BUSINESS AND ECONOMY
BY Uja Emmanuel/ THE NATION
Governor of Benue State, Samuel Ortom, on Friday instituted a N60 billion suit against the Minister of Special Duties and Inter Governmental Affairs, Senator George Akume, at the Makurdi High Court.
The suit No. MHC/268/2021 was filed by Okon N. Efut, SAN and four other lawyers.
Governor Ortom is seeking N50 billion as general damages for libel and N10 billion as exemplary and aggravated damages.
The writ of summons was backed by 17-paragraph statement of claim.
In the statement of claim, Governor Ortom is seeking a declaration that the text of Senator Akume’s press conference on 30th August, 2021, in Abuja and the reports in various national dailies is scandalous, malicious and injurious to his person.
He complained that the press conference was intended to lower his estimation before right-thinking members of the society and to expose him to hatred, contempt and ridicule.
The Governor is seeking perpetual injunction restraining the defendant by himself or through any agent, servants or privies from similar or further publication of any defamatory statement against him.
Addressing a press conference on behalf of other leaders of the All Progressives Congress in Benue State on Monday, Akume had called on the Federal Government to declare a state of emergency in Benue State, saying that Ortom had lost control of the security situation in the state.
He also condemned what it called the governor’s “penchant for verbally attacking” President Muhammadu Buhari without regard for his age and office.
No date has yet been fixed for the case
WASHINGTON — Jeffrey A. Rosen, who was acting attorney general during the Trump administration, has told the Justice Department watchdog and Congressional investigators that one of his deputies tried to help former President Donald J. Trump subvert the results of the 2020 election, according to a person familiar with the interviews.
Mr. Rosen had a two-hour meeting on Friday with the Justice Department’s office of the inspector general and provided closed-door testimony to the Senate Judiciary Committee on Saturday.
The investigations were opened following a New York Times article that detailed efforts by Jeffrey Clark, the acting head of the Justice Department’s civil division, to push top leaders to falsely and publicly assert that ongoing election fraud investigations cast doubt on the Electoral College results. That prompted Mr. Trump to consider ousting Mr. Rosen and installing Mr. Clark at the top of the department to carry out that plan.
Mr. Trump never fired Mr. Rosen, but the plot highlights the former president’s desire to batter the Justice Department into advancing his personal agenda.
Mr. Clark, who did not respond to requests for comment, said in January that all of his official communications with the White House “were consistent with law,” and that he had engaged in “a candid discussion of options and pros and cons with the president.”
Mr. Rosen did not respond to requests for comment. The inspector general’s spokesman declined to comment.
Mr. Rosen has emerged as a key witness in multiple investigations that focus on Mr. Trump’s efforts to undermine the results of the election. He has publicly stated that the Justice Department did not find enough fraud to impact the outcome of the election.
Mr. Rosen on Friday told investigators from the inspector general’s office about five encounters with Mr. Clark, including one in late December during which his deputy admitted to meeting with Mr. Trump and pledged that he would not do so again, according to a person familiar with the interview.
Mr. Rosen also described subsequent exchanges with Mr. Clark, who continued to press colleagues to make statements about the election that they found to be untrue, according to a person familiar with the interview.
He also discovered that Mr. Clark had been engaging in unauthorized conversations with Mr. Trump about ways to have the Justice Department publicly cast doubt on President Biden’s victory, particularly in battleground states that Mr. Trump was fixated on, like Georgia. Mr. Clark drafted a letter that he asked Mr. Rosen to send to Georgia state legislators, wrongly asserting that they should void Mr. Biden’s victory because the Justice Department was investigating accusations of voter fraud in the state.
Pressuring state officials to ‘find votes.’ As the president continued to refuse to concede the election, his most loyal backers proclaimed Jan. 6, when Congress convened to formalize Mr. Biden’s electoral victory, as a day of reckoning. On that day, Mr. Trump delivered an incendiary speech to thousands of his supporters hours before a mob of loyalists violently stormed the Capitol.
Such a letter would effectively undermine efforts by Mr. Clark’s colleagues to prevent the White House from overturning the election results, and Mr. Rosen and his top deputy, Richard P. Donoghue, rejected the proposal.
As details of Mr. Clark’s actions emerge, it is unclear what, if any, consequences he could face. The Justice Department’s inspector general could make a determination about whether Mr. Clark crossed the line into potentially criminal behavior. In that case, the inspector general could refer the matter to federal prosecutors.
Mr. Rosen has spent much of the year in discussions with the Justice Department over what information he could provide to investigators, given that decision-making conversations between administration officials are usually kept confidential.
Douglas A. Collins, a lawyer for Mr. Trump, said last week that the former president would not seek to bar former Justice Department officials from speaking with investigators. But Mr. Collins said he might take some undisclosed legal action if congressional investigators sought “privileged information.”
Mr. Rosen quickly scheduled interviews with Congressional investigators to get as much of his version of events on the record before any players could ask the courts to block the proceedings, according to two people familiar with those discussions who are not authorized to speak about ongoing investigations.
He also reached out directly to Michael E. Horowitz, the Justice Department’s inspector general, and pledged to cooperate with his investigation, according to a person briefed on those talks.
The Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) on Saturday berated Ijaw leader, Chief Edwin Clark, for counting the Niger Delta out of Biafra.
The outlawed group dismissed Clark as a general without foot soldiers and therefore lacked authority to speak for the people of the zone.
The Ijaw leader had declared earlier in the week that the Niger Delta could not be part of Biafra, saying: “How can Delta be part of Biafra? In what way? Is Biafra older than or bigger than Delta?”
He added: “How can Rivers State or Akwa Ibom become part of Biafra? They are dreaming thinking about the eastern region of those days. They are very unrealistic boys. To me, IPOB is not pursuing the right thing.”
But responding yesterday, IPOB spokesman Emma Powerful said Clark’s statement was appalling.
He wondered whether Clark knew “that those who own Biafra are those he referred to as South-South or Niger Delta as the case may be.
He said: “How suddenly Edwin Clark has forgotten that it was an Izon man who brought the name ‘Biafra’ to the table for approval which Ojukwu and his Eastern Consultative Assembly approved without hesitation or debate?
“Edwin Clark should know that IPOB, led by our great leader Mazi Nnamdi Kanu, did not force any clan to join Biafra. But if his community, clan and tribe refuses to join Biafra through referendum at the right time, they should not blame anybody for their fate in Nigeria.
“By the time Biafra will exit Nigeria through a referendum, any clan in the so-called Niger Delta that refuses to be liberated from the Nigerian bondage should get ready to serve the Fulani as slaves forever.
“We, however, know that Edwin Clark is not speaking for millions of Niger Delta youths, men and women earnestly yearning for their liberation from the Nigerian bondage.
“He is only speaking for his Fulani slave masters, but very soon he will discover that he is a general without foot soldiers.”
Clark had queried: “How can Delta be part of Biafra? In what way? Is Biafra older than or bigger than Delta?”
“How can Rivers State or Akwa Ibom become part of Biafra? They are dreaming thinking about the eastern region of those days. They are very unrealistic boys. To me, IPOB is not pursuing the right thing.
“When this war was fought, I told the IPOB leader he was not born at the time. I’ve never met him, but I have challenged him and he has also challenged me that I was the slave of the north – that was how he branded me.
“I told him he has a good fight, that the people of the East are being neglected. They have only five states, whereas other regions have six. One, in fact, has seven. Based on what? Nobody knows.
“For every appointment that is being made in this country, the Igbo are shortchanged. If they are distributing universities per state, they will have five. South-south and Southwest will have six, Northwest will have seven, but the Igbo formed the third leg of this country when it was created.
“So, they have a good complaint, but not the way they are going about it.”
Meanwhile, the treason trial of Nnamdi Kanu is resuming on Monday July 26, his lawyer, Ifeanyi Ejiofor, said yesterday.
Ejiofor in a tweet said: “We have just received confirmation from the Federal High Court Abuja that the hearing on Our Client’s case above referred will still go on as earlier scheduled on Monday next week being the 26th Day of July 2021.
“Remember Mazi Nnamdi Kanu and the entire Legal team in your prayers. Thank you all and remain blessed.@EjioforBar”
Kanu is currently being tried by Justice Binta Nyako for terrorism, treasonable felony, unlawful possession of firearms and management of an unlawful society.
However, the Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Mr. Abubakar Malami (SAN), has said the charges will be amended.
“He has, upon jumping bail, been accused of engaging in subversive activities that include inciting violence through television, radio and online broadcasts against Nigeria and Nigerian State and institutions,” Malami told reporters in Abuja.
Kanu, he added, instigated “violence especially in the Southeastern Nigeria that resulted in the loss of lives and property of civilians, military, paramilitary, police forces and destruction of civil institutions and symbols of authority.”
The IPOB leader was recently rearrested in Kenya and sent back home after jumping bail in the country.
The Indigenous Peoples of Biafra (IPOB) has alleged Imo Governor Hope Uzodinma, his Rivers counterpart Nyesom Wike, former Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) Governor Prof Charles Soludo and Minister of Labour and Productivity, Chris Ngige were some of individuals who supported and funded the extradition of its leader Nnamdi Kanu from Kenya.
It further alleged some other businessmen from Imo and Anambra States, including billionaire Emeka Offor also betrayed Kanu.
The group added all of them to its ‘traitors’ list, saying they betrayed Kanu allegedly because of their political and economic interests.
It insisted Ngige was part of the ‘plot’ but absolved Anambra Governor Willie Obiano and Victor Umeh from involvement in any move against Kanu as earlier alleged.
In a statement from its Media and Publicity Secretary, Emma Powerful, IPOB maintained the ‘saboteurs’ colluded with the Federal Government to extradite Kanu.
The statement reads in part: “Through in-depth investigations and intelligence gathering, we, the Indigenous Peoples of Biafra (IPOB), have uncovered more Biafran traitors involved in the betrayal of our Leader Mazi Nnamdi Kanu and his subsequent abduction and extrarendition from Kenya to Nigeria.
“Other people involved will soon publish to the public, our intelligence units are still working to unravel them some Igbo business men and women who were involved in the abominable act in Anambra State and Imo State will soon be exposed to the public.
“We, however, wish to absolve Gov. Willie Obiano from any involvement in the act contrary to our earlier statement based on preliminary investigation.
