The plot by eight All Progressives Congress (APC) lawmakers of the Benue State House of Assembly to impeach the state governor, Dr. Samuel Ortom has attracted a barrage of fierce criticisms.
The lawmakers who served the impeachment notice on the governor on Monday were led by the impeached speaker of the assembly, Mr. Terkimbi Ikyange.
The lawmakers who convened a session at the assembly chamber in Makurdi under police protection accused the governor of fraudulent activities, non-payment of workers’ salaries and non-performance, among others.
“The house found N50 million fraud in each of the 23 local governments running to N33 billion in the past three years from the local government funds.
“Another N22 billion of state funds were misappropriated in the last three years by the governor (sic).
“Also, the nonpayment of salaries of seven months to state workers, 11 months to local governments’ workers and pensions up to 15 months as well as non-performance which has affected the economy of the state are some of the governor’s misdemeanours,” said Ikyange at a press conference.
Reacting, the senate president, Dr. Bukola Saraki and the speaker of House of Representatives, Mr. Yakubu Dogara described the action of the minority lawmakers as a desecration of legislative sanctity
In a joint statement, signed by their media aides, Yusuph Olaniyonu and Turaki Hassan respectively, the two national assembly presiding officers called on President Muhammadu Buhari to call the police to order and stop them from being used to achieve political purposes.
“We have monitored closely the development in Benue State in which the impeached Speaker, Terkimbir Ikyange, led seven other members to serve impeachment notice on Governor Samuel Ortom, while the 22 other members who constitute more than two-thirds majority have been prevented from having access to the chamber. We believe this is illegality and does not conform to parliamentary procedure on impeachment.
“We also note with surprise the role of the police in this undemocratic event in which the minority is seeking to impeach a governor against the position of the majority. We believe it is the sacred institution of the legislature that is being desecrated and rubbished in all these negative developments.
“The situation in Benue State House of Assembly has grave implication for the nation’s democracy and it represents a throw-back to the period of dictatorship in our country. It also represents how the police are being misused to achieve political end,” they said.
Saraki and Dogara also recalled a statement recently in which the presidency derisively referred to an era in the past when a minority number of legislators was used to impeach governors who were unfriendly with the federal government.
“What we are seeing in Benue now is a return to that inglorious era.
“We believe this unlawful and unconstitutional move to impeach Governor Samuel Ortom by a minority should be condemned by all lovers of democracy, at home and abroad.
“We call on President Muhammadu Buhari to call the police to order and prevent a break-down of law and order,” they said.
For its part, the Southern and Middle Belt Leaders Forum, comprising Ohanaeze Ndigbo, Afenifere, Middle Belt Forum and the Pan Niger Delta Front (PANDEF) condemned the impeachment plot.
In a statement jointly signed by Yinka Odumakin (Afenifere), Senator Bassey Henshaw (PANDEF), Prof. Chigozie Ogbu (Ohaneze) and Dr. Isuwa Dogo (Middle Belt Forum), the group accused the Buhari-led administration of ‘full blown’ dictatorship.”
“The attention of Southern and Middle Belt Leaders Forum has been drawn to the barring of fangs and instigation of anarchy by the President Muhammadu Buhari-led Federal Government in Benue State. It has been reported that a ruthless and desperate plot was hatched yesterday, which involved the drafting of policemen from Abuja and neighbouring states to force 22 out of 30 members of the State Assembly out of the Assembly complex to pave way for the impeached Speaker, Terkimbi Ikyange, and six others to sit.
“The gangster operations, which was said to have been led by the Benue state AC OPS, Emmanuel Adesina, saw the minority members sitting without the mace and the clerk of the assembly, suspending the majority 22 members and serving impeachment notice on Governor Ortom. It is shameful that President Buhari, who realised after about four months, that his Inspector General of Police did not obey his directive to go and secure lives in Benue, and has done nothing to him, is so eager to deploy policemen to the state to enforce illegality for political calculations.
“We are worried that till date the president and his security team have yet to bring anybody to book for the killing of hundreds of people in Benue. They have only been putting pressure on the governor to suspend the anti-open grazing law and cede land for imperialistic and land-grabbing notion of ranches.
“It is equally embarrassing that a supposed democratic government would resort to thuggish tactics where political engagement is needed .
“This is a throwback to full blown dictatorship and the dark days of putting human beings in a crate. We want to let President Buhari know, in advance, that he will be held responsible for any breakdown of law and order in Benue and any possible loss of lives. We call on the international community to pay particular attention to the ongoing subversion of the democratic process in Benue by the Buhari government.
“We stand in solidarity with the people of Benue at this dark moment as evil walks on four legs across their state. They must not flinch or surrender as this shall come to pass,” said the group.
In its reaction, the national working committee (NWC) of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) convened an emergency session in Abuja on Monday condemned the action of the eight APC legislators and the use EFCC and DSS to harass and intimidate officials of the state government.
In a communiqué issued at the end of the session, NWC said: “NWC considered unfolding developments and issues happening in Benue State, particularly as they concern the State House of Assembly and the stability of elected Government.
“The NWC condemns in its entirely the purported sitting of eight APC members including the impeached and suspended Speaker; (in a 30 member House) wherein they illegally claimed to have served an impeachment notice on the Governor of Benue State, Dr. Samuel Ortom.
“PDP also condemns the use of the EFCC and DSS to harass and intimidate officials of the Benue State Government.
“We note the roles played by the factional chairman of the APC, Adams Oshiomhole, President Muhammadu Buhari-led federal government and Senator George Akume in encouraging lawless acts and anarchy in Benue State.
“Party states that the actions and opinions expressed by Oshiomhole on the decamping of Governor Ortom to the PDP as well as the deployment of policemen by the Buhari-led federal government to force the purported issuance of illegal impeachment notice on the governor are acts intended to precipitate crisis for declaration of state of emergency in Benue.
“It is on record that the erstwhile speaker had been impeached, suspended and restrained by a court of competent jurisdiction from parading himself as Speaker.
“In spite of this, it is shocking that no fewer than 300 Policemen were alleged to have escorted the impeached speaker to the state house of assembly to initiate a disgraceful and manifestly illegal process.”
For Ortom, the action of the lawmakers is “impunity and rape of democracy.”
The governor who the impeachment plot does not make sense called on patriotic Nigerians and the people of Benue to rise and resist the action of the APC lawmakers.
“The impeached Speaker and other principal officers paraded themselves in disobedience of the Benue High Court order that they should not do so until the substantive matter was heard..
“They sat illegally without the clerk of the House or his deputy. Eight lawmakers claim to have suspended 22 members. Is this not laughable? It is only in a shithole country that you can do this kind of a thing. The same members without forming a quorum claim to illegally move a motion to serve an impeachment notice on me.
“It doesn’t make any sense, it doesn’t mean anything. We are learned people, we have read the constitution; we know the provisions.”
“This is not the Nigeria we are yearning for. This is not the kind of democracy we are talking about,” he said.