Monday, 14 December 2015

FROM THE BENUE PEOPLE’S HOUSE. 7th to 12th December, 2015. By Terver Akase

Hello Friends
I am glad to be with you again. It’s another edition of your weekly programme, ‘From The Benue People’s House,' a review of activities of Benue State Governor, Samuel Ortom. In this package, Governor Ortom orders immediate payment of salary arrears to workers yet to be paid from the bailout funds.



Also in this package, Benue State House of Assembly gives thumps up to Governor Ortom on good performance, as more PDP members decamp to APC.

The week that just ended understandably did not witness several activities at the Benue People’s House. This was because Governor Samuel Ortom had declared the larger part of the week – three days, Tuesday to Thursday, as mourning period for the late Tiv Paramount Ruler, the Tor Tiv, His Royal Majesty, Orchivirigh Dr. Alfred Akawe Torkula. Flags flew at half mast at the Benue People’s House within the mourning period and all official engagements of the Governor were suspended.

Most events that took place at the People’s House during the mourning period were condolence visits to the Governor by concerned Nigerians from within and outside Benue State. Governor Ortom therefore used part of the period to engage in humanitarian and spiritual works.

MONDAY
Benue State Governor, Samuel Ortom, who was hosted by Faithway Chapel in Jos at the weekend visited his Plateau State counterpart, Governor Simon Lalong, at the New Government House where he was taken round the expansive premises before travelling to Abuja.
In the nation's capital, he visited the Indonesian Ambassador to Nigeria, Harry Purwanto, and requested investors from that country to explore investment opportunities in Benue state.
He said the state had comparative and competitive advantages in agriculture, solid minerals, culture and tourism while his administration had created an enabling environment by boosting the security of lives and property in the state.
According to the Governor, his priorities included the creation of massive jobs, wealth and opportunities through industrialization, micro, small and medium scale enterprises as well as promotion of commercial and investment activities.
Governor Ortom stated that the state was willing to collaborate with local and foreign investors through public private partnership and invited the Ambassador and his team to visit the state to see things for themselves.
He said the state was particularly interested in partnering with investors in the establishment of Industrial Parks and hoped to find such among Indonesians.
In his response Ambassador Purwanto stated that over 20 Indonesian companies were already established and doing well in Nigeria and that he would encourage them to explore investment opportunities in Benue State.
He said his country which had a population of 250 million people spread over 17, 000 islands had similarities with Nigeria moreso that they were both developing countries and that as such they should partner with one another.
The Ambassador promised to find time to visit Benue State and also invited the Governor to visit Indonesia.
He presented souvenirs to the Governor stressing that his country encouraged one on one engagement much more than through media platforms.