“Gov. Willie Obiano was found to be innocent after our intelligence unit conducted further investigations on him. We regret any harm our earlier statement might have caused him.
“We don’t act based on rumour or mere propaganda senator Sir Victor Umeh is innocent of the accusations against him, the voice note going viral where they mentioned Victor Umeh is not true and our people should disregard that voice against him anybody involved in such abominable act should desist from such and repent because IPOB will get him or her who are responsible for this cowardly act.
“We are responsible enough to admit our error any time any day. So, we apologise to Gov. Obiano and Victor Umeh.
“Meanwhile, the following individuals based on our in-depth investigations so far played key roles in the betrayal of our Leader Mazi Nnamdi Kanu.
“They not only betrayed him but contributed funds to sponsor his extra-ordinary rendition to Nigeria. They include: Emeka Offor, Gov. Nyesom Wike, Chris Ngige Imo Governor Hope Uzodinma and Professor Chukwuma Soludo.
“They decided to trap our leader Mazi Nnamdi Kanu because of their political and commercial interests which they consider above the overall good and emancipation of Biafrans.
“We want to make it clear to them that Biafra will hold them responsible for whatever happens to our leader. They cannot stop us.”
By Seye Olumide (Southwest Bureau Chief) /GUARDIAN.NG
On June 5, 2020 when President Muhammadu Buhari called for the dissolution of the National Working Committee (NWC) of the All Progressives Congress (APC) and appointed Yobe State Governor, Mai Mala-Buni to head the Caretaker/Extraordinary Convention Planning Committee (CECPC), several members considered the move as the best to reposition the ruling party.
The controversial virtual National Executive Council (NEC) meeting, headed by the president sacked the then National Chairman, Adams Oshiomhole, who statutorily represented the zone that produced the party’s national chairman.
Although some members of the party felt uncomfortable with the decision, considering the fact that the new CECPC chairman is a serving governor of northern extraction, the crises that had rocked the APC throughout the two years of Oshiomhole’s chairmanship beclouded the majority from seeing inherent pitfalls in the move. At the time, many party faithful were tired of Oshiomhole’s leadership style and the feeling that the National Leader, Bola Tinubu was using the former governor of Edo State as a proxy to control party machinery. But the yearnings for change also prevented them from realising that a party machinery, which was going to ‘completely’ exclude the southern zone, would be a breach of the party’s constitution.
With the development, the north now controls the presidency, Senate and chairmanship of the party while Southwest holds leadership of only the House of Representatives.
In fairness, the Buni-led CECPC has been able to douse many tensions within the initial six-month frame of its stewardship, putting in place another NWC to steer the affairs of the party pending the congresses and the national convention, the shocking extension of its tenure by another six months in December 2020, had since been generating ill feelings within party ranks.
And when the CECPC came up with the idea of registration/revalidation of party membership, it sent tongues wagging, with party faithful alluding to sinister motives. Former interim national chairman, Chief Bisi Akande, who is also a strong associate of the national leader, frowned at development, alleging a game plan. But he was criticised by those who felt President Buhari was on the right track by granting support to CECPC’s tenure extension.
The Guardian has, however, learnt that most party members, who initially hailed the Buni-led committee and the presidential support it had been receiving since June last year are beginning to grumble, with indications that the party may be heading towards tough congresses and rancorous national convention. It further gathered that the leadership of the party is currently afraid to hold its national convention.
One of the strong sentiments against the CECPC is the fear that President Buhari may likely use it to shift the goal post and retain the presidency in the north or North Central after the expiration of his eight years in office in 2023.
The sentiment is further fueled by the manner Governor Yahaya Bello is going about his 2023 presidential ambition in defiance of the unannounced gentleman agreement of power shift to the South among the founding members of the party.
It is assumed within party ranks that Bello must be getting nudges from the presidency judging by the relentlessness in pursuing his presidential ambition. Another concern is that the presidency, seen as the deliberate creator and director of the CECPC, might be using it to deliberately shut out perceived enemies it does not want to cede power to or allow to contest for the party’s presidential ticket in the run up to next elections.
Jostle For National Chairmanship Despite Uncertainties
THE CECPC has unfolded plans to hold the party congresses but it is still uncertain how it hopes to achieve it. In spite of the uncertainties, The Guardian gathered that some party members, especially from the north, are intensifying bids and making moves to vie for the position of the national chairman.
A competent party source listed some of the chairmanship hopefuls to include former Nasarawa State Governor, Tanko Almakura, another former Nasarawa State Governor, Abdullahi Adamu; one-time governorship contender in Niger State and delegate to the National Convention, Senator Sani Musa; former Gombe State Governor, Danjuma Goje; former Borno State Governor, Modu Sheriff, and a former deputy national chairman of Congress for Progressive Change (CPC), Mohammed Mustapha.
In terms of experience and maturity, former Nasarawa State Governor, Adamu is regarded as a party elder endowed with qualities to lead as the chairman. He is seen as a no-nonsense politician, who knows his onions. After serving as governor for eight years, he was elected senator. In 2007, he was a presidential aspirant on the platform of PDP.
