• As APC, PDP lawmakers trade blames
From Uche Nnorom, Makurdi, Christiana Ekpa, Umar Muhammad Puma and Lateef Ibrahim, Abuja
There was drama at the Benue State House of Assembly yesterday as heavily armed security personnel took over the assembly complex.
It was learnt that a move to impeach Governor Samuel Ortom had leaked and youths numbering over 100 had been mobilized to stop the action.
As early as 5 am, the youths blocked the assembly, even as security personnel who have been deployed to the State from Abuja by the Inspector General quickly moved into the assembly premises to disperse the youths with tear gas canisters.
While this raged on, the factional group led by the Speakers, Terkimbir Ikyange and Titus Ubah stormed the assembly to sit. The other faction was denied access into the chamber while the Ikyange group held proceedings under tight security.
The Assembly has 30 members in total. It would take at least two-thirds to impeach the governor. Also, eight members cannot form a quorum, which requires at least one-third of the total.
But the APC lawmakers, led by Terkimbi Ikyange, who was impeached as speaker last week by at least 22 members of the assembly, said they are capable of impeaching the governor. They reportedly took over the parliament this morning based on security arrangements provided by the police and the State Security Service.
Mr Ikyange told reporters in Makurdi Monday morning that they had passed articles of impeachment against Mr Ortom and would serve him a notice “within seven days,” the News Agency of Nigeria reported.
Ikyange said he has nine other lawmakers with him, giving his group 10 lawmakers in total. While this is enough to form a quorum, it is insufficient to impeach a governor as required by the Nigerian Constitution.
He also intimated that they have initiated moves against the Governor for gross misappropriation of State funds.
Ikyange accused Governor Ortom of embezzlement of over 33 billion naira local government funds, adding that another 22 billion naira security funds is under investigation by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission.
“The Governor has performed poorly which has resulted in suffering amongst the people. We have also gotten a court order directing banks to give us mandate on account opening of some workers who are not paid salaries. I will serve the Governor the impeachment notice in seven(7) days according to law.
Later in the day, the Titus Ubah led House which met at the banquet hall of Government house, accused the security agencies of complicity, maintaining that an earlier injunction restraining Ikyange from parading himself as speaker as well as his suspension still subsists.
The 22 lawmakers loyal to Gov Ortom described the impeachment move as illegal
House Majority Leader, Avine Agbom, said Mr Ikyange, who presided over the session by the purported 10 lawmakers, had been impeached and suspended for six months, rendering his activities illegal, null and void.
Mr Agbom also moved for the suspension of all members who attended the session where the said impeachment notice was initiated,
Mr Ikyange was said to have also been barred from entering the parliament via a court order.
“In spite of the injunction, we went to the House to conduct our legislative duty, but were refused access while the Ikyange group were escorted by armed personnel and armored tanks into the complex where they sat without the clerk and a mace. Therefore, we have resolved to suspend the seven (7) members who took part in that sitting. They did not form quorum,” said Biam, House Committee chairman on Information said.
Ortom’s reaction: Oshiomole, APC demonizing me for leaving party
In his reaction to the impeachment move, Governor Ortom has accused the All Progressives Congress (APC) and its National Chairman of demonizing him for leaving the party.
Ortom said this during an interaction with Journalists yesterday at Government House, Makurdi. “The party is demonizing me for leaving; and I have the freedom to associate with whomever I want,” he said.
He regretted the incident at the State House of Assembly where security agencies prevented 22 members from sitting and allowed 8 members access into the chamber, describing the act as illegal and provocative.
“This is the highest level of illegality and impunity for police from Abuja, acting on the instruction of Sen. George Akume and the Inspector General of Police Ibrahim Idris, to forcefully invade the house, barred 22 members from having access to the house, manhandled, tear gassed many and took them away.
“They provided heavy security and escorted eight (8) members to sit. This is a fragrant disobedience to Makurdi High Court injunction restraining them from sitting. The same members went ahead to serve me a notice of impeachment.
