For over three weeks now, there has been political tsunami in Benue State as a fallout of the rift between Governor Samuel Ortom and his political godfather and leader of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in the state, Senator George Akume, over a partial cabinet reshuffle and the governor’s sudden defection from APC to PDP. HEMBADOON ORSAR writes on intriguing issues.
The rift started after a partial dissolution of the state exco by Governor Samuel Ortom, of which people believed to be Senator Akume’s loyalists were shown the way out.
After the partial cabinet shake off, the drama started. There was a failed impeachment move against the the Speakerof the state House of Assembly, Terkimbi Ikyange, who it was also learnt had plan to impeach the governor but denied during an interview session with newsmen after their sitting.
According to him, “The house as an institution has members that represent various constituencies, and by extension the house has the way it conducts it’s business. But as much as I can tell you, over the three years, there has never been any cause to worry over any issue, we have been working together and there is perfect understanding particularly between the leadership and other members of the house”.
“And there hasn’’t been any reason for us to disagree but there has been little political instability particularly in the APC for the past few weeks so to speak, just some little disagreement among various interest groups”.
“Since the house of assembly is made up of members of different political parties, particularly, with the APC in control, there is likelihood of agitation and that is not enough to constitute any wrangling but just last week the members passed vote of confidence on me”.
While speaking on the presence of security operatives, the speaker said that they were there to ensure adequate security in the assembly complex.
He said, “security agencies that were here are just to ensure there should not be disagreement that will result to some kind of crisis there is no plan to impeach me or the governor of the state as being speculated as a matter of fact just two weeks ago the assembly passed vote of confidence on me”.
When asked of the purported move to impeach the governor, Ikyange said there was no iota of truth in it. The speaker said that the process of impeaching the state executive was not a tea party but has to follow due process.
“The assembly has full respect for the governor and we are in support of him, there is nothing to suggest that the house is planning to impeach the governor”, Ikyange said.
After these, the Political tension continued unabated as 22 members of the state Assembly sat and impeached the speaker Terkimbi Ikyange and other principles officers.
His impeachment followed the adoption of a motion of vote of no confidence passed on him, which was moved by Richard Ujege representing Konshisha State Constituency and seconded by his counterpart from Ado, Honourable Anthony Ogbu.
The motion accused the former leadership of high handedness and other sundry offences.
Mr. Titus Uba, representing Kyan constituency was elected the new Speaker of the 8th Assembly following his nomination by Member representing Otukpo/Akpa, Egli Johnson Ahubi and seconded by Honourable Steven Tyochir representing Gwer East State Constituency.
The House also elected Honourable Egli Johnson Ahubi as Deputy Speaker following his nomination by Joseph Ojobo representing Ogbadibo state constituency and seconded by his counterpart from Makurdi North, Avine Agbum.
The Speaker and his deputy were immediately sworn-in by the clerk of the House, Dr. Torese Agena.
In his acceptance speech, Mr. Titus Uba thanked members for finding him worthy to serve in that capacity and promised exemplary leadership of the 8th Assembly.
Other principal officers elected included Honourable Avine Agbum as Majority and Rt. Honourable Sule Audu as Deputy Majority Leader while Hon. Kester Kyenge representing Logo State Constituency was elected Majority Whip.
The sitting was earlier presided over by Honourable Sule Audu representing Agatu state constituency, who was elected Speaker Pro-Tempo immediately after the dissolution of the old leadership of the House.
The House later adjourned sitting till 15th August, 2018 following a motion moved by Rt. Honourable Paul Biam and seconded by Honourable Damian Cheme representing Ukum and Gwer West state constituencies respectively.
Rt. Honourable Avine Agbom submitted his letter of defection from the ruling APC to the PDP during plenary.
Twenty-two members signed the motion for the vote of no confidence while 21 were present at plenary out of 30 members.
Speaking to newsmen shortly after his election, the new Speaker Mr. Titus Uba stated that, Mr. Ikyange was unanimously removed as a result of his high handedness.
“The eighth Assembly of the Benue state is a house that has come to do what the people have elected them to do and once they notice that there is anything that would tarnish the image of the Assembly, the house will rise to that challenge and that is what the house had done just today”.
The impeachment of Ikyange led to the large presence of police personnel who invaded the Benue state House of Assembly ordering all Civil servants working there to vacate the complex indefinitely.
The clerk of the house, Dr Torese Agena, who disclosed this to newsmen in Makurdi said that the staff of assembly who are civil servants were at the assembly to carry out their legitimate duties as civil servants but were chased out by men of the police who came in their large numbers and drove everybody away.
The eighth Assembly in an alternative sitting arrangement at the Old Banquet Hall of Government House, Makurdi, suspended the impeached Speaker Terkimbi Ikyange, and said he should not participate in the activities of the Assembly for six months, accusing him of causing the besieging of the Assembly.
The motion was moved by the Majority Leader, Mr Avine Agbum who stated that on Tuesday some members numbering 22 collected signatures and subsequently passed a vote of no confidence on Ikyange and other principal officers of the assembly.
Agbum further stated that after passing a vote of no confidence on the former house leadership, they were consequently impeached.
He added that after impeaching Ikyange and his co-travellers he went ahead and organised a press conference and insisted that he was still the speaker.
He pointed out that such a behaviour was against the parliamentary rules, adding that because of that singular act and other sundry issues standing against him he needed to be suspended.
He also stated that Ikyange prevented them from having access to the chamber because he blocked the gate with official vehicles and the police as well as other security agencies who were there giving him support.