Senator Sani Musa, a 56-year-old indigene of Paikoro in Niger State, is said to be on an extensive party-wide consultation and mobilisation. A loyal party man, he has been described as a man of integrity. He is a one-time governorship contender in Niger State, a delegate to the National Convention, and a member of the APC Presidential Election Campaign Committee for 2019.
As senator, he had canvassed the revolution of the electoral system through the use of the card reader and Permanent Voter’s Card just as many have described him as a bridge builder with immense interpersonal skills. He has also served on some Senate committees including Appropriation, Petroleum Resources, Foreign and Local Debts, and Water Resources. In the APC, he served as a member of NEC, Contact and Strategic Committee, and Constitution Review Panel.
The Business Administration graduate from Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria, where he was the President of Zodiac, has also served as Special Adviser on Investment and Infrastructure in Niger State; director of Niger State Development Company Limited; Chairman, Task Force on Environmental Management and Managing Director, First Pacific Nigeria Limited. He possesses a Certificate in Conflict Analysis from the United States Institute of Peace.
Musa is held in esteem in the senate as an organised, dedicated, passionate and hardworking politician. He is said to be goal-oriented, focused and patriotic. Testimonies about his conduct in the Senate portray him as a detribalised person who could ride on his wave of integrity to lead the party if given the opportunity. Another sterling quality he possesses is his ability to foster unity across ethnic nationalities, which he is said to have demonstrated in the upper chamber since joining.
“As a member of the APC Presidential Campaign Team 2019, Senator Musa donated the biggest Presidential Campaign Office in Northern Nigeria not to mention his championing of the usage of the PVC during the voting process,” the source added.
Another aspirant is eminent politician from Gombe State, former Governor Goje, who served as former Minister of State for Steel Development and is now a senator. Bold and fearless he is also a former PDP chieftain.
The kidnapped Emir of Kajuru in Kajuru Local Government area of Kaduna State, Alhaji Alhassan Adamu, has been released by his abductors.
The Emir was released on Monday afternoon, few hours after bandits demanded N200 million ransom for the monarch and 10 other family members kidnapped with him.
Abubakar did not however say whether the N200 million ransom was paid or not before his release.
The Nation reliably gathered only the 85- year- old second class Emir was released with the bandits said to be holding on to other abductees.
The Emir, according to another source, addressed his subjects immediately he returned to Kajuru.
By Azimazi Momoh Jimoh, Abuja/ GUARDIAN.NG
Senate Minority Leader, Enyinnaya Abaribe, has urged the Federal Government to embrace caution and strict adherence to the rule of law in the handling of Nnamdi Kanu’s issue.
Kanu was on Tuesday remanded in DSS custody by the Federal High Court as the Federal Government re arraigned him and re-arraiged in continuation of his trial.
Abaribed said the said the relevant section and charter presupposes that the detainee should be humanely treated while in the custody of the state.
“What it means is that it is the duty of the government in this instance to protect him and ensure the respect of his fundamental human rights while his trial lasts. For now, it is trite law, that he is presumed innocent until proven guilty,” Abaribe said.
However, the Minority Leader called for calm saying that the recent events presents ample opportunity for dialogue and for the federal government to address the contending issues that seems to challenge the peace and unity of the country.
Attorney-General of the Federation (AGF) and Minister of Justice Abubakar Malami (SAN) has argued that former Vice President Atiku Abubakar is not eligible under the constitution to contest for President.
The AGF argued that, having not been born a Nigerian or by Nigerian parents, and having not met the provisions of Sections 25(1) &(2) and 131(a) of the constitution, Atiku would be violating Section 118(1)(k) of the Electoral Act should he put himself forward as candidate.
These form part of the AGF’s arguments in support of the suit filed before the Federal High Court, Abuja by the Incorporated Trustees of Egalitarian Mission for Africa (EMA).
The EMA is challenging Atiku’s eligibility to contest for President and praying the court to hold among others, that considering the provisions of sections 25(1) &(2) and 131(a) of the constitution and the circumstances surrounding his birth, the former vice president cannot contest for the top office.
In documents filed for the AGF by a team of lawyers, led by Oladipo Okpeseyi (SAN), it was agreed that, as argued by the plaintiff, Atiku is not a Nigerian citizen by birth.
Although the suit marked: FHC/ABJ/CS/177/2019 was filed before the 2019 presidential election, it is yet to be heard and determined.
However, it was mentioned on March 15, during which Justice Inyang Ekwo noted that the suit was ripe for hearing and fixed May 4, for that purpose.
The AGF in the affidavit said: “The first defendant (Atiku) is not qualified to contest to be President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. The first defendant is not a fit and proper person to be a candidate for election to the office of president of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
“The first defendant was born on the 25th of November, 1946 at Jada, at the time in Northern Cameroon. By the plebiscite of 1961, the town of Jada was incorporated into Nigeria.
“The first defendant is a Nigerian by virtue of the 1961 plebiscite, but not a Nigerian by birth. The first defendant’s parents died before the 1961 plebiscite.”
In his written address, the AGF argued that the effect of the June1, 1961 plebiscite was to have the people of. Northern Cameroon integrated into Nigeria as new citizens of the country, even after Nigeria’s independence.
He added: “This qualified all those born before the 1961 plebiscIte as citizens of Nigeria, but not Nigerian citizen by birth. Consequently, only citizens born after the 1961 plebiscite are citizens of Nigeria by birth.”
