Friday, 15 July 2016

Ortom, Suswam and Question of Equity

Former governor, Gabriel Suswam, Governor Samuel Ortom of Benue State

Governor Samuel Ortom of Benue State will no doubt be going through a nightmare occasioned by the discovery of graft at the state legislature which triggered the arrest of the Speaker of the state’s House of Assembly, Terkimbir Ikyange and 13 other assemblymen by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC.

Besides, other allegations of graft standing against the governor and some of his lieutenants are even discomforting as they question the credibility of his dream (or Benue people?) to drag former governor, Gabriel Suswam to prison.

For someone who rode into power on the crest of piety and trust to protect the commonwealth of the people, the unfolding scenario cannot be any less disappointing and devastating as flags the question of equity in justice.

While the allegation against the Speaker and his co-travelers included the alleged misappropriation of N750 million meant for purchasing cars for members, the governor, on his part was accused of laundering N4.2 billion through the bank account of Emmanuel Udende, representing Katsina-Ala, Ukum and Logo in the House of Representatives and two other persons who are staff of the state government.

Governor Ortom was also alleged to have paid the sum of N200m for the Democracy Day celebration in May, 29, 2016 while another N200 million and N300million respectively were allegedly paid to his Special Adviser on Special Duties, Arc Joe Ikyagba who is currently trial for murder or his company for the renovation of the School of Nursing Makurdi and Akperan Orshi School of Agriculture respectively. That of the School of Nursing was later awarded to another firm to execute.

Worried by the unfolding trend, a body known as Benue Youth Agenda, BYA, recently gave Gov Ortom 72 hours to address what it described as “harvest of corruption scandals” rocking his government or resign.

The BYA at a press conference presided by its president, Patriot Dan Boor and secretary, Comrade Ogwuche, I.M, said: “The goodwill and trust reposed in Gov. Ortom has been assailed by wave of corruption scandals involving billions of naira allegedly siphoned by government officials for personal enrichment, and this is as the economy of the state is shrinking at an alarming rate, with poverty and hunger growing monstrously across the state.

On the contracts in School of Nursing and Akperan Orshi College of Agriculture, BYA sought to know who the contractors handling the jobs are, how they won the contracts, the total value of monies appropriated and spent on the projects.

The body equally sought to know if the bank account numbers alleged in the in previous publications accusing the government of money laundering actually belong to the by the government? “Has the Ortom government done its own investigation into the allegations, and if it has done, has it ascertained the allegations made and the particulars quoted to be true or false?”

It is against this backdrop that the purported call by some Benue youths under the tutelage of one Terrence Kuanum to protest on the streets of Makurdi and Abuja to pressurize the EFCC to prosecute Suswam based on the recommendation of the Justice Kpojime Commission on the alleged looting of N107billion sounds illogical since Ortom is presently living in a glass house and should not throw stones.

One wonders if Kuanum and his cohorts are aware that the entire Benue people are fully aware how bailout funds meant for the payment of salary arrears has been mismanaged by the current APC led government yet there was no noise from these same Benue youths.

Even the Justice Kpojime Commission which Kuanum is currently using as a scaffolding to mobilise protest was initially described by Kuanum as a commission of jamboree. So, at what point did Kuanum see the light to recognize the recommendation of the commission?

 Under investigation by the EFCC is a N750million car scam perpetuated by the leadership of an APC speaker, Hon. Terkimbi Ikyange which has seriously affected the smooth running of the Assembly.

There is no denying the fact that Terence Kuanum is acting a script of his paymasters, otherwise he would not belabour himself  by contemplating a protest to rev the EFCC which already have the report and recommendations of the Kpojime Commission to life. The best any individual or groups can do under this circumstance is to write the EFCC reminding them of a pending petition rather than mobilising street urchins to protest under the already poor security situation in the state.

Terence Kuanum and his crowd should therefore follow due process in pressing for their sponsored demands as Dr. Gabriel Suswam’s hands are clean and shall not be distracted by his enemies.  What Dr. Gabriel Suswam received during his eight years as governor was channelled to the infrastructural development of the state as it is evident in the massive provision of infrastructure by his government.

The EFCC is an independent anti-graft agency that cannot be stampeded or rubished by self seeking disgruntled elements in the name of protest. The Commission has its own modus operandi and cannot be cajoled and brought into the dirty politics of Benue State.

Atime Kumaga wrote this piece from No9 School Lane Makurdi, Benue State

By Atime Kumaga

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