“I will employ every legal process to tackle this illegality since my government believes in the rule of law. Benue people should rise up and resist this impunity. I have the right to associate with any political party of my choice.”
On allegation of financial misappropriation leveled against him by Ikyange, Ortom dismissed it as false, maintaining that he adequately account for every money expended to him by Federal Government.
PDP Reps caucus threaten to boycott N242bn supplementary budget debate
In protest to impeachment move against Ortom, members of the PDP caucus in the House of Representatives yesterday threaten to stall reconvening of the House, vowing to boycott the N242 billion supplementary budget for the 2019 general elections.
The caucus, led by Chukwuma Onyema, Deputy Minority Leader in the House, expressed concern, at a press briefing held at the National Assembly barely one hour after the impeachment move on Governor Ortom.
Onyema, who warned against heating the polity, however warned that any attempt to intimidate PDP members “will be fire for fire.”
In his words Oyeama said:”Indications are emerging that this administration is walking in the same grim path of the forbidden regime of Late Sani Abacha and the outright dictatorship that overthrew the Democratic Shehu Shagari administration.
“This is a government that came into office with the slogan of progressivism and change! But in reaction to Governor Ortom’s defection from the ruling All Progressives’ Congress (APC) to the People’s Democratic Party (PDP), policemen took over the state House of Assembly complex and an impeached Speaker of the 30-member House who had been suspended for six months for “unparliamentary behaviour” presided in a mockery of the rule of law and democracy.
“Benue state’s 22 lawmakers, led by the newly-elected speaker, Titus Abua, were prevented from gaining access into the complex.
“The PDP House Caucus hereby condemns the ignoble action that is unfolding under the supervision of the APC Federal Government and the police in Benue state; the eight renegade fellows have no legal authority to serve any impeachment notice on the governor of Benue state.
“The caucus vowed to stall plans to reconvene plenary for the consideration of any request by President Buhari, including the N242 billion for the 2019 general elections and debate on the 2018 Supplementary budget, until peace is restored back into the polity.”
Impeaching Ortom could truncate democracy – PDP
The Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, sternly warned against deliberate acts which are maliciously designed to truncate the nation’s democracy by employing underhand tactics to achieve what is inconceivable in a democracy.
The party, in a resolution issued at the end of its emergency National Working Committee, NWC, meeting in Abuja, condemned in its entirety the purported sitting of the 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.
According to the resolution read to journalists by the National Publicity Secretary of the PDP, Mr Kola Ologbondiyan, “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.
“We note the roles played by the factional Chairman of the APC, Adams Oshiomhole, President Muhammadu Buhari-led Federal Government and Sen. George Akume in encouraging lawless acts and anarchy in Benue State.
“Party States that the actions and opinions expressed by Oshiomole on the decamping of Governor Ortom to the PDP, as well as the deployment of Policemen by the 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,” PDP said.
Benue situation a desecration of legislative sanctity – Saraki, Dogara
The Senate President, Dr. Abubakar Bukola Saraki and Speaker, House of Representatives, Rt. Hon. Yakubu Dogara, on their part, described as “a desecration of the legislative sanctity”, the on-going situation in Benue State.
In a statement jointly signed by their media aides, Saraki and Dogara also called on President Muhammadu Buhari to call the police to order and stop 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 the state Governor, Samuel Ortom, while the 22 other members who constitute more than two-third 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 events, 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 Nigeria Police are being misused to achieve political end. 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. We also call on friends of Nigeria in the international community to lend their voice in condemning the perpetration of illegalities and actions that can subvert our democracy.
“There is already a tense atmosphere in Benue State following the recent killings. Nobody should encourage any action or move which may exacerbate the security situation in the North Central State.
“As leaders of the Federal legislature, we are ready to work with our colleagues in both chambers of the National Assembly to prevent any attempt to destroy any state legislature or use it to derail democracy”, Saraki and Dogara stated.