He cited provisions of the 1960, 1963, 1979 and 1999 constitutions and noted that the “reasoning of the lawmakers in ensuring that the persons to be the President of Nigeria is a citizen of Nigeria by birth is because such a person is the number one citizen and the image of the Nigerian state.”
The AGF argued that, where it is revealed that a person was born outside Nigeria before Nigeria’s independence in 1960, in a location which was never part of Nigeria until June 1, 1961, as it is in this case, such a person cannot claim citizenship of Nigeria by birth.
“This is even more so where his parents do not belong to any tribe indigenous to Nigeria until their death. The facts of his (Atiku’s) birth on the Cameroonian territory to Cameroonian parents remain unchallenged.
“At best, the first defendant can only acquire Nigerian citizenship by the 1961 plebiscite. The citizenship qualifications under Section 26 and 27 of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (1999), by implication, has limited the first defendant’s privileges or rights and cannot be equal or proportional to the privileges of other citizens who acquire their citizenship status by birth.
“This would include the legal preclusion of the first defendant from contesting for the office of the President of Nigeria.
The AGF noted that the only situation where Atiku could have acquired Nigerian citizenship by birth under the 1999 Constitution was if both or either of his parents and grand parents were Nigerian citizens by birth.
He added that another way would have been “if either his parents had become Nigerian citizen by virtue of Section 25(1) of the 1999 Constitution, which must be in compliance with Sections 26 and 27of the same constitution.
“With no concrete proof of compliance, we submit that the first defendant cannot contest election to the office of the Nigerian President.”
Section 26 contains the process of obtaining citizenship by registration, while Section 27 provides for the process of obtaining citizenship by naturalisation.
The AGF argued that Atiku, having contested election to the office of the Vice President before now, knowing that he is not a Nigeria citizen by birth, committed an offence under Section 118(1)(k) of the Electoral Act.
Atiku and the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) on whose platform he contested the last election, have denied the plaintiff’s claims and prayed the court to dismiss the suit for lacking in merit.
They also filed a joint notice of objection, in which they insisted that Atiku is “a bonafide citizen of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.”
Atiku stated that aside serving as Nigeria’s Vice President from 1999 to 2007, he held many public/private offices, including serving as Governor of Adamawa State and as a Commissioned Officer of the Nigeria Customs Service.
He said both his parents, grandparents and great grandparents were born in Nigeria and they lived, died as Nigerians and were buried in Nigeria.
Atiku argued that he is qualified and eligible to be elected into the office of the President of Nigeria, adding that the plaintiff filed the suit in bad faith and in an attempt to malign his person and integrity.
He queried the plaintiff’s right to challenge his nationality, arguing that it failed to show the interest it has above other citizens of Nigeria to be entitled to approach the court on the issue.
Islamic cleric, Ahmad Gumi and former President Olusegun Obasanjo are in a meeting in Abeokuta, Ogun state capital.
Obasanjo’s spokesman, Kehinde Akinyemi, confirmed the meeting.
“I am not there and the meeting is still going on,” Akinyemi said when asked what the meeting is about.
“It is not just the two of them present; it is stakeholders meeting holding at his residence here in Abeokuta.”
The meeting, according to sources, may not be unconnected insecurity in the country.
Gumi has been meeting with various stakeholders to solve the security challenge.
He has been advocating amnesty for bandits, arguing they should not be treated as criminals.
Governor Samuel Ortom on Saturday credited God, his security aides and his physical fitness for his escape from death at the hands of some people he identified as herders.
The governor alleged that he was attacked on his farm at Tyo-mu on the Makurdi-Gboko Road by about 15 gun carrying men.
He called for the arrest and prosecution of leaders of Miyetti Allah Kautal Hore who he alleged had singled him out for assassination at a recent meeting in Yola, Adamawa State.
However, a former chairman of Miyetti Allah in Benue State, Garus Gololo, dismissed Governor Ortom’s claim as a mere propaganda and an excuse by him to avoid paying workers’ salary at the end of the month.
Ortom’s party, the PDP, condemned the alleged attempt on his life and demanded the arrest and prosecution of the brains behind the plot.
Narrating his ordeal to reporters in Makurdi moments after escaping the attack, the governor said he ran for more than one kilometer on foot as the herders swooped on his entourage.
“I thank God for my fitness to have run for more than one and a half kilometres without stopping,” he said.
“It means that God has given me strength and I am grateful to God.”
He said the six security aides who were with him did a yeoman’s job, taking on the 15 armed herders who came for his life.
While the security aides engaged and repelled the bandits, Ortom said he seized the opportunity to take to his heels, running a distance of over one and a half kilometres.
His words: “I appreciate the security men attached to me. They were able to repel them and they could not have access to me.
“And I thank God for my fitness to have run for more than one and a half kilometres without stopping. It means that God has given me strength and I am grateful to God.
“I don’t have problems with any Fulani man or Fulani race. But I have a problem with Fulani bandits who have vowed to take over Nigeria as their ancestral home. And I say no. Not when I am here and when I am governor leading my state.
“If I can’t go to farm as a governor with the entire security around me, then who else can go to farm? You can imagine the pains that we have here in Benue State.