TUESDAY
The mourning period for the late Tor Tiv began on this day, so all official engagements were suspended.
Governor Samuel Ortom and his wife Eunice chose the day to engage in humanitarian works and receive visitors who came to the Benue People’s House to express their condolences to the Government and people of the state.
One of the main humanitarian activities of the first family on that day was their visit to the Mama Abayol Orphanage where they adopted a bouncy baby girl, who was picked and taken to the orphanage.
At the occasion, Governor Ortom thanked God for the blessing of the baby and gave assurance that he and his wife would take good care of the baby and train her to the highest level.
He assured the other children at the orphanage that his administration would also provide for their upbringing.
Governor Ortom pledged government's commitment to supporting humanitarian efforts such as orphanages and directed that the state's Head of Service should ensure that all casual staff of the charity home were absolved into the civil service. The Governor also directed the immediate renovation of the Orphanage.
Also speaking, the Wife of the Governor, Mrs Eunice Ortom thanked God for the life of the baby and promised to treat her as her biological child.
She thanked the management of the orphanage for the good work they were doing.
The Acting Director, Child Development, Mr. Anderson Onazi and the Officer in charge of the Orphanage, Winifred Gagher, while handing over the baby whom they called 'Eunice' expressed appreciation to the Governor and his wife for their passion for humanitarian work.
The Children at the Orphanage prayed for Governor Ortom and his wife as they bade farewell to the baby.
Still on Tuesday...
Considering the plight of the workers who were yet to be paid salary arrears from the bailout package, Governor Ortom directed the Bureau for Local Government and Chieftain Affairs to immediately suspend the electronic system of payment and ensure that workers yet to receive salaries were paid without further delay.
He said the directive became necessary in view of the challenge that had accompanied the e-payment and the need for government to clear all arrears from the bailout funds and address all the challenges that have arisen from the electronic payment as soon as possible.
Governor Ortom noted that with the development, Caretaker Chairmen of Local Government Committees were to be given the remaining part of the bailout funds to use the manual process to pay their verified staff including teachers who are yet to be paid.
The Governor announced the decision of government to collapse into one the two committees set up to verify and address all complaints arising from payment of the funds to fast track the process.
He debunked claims on the social media that he had given time limit within which matters relating to bailout funds should be addressed, stating that government was determined to ensure that all issues in the process were given due consideration.
Governor Ortom lamented increasing cases of truancy at the third tier of government which he said was hampering effective service delivery in the local government system.
Also on Tuesday...
He assured the people of the state that his administration will revoke all illegal sales of government property within the state and in any part of the country.
The Governor gave the assurance when former students of Government College, Katsina-Ala, under the aegis of Katsina-Ala Old Boys Association, KAOBA, paid him a condolence visit over the death of the Tor Tiv the 4th, HRM, Orchivirigh, Dr Alfred Akawe Torkula.
He described as unacceptable, the wanton sale of property belonging to the College and other government structures by the previous administration and promised that thorough investigation will be carried out with a view to revoking the transactions.
Governor Ortom appointed a seven-member committee to look into the sales and report back to the State Executive Council within two weeks.
The committee has Commissioner for Education, Science and Technology, Professor Dennis Ityavyar as Chairman, that of Housing and Urban Development, John Otokpa, Commissioner for Justice and Attorney-General, Barrister Mike Gusa, Special Adviser on Security, Col. Edwin Jando rtd, Special Adviser on Lands and Survey, Prof. Jonathan Uever, while the Head of Service is to provide a secretary.
Governor Ortom also pledged the support of the State Government for the N500 million development fund for Government College Katsina-Ala and commended members KAOBA for providing leadership in various spheres of life worthy of emulation.
Earlier, the National President of KAOBA, Alhaji Rasheed Adamu consoled the Governor, his administration and the people of Benue on the loss of the Tor Tiv.
He commended the development initiatives of the Ortom administration especially in the area of security and human development.
Alhjai Adamu appealed to the Governor to intervene in the land issues affecting Government College Katsina-Ala which.
Former military administrator of Anambra and Benue States, Chief Atom Akpera was also on the KAOBA delegation.


