Monday, 25 April 2016

Letter to Benue House of Assembly by Chir Msugh Iorwase Armstrong

18th April, 2016.
The Honourable Speaker
Benue State House of Assembly
Makurdi, Benue State

Dear Sir,
                                SAVE YOUR PEOPLE
I am a concerned citizen of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and a Benue born. Having followed, observed and studied events, politics and trends of issues here in Benue State, I have been constrained to write your humble but good office for a number of reasons.

Governor Samuel Ortom’s failure to deliver:
You will recall that the Benue State Governor Samuel Ortom today is addressed as the governor because of the wind of change that blew, because the PDP couldn’t respond as required at the tail end of their administration in the state. Therefore, the Benue electorate voted against the party (PDP) and their candidates overwhelmingly. As the electorate ousted the PDP and keyed into “change”, the poor people of Benue had a focus and a target because there was a manifesto that was presented before us, the manifesto of the APC. In this said document, the APC promised our people: (a) Free education (b) To defend and protect lives and properties (c) Good roads (d) Good drinking water, to mention just a few.
Free Education: The Honourable Speaker, you will observe here that within this brief space of time Governor Ortom’s administration covered, which is 11 months, state owned institutions have embarked on more industrial actions (strikes) than any other administration in the history of Benue State. It is strike upon strike. The reasons for all the industrial actions range from not honouring agreements entered into with unions of the respective institutions or non-payment of salaries, allowances, imposition of unfriendly taxes on workers and other related issues. As if that is not enough I recently read that the management of Benue State University increased its school charges by more than 100%. For instance, fresh students of the university have to pay an acceptance fee of N25,000.00 as against N5,500.00 which the Ortom led administration inherited. Today, a student of Benue State University shall be paying nothing less than N90,000.00 on the average should the new increment be allowed to stay. This issue of more than 100% increment of school charges is indeed a serious and worrisome one. Studies have shown that 21% of students at the various state owned institutions are children whose parents/guardians are state civil servants, 52% are children whose parents are farmers residing in villages while the remaining 27% are children whose parents are jobless in the state. It is against this backdrop that I write to draw the attention of your good office to this harm that is to be faced by your people. It is worthy of note here that if by any chance these charges are allowed to stay, 79% of our children will not be able to pay and our educational ratio will drop drastically as compared to the statistics we have at the moment. I want to also draw your attention to the games our governor seems to be playing with the increment of school charges; when the news of the school charges increment rocked the airwaves, our governor came out and distanced himself from the increment, but how true is that? You and I are adequately informed and aware of the beaurucracy. The governor is the visitor of the state university. He is ably represented by the chairman of the governing council and there is a functional Ministry of Education with a commissioner, yet our governor claimed he was not aware of the upward review of the school charges in the state. Honourable Speaker Sir, is Governor Samuel Ortom sincere to the people of Benue State?
Security: The Honourable Speaker, the security of lives and properties is supposed to be top on the agenda of every sane government. The issue of security was obviously the very reason Nigerians got fed up with Dr. Goodluck Ebele Jonathan that led to the drastic change Nigerians witnessed during the last general elections. Governor Ortom’s administration brought in amnesty immediately the government came on board. Yes, the initiative was truly a good one, but the initiators of the programme did a poor job according to security experts in the state. They queried that if two people are at logger-heads and they all possess arms and you as a peace maker/lover of peace want to preach or bring peace among them, you have to disarm the two people but the situation whereby you retrieve arms from Mr. A  and Mr. B is allowed to move freely with arms on the farmlands of Mr. A, then justice is not done. I agree wholly with these security experts and you will agree with me too that the security experts’ position concerning the amnesty is correct, yet millions of our hard-earned money was lavished on the programme. The Honourable Speaker, I wish you should answer this question to yourself because I know your conscience won’t lie to you; “was the Governor fair to have retrieved arms from the Tiv(s) allowing the Fulani(s) to move freely with riffles on our lands?” Despite the amnesty programme that earned our governor accolades across the board, cases of armed-robbery, kidnapping and killings are recorded and still counting at an alarming rate here in Makurdi, Agatu, Logo, Buruku, Tarkaa Local Government Areas of the state. No wonder the Union of Motor Cyclists popularly called the OKADA staged a protest against the continuous killing of their members by men of the under-world.

The Honourable Speaker, Benue State House of Assembly, it is a common truth that when there is life, there is indeed hope but the situation whereby the government’s machineries cannot defend nor protect her citizens allowing us to die, what use and impact is the government to the people?