“Thank God for Mr President who responded to my letter that anyone with AK-47 should be shot on sight. I’m yet to see that. Let me see it happen in Benue State.
“I have reported this to the security agencies and I hope that this will be done so that the land will be safe for our people to go back to farm and do their work and survive and live their lives.
“I want to call on Mr President, on the security agencies to fish these people out. They are in the forest between Makurdi and Abinse.
“They are living there and they are coming out to commit atrocities – rape women, kill our people, maim them, destroy our farmlands. And anytime the security agencies go after them, they run across the river and back to the forest.”
An eyewitness told The Nation last night that Ortom’s understanding of the terrain went a long way in saving his life yesterday.
The witness said the governor and his security aides had gone to the large-scale farm on foot after parking their vehicles along the highway.
The vehicles were not driven to the farm because of the terrain, which was rated as “marshy and un-conducive for them.”
Unknown to them, the attackers had laid an ambush.
It was learnt that it was while going round the different segments of the farm that the attackers struck and opened fire on Ortom.
After the successful evacuation of Ortom and his details, Operation Whirlstroke troops were drafted to the farm settlement and its adjoining areas.
The troops were still on the trail of the suspected attackers at press time.
A top source said: “The governor has a large-scale multi-purpose farm around Makurdi, the state capital.
“On Saturday, the governor took time off to go to the farm along Makurdi-Gboko Road. Due to the terrain, his vehicle and those of his security escorts parked by the roadside and trekked to the farm.
“It was while they were trekking that the attackers, who had already hidden on the farm, shot at the governor and his team.
“Ortom ran for more than one kilometre, navigating the farmstead to where all the vehicles were parked.
“I think his familiarity with the farm curves saved his life.
“The suspicion is that the attackers might have kept a tab on his schedule to the farm which made them to lay an ambush.”
Asked about the nature of the farm, the source added: “It is a large-scale type. Governor Ortom does crop farming, piggery, poultry, a large rice farm, soybeans, fishery and he has a cattle ranch.”
When contacted last night, the Chief Press Secretary to the Governor, Mr. Terver Kaase, confirmed that Ortom was “on foot when he was waylaid.”
“Officers and men of Operation Whirlstroke have moved to the area. Both the police and other security agencies are investigating the incident.”
No arrest had been made at press time.
There was also no response from the State police Command.
All attempts to reach the command’s spokesman, Sewuese Anene, proved abortive.
He neither picked his call nor responded to the SMS sent to him.
Governor Ortom’s party, PDP, condemned what it called “reckless attack and assassination attempt” by suspected bandits, reported to be killer herdsmen.
It asked President Muhammadu Buhari to “put machinery in motion by ordering an immediate manhunt, arrest and prosecution of the assailants and beef up security around the governor.”
The party in a statement expressed shock that the assailants “trailed Governor Ortom and opened fire on him and his aides along Makurdi/Gboko Road, in an attack that by every indication is aimed to assassinate the governor.”
The party said it was “worried that this brazen attempt on Governor Ortom’s life is coming on the heels of his outspokenness in exposing those allegedly behind the incessant attacks of communities in the state and demanding that the Federal Government should live up to its responsibility on the protection of life and property in the state.”
Continuing, it said: “The @OfficialPDPNig fears for the life of Governor Ortom and we urge Nigerians to hold the @OfficialAPCNg -led administration responsible over its failure to take a decisive step to check the escalated insecurity and brazen attacks on innocent Nigerians.”
The PDP however told Ortom not to be “deterred by the attack but to remain courageous and at alert, at all times while providing leadership to the people of his state.”
Governor Nyesom Wike said the Federal Government should be held responsible if Ortom is killed.
He said killing the Benue State governor could plunge Nigeria into another civil war.
Wike in a statement signed by his Special Assistant, Media, Kelvin Ebiri, said: “If you kill Ortom, then be prepared to bury Nigeria. If anything happens to Governor Ortom, the Federal Government will be held responsible and they should be prepared that there will be no more Nigeria.”
Wike claimed a former General Officer Commanding (GOC) in the army and All Progressives Congress (APC) chieftains concluded plan to assassinate him during the 2019 general election.
Wike described as disturbing the growing trend of threatening the lives of incumbent governors.
To a former chairman of Miyetti Allah in Benue State, Garus Gololo, the governor’s allegation of attempt on his life is nothing more than mere propaganda.
Speaking on the phone to The Nation yesterday, Gololo said it could also be a ploy by Ortom to avoid paying workers’ salary at the end of this month.
He alleged that it has become a tradition for the governor to make up issues towards every month-end so that he would not pay salaries.
He said: “There are no herdsmen in the area he is talking about.
“I grew up in Makurdi. What I understand is that towards the end of every month, he will bring up herdsmen issue to confuse the workers.
“For almost two years, he has not paid salaries, and for almost three years, he has not paid pensions.
“Every of his problems is herdsmen. I think today is 20th, so he is looking for an excuse not to pay salary.
“Herdsmen have no grudges against Ortom. He was invited to Port Harcourt where he saw what Wike is doing.
“You as a journalist, how many times have you reported what Ortom did? Have you seen any project that he did? He does not know what he is doing.”