WEDNESDAY
No official activity took place at the Benue People’s House on Wednesday. This was in compliance with the 3-day mourning period the Governor had declared for the late Tor Tiv.
THURSDAY
On this day, the Sultan of Sokoto, Alhaji Muhammadu Sa'ad Abubakar commiserated with the Governor Ortom over the death of the Tor Tiv the 4th.
In a condolence letter delivered to the Governor at the Benue People’s House by the Sarkin Yakin Bingi, Alhaji Kabir Usman Abdulwahab, the Sultan said the death of the Tiv Paramount Ruler was a huge loss to the Tiv nation, Benue State and Nigeria at large.
‘’We read with sadness, the passing away of our colleague and brother, Dr. Alfred Akawe Torkula, the Tor Tiv and Chariman, Benue State Council of Traditional Rulers and Chiefs which occurred on Sunday 22 November. We join millions of sympathisers to commiserate with you and the entire people of Benue State over this great loss.’’
Alhaji Abubakar described the late Tor Tiv as an ardent custodian of the African culture.
‘’We feel the pain of the loss of our colleague and strong custodian of African values, culture and tradition who lived an eventful life worthy of emulation. His passing away is indeed a great loss, not only to the family, Tivs and Benue people, but to the entire nation. His efforts and contributions to the development of peace and unity of the nation and humanity in general will continuously be remembered by all.’’
The Sultan prayed God to grant the Torkula family, the Tiv nation, the Government and people of Benue State the fortitude to bear the irreparable loss.
Still on Thursday...
Governor Samuel Ortom later in the day left for Gboko and joined thousands of worshippers from across the world at a retreat organised by Bro Gbile Akanni where he dedicated the state to God and prayed that he would intervene to change its fortunes for the better.
FRIDAY
The Governor gave a moving testimony of his encounter with the Lord Jesus and his rise from humble beginnings to his present position.
He narrated his experiences in politics and God’s role in using dramatic events including his switch from PDP to APC and eventual triumph in his journey to the Benue People’s House.
The Governor reiterated his covenant with God and the people to govern with the fear of God and entrench core values that would ensure peace and development.
He underscored the importance of complete obedience to God so that His promises in Job 36: 11 and Deuteronomy 28: 1- 14 would be fulfilled in the lives of the people.
Over 30 thousand people from several countries of the world who came for the 2015 Ministers' Leadership Retreat with the theme, "In the day of His Power" listened to the testimony with rapt attention.
Later that day, Governor Ortom travelled from Gboko to Aliade where he received two former Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, governorship aspirants in Benue State, and former House of Representatives member on that party's platform into the All Progressives Congress, APC.
Former Permanent Secretary, Mr. Hingah Biem, and Comrade Simon Anchaver, former governorship aspirants, as well as Mrs Christy Alaaga, former National Assembly member for Gwer/Gwer West Federal Constituency, defected from the PDP at a ceremony in Aliade.
Thousands of their supports also dumped their former party, surrendered their membership cards which were burnt even as they were also received into the APC.
Senator representing Benue North West Senatorial District, Senator George Akume, represented by his wife, Mrs Regina Akume, called on the people of the state to rally round the Governor so that he could muster the respect to secure their interests at the Federal level.
APC Deputy State chairman, Dr J T Orkar, stated Governor Ortom needed time to clear the rot he met before settling down and appealed for understanding from the people.
The defectors, Messrs Biem, Anchaver, and Alaaga, said they left the PDP because of the injustice done to them as well as insincerity of its leadership.
They said they joined the APC to team up with Governor Ortom and provide him with the support needed to deliver on his mandate.
The governorship aspirants particularly expressed happiness that one of them won the election, adding that they rallied round to add value to his administration even as they commended the Governor for appointments given to several indigenes of the area.
Other speakers including Arc Asema Achado, Joe Nyam, Chief Akange Audu, and Peter Yogbo stressed the need for the people of the area to support the Ortom administration to succeed.
Governor Ortom assured the people that he was transparent and responsive in running state affairs, saying that he involved labour unions in the disbursement of state funds because he had nothing to hide.
He stated that all the complaints in the payment of the bailout funds were being addressed to enable all beneficiaries get their due and debunked the rumour that the Special Adviser on Local Government and Chieftaincy Affairs, Hon Titus Zam had resigned, saying he had not been found wanting in the discharge of his duties.
The Governor assured the new APC members that they would be involved in the scheme of things in the state.
Still on Friday...
The Benue State House of Assembly scored the administration of Governor Samuel Ortom and President Muhammadu Buhari high in the fight against corruption and impunity in the state and the country.
Speaker of the House, Mr Terkimbi Ikyange, who stated the position of the House in a speech to mark the end of the first legislative session of the eighth Assembly and the commencement of recess by members, commended the Governor for the achievements so far and promised a robust relationship with the state executive arm of government to enhance development.
Represented by the Deputy Speaker, Mr James Okefe, who presided over plenary, the Speaker reaffirmed the commitment of the Assembly to deliver on its mandate of ensuring quality legislation and oversight functions to ensure transparency for the good of the state.