Benue Debts:
Records have shown that Governor Samuel Ortom’s administration has borrowed more money within a short space of time than any other administration in the history of Benue State. Ortom has borrowed almost 100 Billion Naira within 11 months, our IGR accruing and the statutory federal monthly allocation steadily entering our state coffers, yet the Benue State government led by Samuel Ortom has owed civil servants more than any other administration, despite all the billions borrowed, salary arrears are not cleared as contained in his inaugural speech. Honourable Speaker Sir, I don’t know whether you are aware of this or not but confirmed sources stated that other local government staff in the state are not paid up to 7 months, some 5 months; even state civil servants are owed for months despite all these monies borrowed. What was the reason for borrowing all these monies? Because before each of the loans were received by the governor, a formal request was usually forwarded to the Assembly you are heading today.

Social unrest:
The Honourable Speaker, you will agree with me that no sane society will rise against the government that is responsive, accountable and prudent to her people; where there is high level of social unrest/instability it is a clear sign that the government is not responsive. It is clear that the government is not prudent. I write to bring to the attention of your good office series of social instabilities recorded within the 11 months of Governor Ortom’s administration: students of the state owned university have registered their dissatisfaction with the government more than normal, the recent one being as a result of the increment of school charges of more than 100%, the staff of the Benue State University Teaching Hospital, the staff of Makurdi Local Government recently shut down the gate of the secretariat as a result of non-payment of their salaries, the Union of Benue State Motor Cyclists aka OKADA staged a protest against the killing of their members and snatching of their motorcycles. In Konshisha Local Government, youths recently came out in their numbers and protested, demanding for a care taker chairman to be given to them because for some time, the administration of their local government was handled by a total stranger and the most recent, the most worrisome is the protest we all witnessed. The “Movement Against Fulani Occupation” (MAFO). The Honourable Speaker, please you should use your good and powerful office to look into the demands of our people, these people are serious, they are bitter, they have made up their minds, the last time these people came out to re-register their (our) grievances and made their (our) position known to the relevant quarters, I saw strength, I saw unity and I saw perseverance in their faces. For a very long time, this was the first time I saw in our people this “urge”, this “oneness”. If the demands of these people are not met, one day, this MAFO might come out and never return, this MAFO will rise one day and things will get out of control and of course there will be additional blood bath. Address their demands Sir.

I have decided to write your good office because I am aware that the legislature is the tap root of democracy, makes law in accordance with the provisions of the constitution for the executive arm of government to implement and at the same time supervise implementation by over sight function at committee levels. It is also the only body vested with the authority to amend the constitution. This advocacy, influence, pushful and other embracive power organ is the backbone of civil governance and the foundation of democracy all over the world. It is common knowledge to state here that it is the legislature that actually makes civil governance truly democratic. Once the legislature is removed in the governmental process, democracy ceases to exist. The legislature is in every practical sense the soul of democracy by its constituent composition as an elective body of the representatives of the people and role of check and balance in the system of governance.

The Honourable Speaker Sir, it is in the light of the above that I humbly write to your good office to salvage the situation because those to bear the brunt are the poor people of Benue State. I write and humbly place these prayers before your good office:

A committee be set up immediately to investigate the way and manner the bail-out funds were spent and the Special Adviser to the Governor on Local Government and Chieftaincy Affairs, Mr. Titus Zam, be called upon to give a detailed account on how the bail-out funds were disbursed.

If there is no standing committee, one should be set up to investigate how Governor Samuel Ortom received and spent all the loans taken by his administration  running into Billions of Naira in just 11 months, yet salaries are not paid.

The committee responsible to oversight “security” should immediately commence work so as to restore peace and harmony in the state.

The committee on education and other related issues should be gingered so as our educational values will be saved from sinking. They should review and possibly reverse the school charges increment as a matter of necessity.

A strong member committee be set up to investigate the social unrest in the state, the continuous killing and protest, and special attention should be given to MAFO. Note: MAFO is all out for good, but our people are bitter because they are being killed, our girls being raped right in our homes; so Honourable Speaker, if care is not taken, one day MAFO will rise for a protest and things will get out of control. Therefore, special attention should be given to MAFO.

I sincerely appreciate you for finding time to read this letter and thereafter responding to its prayers herein. May God Almighty bless you with King Solomon’s kind of wisdom to steer the ship of the 8th Assembly. Thank you Sir, as I look forward to seeing your response.

Yours faithfully,

Chir Msugh Iorwase Armstrong

Majority Leader
Minority Leader
Clerk of the House
Chairman, House Committee on Public Petitions
APC Secretariat
PDP Secretariat

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