Ortom is locked in a running battle with herdsmen who, he says, are making life difficult for the people of the state through their open grazing.
He was recently involved in a standoff with Governor Bala Mohammed of Bauchi State after Mohammed defended the right of herders to carry AK 47.
Their quarrel was settled by their party.
One of Ortom’s predecessors, Chief George Akume, also came under a similar gun attack in March 2004, leading to the death of a close friend of the former governor, Andrew Agom, who shared the back seat of the Toyota Land Cruiser Jeep in which they were travelling.
Agom, a former managing director of the Nigeria Airways died instantly when gunmen opened fire on Akume’s convoy near Nasarawan Gwong village, in Nasarawa State.
They were on their way to Abuja.
Also killed in that incident was one of the former governor’s police security guards, Sergeant John Ngam, who was in the Pilot car.
He was hit in the head. He died at the National Hospital, Abuja where he was rushed to for medical attention at about 12 noon.
Another gang of gunmen killed a personal aide of the immediate past governor of Sokoto State, Senator Aliyu Wamakko.
Alhaji Abba Abbey Gidan Haki, 50, was abducted and killed on Thursday night.
His corpse was found on the road to Durbawa town in Kware Local Government Area of Sokoto State.
He was buried on Friday night according to Islamic rites.
Katsina Governor Aminu Masari has argued the south should produce the next president.
Masari spoke during an interview on Channels Television’s Politics Today monitored by The Nation.
He stressed a non-northerner should succeed President Buhari in 2023.
“If you ask me as a person Aminu, I think we should move the presidency to the southern part of the country,”
Although he did not specify which particular geographical region of the south should produce the next Presidency, he simply said “South is South.”
The governor expressed confidence the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) will fare well after President Buhari’s tenure despite current national challenges.
Masari stated no political party has brought social interventions for the masses in Nigeria’s history like the APC.
When asked if the APC was the nation’s saviour, the Governor replied: “Of course, by all means. Let everybody come with a balance sheet of what they got yesterday and what we get today and compare notes.”
By Lawrence Njoku (Enugu) and Saxone Akhaine (Kaduna)/ GUARDIAN.NG
*Assembly gets 21-day ultimatum to kill bill
An attempt by the Enugu State House of Assembly to amend the law that provides life pensions for former governors and their deputies has elicited outrage.
This is as a known socio-political group, Save Enugu Group (SEG), yesterday, issued a 21-day ultimatum to the lawmakers to kill the bill in the interest of peace and good governance.
Also, the Enugu State Continuity and Equity Movement (ESCEM) described the move as “disappointing, misappropriation of priorities and legislative rascality”, wondering why such a bill should come up for deliberation at “ a time the state is facing numerous challenges that required urgent legislative input.”
In a statement by its Acting State Coordinator, Chukwuebuka Aneke and State Publicity Secretary, Onyendozi Onwe, the movement stated that it was a pointer that the lawmakers were not aware of the sufferings of the residents and challenged them to initiate a bill to criminalise non-payment of gratuity and pensions to retired civil servants as and when due.
The executive bill, which was presented for first reading during plenary last Thursday, seeks to provide gratuity as well as pension for life for governors and their deputies upon successful completion of tenures.
It also makes provision for medical allowance not exceeding N12 million yearly for one surviving spouse once married to the governor while in office.
Whereas the state government would provide adequate security for the ex-governors for their lifetime, proposed legislation, when passed, would also mandate government to provide three vehicles for the erstwhile chief executive replaceable every four years.
The bill reads: “A person who had held office as elected governor or deputy governor in Enugu State or any other state should be entitled to pension for life.
“When a former governor or former deputy governor dies, the state government should make adequate arrangements and bear the financial responsibility for his burial.
“The state government should pay a condolence allowance of a sum equivalent to the yearly basic salary of the incumbent to his next of kin, among others.”
Reacting to the development, National Coordinator of SEG, Chief Willy Ezeugwu, submitted: “It is shocking that while a state like Lagos, with high internally generated revenue (IGR) that runs into billions of naira monthly, has abolished pensions for former governors, the Enugu State House of Assembly allowed such a bill to pass first reading when such a law will deplete the state’s meagre revenue by over N2 billion yearly.”
He said the group was mobilising “conscious citizens, civil society groups and labour unions to shut down Enugu State House of Assembly for as long as it will take to kill this most insensitive bill.”
But justifying the move, Leader of the State House of Assembly, Ikechukwu Ezeugwu, told The Guardian that the bill had been in existence since 2007, stressing that the review was prompted by the fact that it was not all-embracing.
Main opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) on Tuesday gave reasons while the power pendulum will swing in their favour in 2023.
While the PDP argued that its reconciliation drive and APC’s inability to tackle the nation’s myriad of problems, including insecurity, would give it a victory, the ruling party stated that the achievements of President Muhammadu Buhari and the gale of defections from the opposition pointed to one direction: Continuation of the Next Level.
PDP National Publicity Secretary Kola Ologbondiyan spoke for his party during an interview on Arise TV’s “The Morning Show” monitored by The Nation.
He said: “In one zone out of six, we are having contestation of power that is leading towards disagreement, which is already being reconciled by the Senator Bukola Saraki-led reconciliation committee.