SATURDAY
The Governor made a private trip to Gbajimba, Guma local government area.
Meanwhile, his Special Adviser on Media and ICT, Mr Tahav Agerzua responded to a full page advertorial written in defence of former Governor, Dr. Gabriel Suswam by one Terry Ulan, published on page 44 of The Nation newspaper of Thursday, December 10th, 2015.
Mr Ulan’s advertorial had claimed that Governor Ortom had set up the Elizabeth Kpojime Judicial Commission of Inquiry to witch-hunt Dr Suswam. But Mr Agerzua in the response debunked the claim, stating that ‘‘Although the Judicial Commission of Inquiry was set up by the Benue State Governor, in response to the demand of the people of the state to know how the state was brought to its kneels, Governor Ortom is not involved in its modus operandi and should therefore, not be held responsible for such.’’
On the claim by Dr Suswam that he was not invited by the Judicial Commission, Mr Agerzua wondered that ‘’the former Governor claimed that he was not served the invitation letter but we understand that during the sitting of the Commission on the day he was to appear, a letter from his counsel, Joseph Daudu (SAN) was read. If indeed he did not receive notice of invitation as claimed why did he write to the Commission giving reasons for his failure to appear before it?’’
According to the Special Adviser ‘’The allegation that the Commission comprised members and sympathisers of the All Progressives Congress, APC, except it's chairman, who might not give him fair hearing is untenable. If indeed such members existed they are bound by the terms of reference of the Commission and not by the APC constitution or manifesto, besides the fact that they are subject to the Chairman of the inquiry."
One had expected that when the Makurdi High Court delivered judgment that the Benue State Governor had the powers to set up the Commission, the former Governor, as a lawyer, would have submitted himself to its jurisdiction and availed himself the opportunity to respond to the allegations made against him.’’
Mr Agerzua also dismissed the claim by Dr Suswam that he had addressed the 33 issues at the Judicial Commission of Inquiry in his handover notes to Governor Ortom, ‘’When Dr Suswam stated that he sufficiently addressed all the 33 issues raised in the invitation by the Commission, in the handing over notes he presented to Governor Ortom at a ceremony on 26th May 2015, it indicated that he has problems with his memory.
It is on record that he did not perform any handing over ceremony as he was conspicuously absent at the inauguration of his successor.
What he did was to present a heap of papers to his successor in the Governor's office on 28th May, 2015, soon after which he took flight from the state.
But before he did that he read an obviously hurriedly and dubiously prepared address to the press stating that he left behind a debt profile of only N9.3 billion.’’
Agerzua equally dismissed the claim by Dr Suswam that Governor Ortom was responsible for the petition against him at the EFCC and advised the former Governor thus, ‘’It is becoming increasingly puzzling why the former governor who ordinarily should be glad to testify before a commission of inquiry which only seeks to ascertain the true position of things during his time in office has chosen to engage in guerrilla tactics. Dr. Gabriel Suswam has opted for the media as his platform to render his ‘testimony’ instead of taking advantage of the sittings of the Justice Kpojime Judicial Commission of Inquiry to tell Benue people and other Nigerians how resources of the state were managed under his watch. The former Governor has elected to rather cast aspersions on the person and office of the current Governor as if that can provide answers to the questions Benue people have been asking regarding the management of funds by his administration.
Let it be known that no member of the Ortom administration is persecuting Dr Suswam. The former Governor is the one persecuting Governor Ortom on pages of newspapers and other media platforms. We advise Dr. Suswam to avail himself of the channel provided to inquire into his administration rather than the resort to the media.’’
This is where we let the curtains fall on this edition of From the Benue People’s House. Thanks to the Special Adviser, Media and ICT, Tahav Agerzua for his wonderful input.
Join us again next week for a fresh package.

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