Saturday, 17 January 2015

Jonathan, Benue elders on warpath over N42bn debt

President Goodluck Jonathan and elders of Benue State are on a war-path over a N42 billion debt that may further mar the chances of the president and the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) in next month’s general elections.

Jonathan was alleged to have discriminated against the people of Benue in the settlement of N42 billion compensation for damages awarded them by a federal high court in Enugu over the military invasion of their communities and killing of over 2,000 people in 2001.

The grouse of the Benue elders against the president arose when the president directed in a letter to them ordered that only N8 billion be paid to the victims of the military attack as compromise settlement.

The elders picked a quarrel with the presidency for paying the sum of N15 billion to his kinsmen in Odi, Bayelsa State out of their own original N37 billion award, while paying them only N8 billion out of their own N42 billion. They challenged the president’s order to pay the money to Benue State Governor Gabriel Suswan instead of their lawyers who handled the matter on their behalf.

Addressing a press conference in Abuja yesterday, counsel to Benue elders, Chief Sebastine Tar Hon, with Ocha Ulegede and Chris Alashi, said the minister for justice, Mr. Mohammed Bello Adoke, conveyed to the people in a letter that the president had directed that the money be paid to then governor. “We therefore, request, with due respect to your exalted office, that this directive be reversed immediately, to avoid the federal government paying the money twice,” Hon said.

The case that brought the compensation was filed against the federal government by Dr. Alexander Gaadi and 13 others on behalf of the people but Gaadi died while negotiations were on. The lawyer said that the president’s directive was wrong morally and in law because the Benue State Government was not a party to the case that resulted in the award of N41.8 billion to the plaintiffs.

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