Also reacting, the Benue ethnic leaders under the aegis of Mdzough U Tiv, MUT, Ochetoha K’ Idoma, OKI, and Omi Ny’ Igede, ONI, who condemned the eight lawmakers urged the feuding parties to sheath their sword to avert a major upheaval in the state.

The leaders who reiterated their stance to remain apolitical appealed to the paramount rulers of the state to intervene in the matter by quickly summoning a summit to resolve the crisis.

In a statement by Chief Edward Ujege, President General of MUT, Adoya Amali, National President, OKI, and Ben Okpa, President General, ONI, the leaders decried the actions of the feuding parties regretting that “their behaviour does not indicate that they understand the objectives of their mandate but instead they are deviating from the expectations of the common Benue man.

“We therefore express our dismay and consequent disapproval of the spate of impeachment and suspension in the legislative arm of government.

“Our concern as leaders of Benue populace is that this negative development will not advance us. The security situation in Benue State which is gradually improving will also suffer a setback.

“The successes we are getting from the Operation Whirl Stroke may be slowed down. Our teaming farmers will be in confusion, the victims in the various IDP camps will have no hope of going back to their ancestral homes soon. Where do we go from here? We want to advise very strongly that the trend be reversed.

“We cannot allow this ugly situation to continue unduly. We want to warn here that our elected members must take the interest of the electorates at heart. The fight will not benefit the farmers and the people of Benue state in general.”

While condemning the occupation of the State Assembly by Police personnel, the leaders noted that “the process of law making is to disagree to agree and we have witnessed this in many legislative fora worldwide without the unnecessary interference of the police and other law enforcement agents. Benue case should therefore not be an exception.

“We humbly call upon President Muhammadu Buhari, all other well meaning Nigerians and the international community to intervene in the Benue case so that our land would not become a war zone.

It was a show of shame  —Abba Moro

On his part, former Minister of Interior, Comrade Abba Moro said, “The show of shame in the Benue state House of Assembly is most reprehensible and irresponsible and will not stand the test of time.

“The constitution contains succinct provisions for impeaching a governor. Anything outside these provisions is an invitation to anarchy and therefore unacceptable.  Coming from a crop of persons elected to make laws for the good governance of Benue state is most irresponsible. In the wake of the mindless killings of our people and pauperizing economic conditions, the least that Benue people desire and deserve is to be left in peace.

“The attempt to impeach the governor at this point in time will only serve the selfish interest of the cabal that has always held Benue state to ransom over time. The democratic way of terminating the tenure of an elected government official is the ballot box.

“This latest movie-like attempt to change the government of Benue state is an assault on the sensibilities of Benue people. I call on the police authorities to thoroughly investigate the circumstances of the presence of security personnel that provided cover for eight of the thirty member Benue state house of assembly to perpetrate this shameful act of brigandage,” Moro added.

What is my offence? —Gov Ortom

Governor Ortom who pointed accusing fingers at the Inspector General of Police, IGP, and the Director General of the Department of State Services DSS for the imbroglio said, “I want to believe that President Muhammadu Buhari who swore to uphold the rule of law and due process was not aware of the actions and the impunity being perpetrated here in Benue State by the Inspector General of Police, IGP, and the Director General of the Department of State Services DSS.

“For me I’ll continue to do my lawful duties at all times. But it is provoking that the action of eight members of the State House of Assembly against 22 members who were legitimately doing their job was actively supported by the Police and the DSS. “They demonstrated the highest level of illegality and impunity. The Police invited from Abuja and in Benue state forcibly occupied the Benue State House of Assembly in flagrant disobedience of a Makurdi High Court order for them to vacate the premises.

“The Police barred and stopped the 22 members of the House from entering the premises to conduct their legitimate business. They manhandled citizens who were going to watch proceedings at the complex.

“They teargassed many and took them away. The same Police provided heavy security escort to the eight members when they were coming into the House and provided heavy security escort to the same members who came to perpetrate their impunity and led them away to their destination.

“The impeached speaker and other principal officers who were also impeached paraded themselves in flagrant disobedience of the Makurdi High Court order that they should not do so until the substantive matter was heard.

“As law abiding citizens, we encourage the rule of law but they sat illegally without the clerk of the House or his deputy. They claimed to have suspended 22 members, is it not laughable? This is not the Nigeria we are yearning for. This is not the kind of democracy we are talking about. Eight members cannot be the 2/3 of the 30 members of the Assembly, it has to be 20

“What is my offence, have I not got the right to decide and choose the political association of my choice, is this the first time that we are doing it?

“I want to call on the President to protect this democracy that made him President. This kind of impunity will only derail the democratic process that we have in the country.

Continuing Governor Ortom said, “The President should not allow this. The IGP and the DG of DSS are his appointees, they should not be allowed to be used to create evil simply because we enacted a law on grazing. “That law was not my making, it was the making of Benue people.

“People should have their freedom, we were free to have done what we did. We defected with 13 local government council chairmen, 253 councillors out of 276, five House of Representatives Members and one Senator which is no mean feat.”

At its sitting, the Benue State House of Assembly comprising 22 members who were barred from entering the Assembly complex decided to hold its sitting in the old banquet hall of the State Government House and accused the Nigerian Police Force and the DSS of taking sides with the impeached former speaker of the Assembly, Terkimbi Ikyange and seven others to perpetrate impunity in the state.

The House also slammed six months suspension on the eight members including the impeached speaker.

Raising a motion of urgent importance, Majority Leader, Mr. Avine Agbom who relied on Order 9(16)(8) at the sitting reminded members that the House had after suspending the impeached Speaker, also obtained an injunction from the Makurdi High Court restraining him from parading himself as Speaker of the House.

Agbom said “We were surprised that the seven members and the impeached speaker were allowed access into our chamber by the Police after they denied 22 of us entry into the House where they took certain decisions without the Clerk of the House and the Mace and without forming a quorum.”