“Even the staff of the assembly who were purely civil servants and not politicians were prevented from entering into the assembly complex”.
The motion was seconded by the Deputy Speaker, Mr Egli Ahubi, stating that the motion was apt and timely too.
Ruling on the matter, the new Speaker, Mr Titus Uba said that Ikyange had violated the house rules by carrying out act of insubordination and as such, the motion calling for his suspension was apt.
Uba, therefore, said that Ikyange was suspended for six months, following his utterances which he said has the capacity of tarnishing the image of the 8th assembly.
He also demand for an explanation from the commissioner of police as to while his men took over the Benue Assembly complex without any provocation.
A few days after, another drama emerged at the Benue State assembly where again, heavily armed security personnel took over the assembly complex.
It was learnt that a plot to commence the impeachment process of Governor Samuel Ortom was leaked, and youths numbering over 100 had been mobilized to stop the action.
As early as 5:00am, the youths blocked the assembly gate even as security personnel who had been deployed to the State from Abuja by the Inspector General quickly moved into the assembly premises to disperse the youths with tear gas canister.
While the rage continued, the factional groups led by the Speakers, Terkimbi Ikyange and Titus Uba stormed the assembly to sit just as the latter was denied access into the chamber while the impeached Ikyange group held proceedings under tight security.
Speaking with newsmen after their sitting, Ikyange lamented over the manner some members invaded the House and caused unrest.
He also intimated that they have initiated impeachment moves against the governor for gross misappropriation of State funds.
Ikyange also accused Governor Ortom of embezzlement of over N33 billion meant for local government, adding that another N22 billion alleged security funds was under investigation by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission.
“The governor has performed poorly which has resulted in the untold 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.
He disclosed that about 12 members of the Benue State House of Assembly, sat and commenced Impeachment process against Governor Samuel Ortom over alleged abuse of office and corrupt practices.
The 12 members led by the impeached speaker, Terkimbi Ikyange, sat under tight Security to take the decision and to serve the impeachment notice on the governor within seven days.
They also announced the suspension of 15 members of the house who were at the house on Tuesday when it was on recess.
Correspondent gathered that despite the court injunction restraining the impeached speaker from parading himself as the speaker and the court order urging the security operatives to vacate the Assembly complex fell on deaf ears as the speaker insisted that he remained the authentic Speaker of the house and the security personnel were still stationed at the complex.
According to Ikyange, the house has given 7 day ultimatum to the governor to respond to all the alleged misconduct and corruption charges against him.
Meanwhile, the Titus Uba led House which met at the banquet hall of Government House, accused the security agencies of compromising, maintaining that an earlier injunction restraining Ikyange from parading himself as speaker as well as his suspension subsist.
Governor Samuel Ortom in swift reaction disclosed that he is not perturbed by the decision of the 8th assembly members, adding that politics is a game of numbers, so there is no way the decision of 8 members will override that of the 22 members.
On the issue of police taking over and not obeying the court order, the governor called on the IG not to allow politician to use him to perpetrate impunity in the state but should rather hold to his mandate of protecting lives and properties.
It would be recalled that 22 of the 30 members of the state assembly on Tuesday 24th of July 2018 sat and impeached the speaker Terkimbi Ikyange, and as well suspended him for on Friday 27 for highhandedness.
In another development, the EFCC on Monday 6th of August freezes the Benue state account.
But in a swift reaction, Ortom described the freezing, as part of political witch- hunt and victimization being plotted against him, even as he said, such move will have a negative toll on the state.
The governor who confirmed the freezing, said, “Yes, it is true that accounts of the Benue State Government have been frozen by EFCC, but I want to let everybody know that it is part of the political witch-hunt against me”.
According to him, the action of EFCC is already having negative impact on the running of government in Benue State, it is a move that will affect salaries, pensions and other sundry payments.
In the same vein, the crises rocking the Benue State House of Assembly has took different dimension as a Makurdi High Court presided over by Justice Theresa Igoche, restrained the new Speaker, Mr. Titus Uba and four others from conducting sittings.
Those restrained from conducting sittings along with Uba are Hon. Johnson Ahubi, Hon. Avine Agbom, Hon. Audu Sule, Hon. Kester Kyenge and Dr. Torese Agena both Deputy Speaker, Majority Leader, Deputy Majority Leader, and Chief Whip respectively.
Justice Igoche who gave the restraining order while ruling on an ex-parte motion filed by the impeached speaker Rt. Hon. Terkimbi Ikyange and four others in a suit against the new speaker, Mr. Uba and five others, also restrained them from carrying any function(s) of the Assembly pending the hearing and determination of The motion on notice.
The Makurdi High Court also restrained Hon. Titus Uba and his purported leadership from entering and/or further entry and occupying the offices of the 1st to 5th plaintiff/applicants as well as further entry into the offices of 1st to 4th plaintiff in the Assembly Complex.
The presiding Judge noted that “upon hearing from Chief M. M. Osuman SAN, for the applicants, the Court held as follows: “I have read the motion No. MHC/1694m/18 filed on 10 August, 2018, together with the other process accompanied it, Particularly, I have looked at paragraph 22-34 of the affidavit in support and paragraphs 5-13 of the affidavit of urgency”.
According to her, “this Court takes Judicial notice of the Order of interim injunction made against the plaintiffs/ applicants on 1st August, 2018 in suit No.MHC/259/18”.
“Government activities have been grounde. The victimisation has reached a ridiculous level now, as the Commission is demanding minutes of the security council meeting ,” Akase said .
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