Thursday, 16 June 2016

My predeccesor, Suswam, flooded Benue with illegal arms — Gov. Ortom

Benue State Governor, Samuel Ortom, has blamed his predecessor, Gabriel Suswam, for the proliferation of arms in the state.

The governor sad Mr. Suswam believed in violence, and bought arms for youth to fulfil of his political ambition.

He said the government will go after those who have refused to surrender their weapons since an amnesty window has closed.

“The amnesty programme succeeded because more than 800 young people came out and surrendered. We have in our possession over 600 assorted weapons and ammunition that we collected from these young men,” the governor said.

“The last dispensation believed in violence. My predecessor and his cohorts believed they could take everything by force and they bought these arms and gave to young men. I am appealing to them to still return those arms.

“Now that the carrot approach of the amnesty programme is over, we will now adopt the stick approach. We are going to pursue them to their homes. Wherever they are, we are going to arrest them and prosecute them. We are going to go after them fully,” Mr. Ortom told state house journalists after a meeting with Vice President Yemi Osinbajo.

The governor had last year announced amnesty and monetary reward for those who willingly submit their illegal arms in state that has seen spells of violence.

Last month, gunmen killed the governor’s Senior Special Assistant on Security, Denen Igbana.

“I cannot in any way surrender my state to criminals. I am going to fight them headlong. I am the governor of Benue State, I was duly elected and I have the backing of my people to fight criminals so that we can have a free society to build our economy,” the governor said.

Responding to criticisms on his new policy of declaring Fridays as work free in the state, the governor said he took the decision because of the farming season, to allow workers ample time on their farms.

“They are ignorant people. The programme is well received. Benue State has comparative advantage in agriculture.

“Now, we are finding it difficult to pay salaries. We are down by four months at the state level and five months at the local government level.

“Coming to a state that is more of civil service, I have said that I have declared Fridays as public holidays because this is cropping period. They should go to the farm between now and the end of July that is cropping period. This can help because no matter how little, whatever they contribute in agriculture will add value to the state economy.

“In any case, because there are no salaries, you know the morale of workers is even low. Apart from that, the money to prosecute good projects is not there.

“Even when you did not declare Friday, it is as good as they go there and still do nothing,” he said.

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