“Our party is a hope of Nigerians as we speak today. The acts of terrorism, banditry, kidnapping have subsumed our nation …show clearly that Nigerians are thinking of who will rescue our nation.
“Prior to the 2015 elections, insurgency was fought to the fringes.
“The PDP is ready and prepared to take over the mantle of leadership through the ballot box in 2023.”
The PDP spokesman also said the feud between former Ekiti State Governor Ayo Fayose, and Oyo State Governor Seyi Makinde was being resolved by the Saraki committee.
Earlier yesterday, Governors Nyesom Wike (Rivers) and Ifeanyi Okowa (Delta) had said Nigeria’s redemption would depend only on the return of the PDP to power in 2023.
The governors claimed that the main opposition had demonstrated proven ability to improve the living condition of Nigerians, arguing that this had diminished under the APC.
They spoke at the PDP Southsouth zonal congress in Port Harcourt, the Rivers State capital.
While Wike told the delegates that Nigerians were yearning to return the opposition party to power in 2023, Okowa said the nation was better under PDP’s administration than the APC.
But Secretary of the Caretaker Extra-Ordinary Convention Planning Committee (CECPC) of the APC, Senator John Akpanudoedehe said the PDP and its leaders were deluding themselves of returning to power.
“The PDP is apparently deluding itself that its desperate cravings to return to power at the centre amounts to the wishes of Nigerians.
“This is incredibly delusional. It is important to remind the PDP that in a democracy and progressive politics, power is not ‘taken’ but given through a popular mandate by the people.
“The current state of the PDP does not show the failed opposition party is anywhere close to earning such mandate from the electorate.
“From previously abandoned to new projects, under the President Muhammadu Buhari-led APC administration, every state of the federation, including the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) has an ongoing and major federal road and other critical infrastructure project. This is a fact and it is verifiable.
“The coming of CECPC has compelled the opposition to go on futile and desperate attempts at begging its members and leaders to remain in the party.
“President Buhari’s administration is implementing one of the world’s largest and wide-ranging social investment programme, which is benefitting the vulnerable and has taken many Nigerians out of poverty. Commendably, we are well on course to delivering other aspects of the Next Level agenda,” Akpanudoedehe said.
Also, the Buhari Media Organisation (BMO), a group sympathetic to the APC, described PDP’s statement as wishful thinking.
The BMO reminded the main opposition that it takes more than gathering “loud-talking leaders” to sway the electorate.
Also, opposition political groups, under the platform of National Consultative Front (NCFront), have inaugurated a 22-man merger committee to negotiate with existing political parties across the country.
The committee is to work out modalities for unseating the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) and main opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).
It is headed by former House of Representatives Speaker Ghali Umar Na’aba and mandated to negotiate and facilitate an all-inclusive Mega Party Movement for Nigerians.
The coalition also planned to mobilise massive resistance to national elections without a brand new constitution, biometric accreditation, electronic and Diaspora voting, among others.
At a virtual inauguration of the merger committee yesterday, the Chief Convener of the coalition, Prof. Pat Utomi said there was need to reclaim the country from political pillagers and build a Nigeria that “our children will be proud of”.
A communiqué issued after the meeting and signed by NCFront’s head of secretariat, Olawale Okuniyi, announced that “leaders of conscience under the umbrella of the National Consultative Front (NCFront), in a conscious effort to provide a credible ideological mega political alternative to rescue Nigeria from the predatory and disastrous grip of the ruling political leadership of the APC and PDP today inaugurated a 22-member Political Merger Committee, headed by Ghali Umar Na’aba, former Speaker of Nigeria’s House of Representatives”.
It added: “The high-powered political merger committee, which includes 12 national chairpersons of national political parties and nine major political movements and interest groups, was mandated to use its inclusivity to ensure the fusion of various platforms, allies and stakeholders that share NCFront mission to rescue and save Nigeria from the avoidable misery and hopelessness brought upon the Nigerian Peoples by the ruling political parties in Nigeria.”
The Ekiti State Council of Traditional Rulers has resolved to prevail on Governor Kayode Fayemi to contest for Presidency in 2023, stressing that he is well qualified for the task of leading the nation.
The Obas said they would send a delegation at an opportune time to prevail on him to contest for the position. The monarchs took the decision at their statutory monthly meeting in Ado-Ekiti after listening to a four-man voluntary organisation, known as “Our Belief Project”, led by Aloba Abejide.
Abejide had pleaded with the traditional rulers to call on the governor to make up his mind early and declare his intention to contest in the 2023 presidential election.
The state Chairman of the Traditional Rulers Council, who is the Alawe of Ilawe-Ekiti, Oba Adebanji Ajibade Alabi Afuntade I, who welcomed the team to the Obas Council Chambers, in tandem with complimentary remarks from several traditional rulers, spoke at length on the sterling qualities of Governor Fayemi.
He stressed that the challenges confronting Nigeria today would definitely need a young, dynamic, energetic and brilliant Fayemi who has the wherewithal to be a good president.
Oba Alabi noted that Governor Fayemi was one of those who fought the military to bring back democracy to Nigeria and that a man of his calibre, with a higher degree in war studies would know how to resolve the issue of insecurity in Nigeria.
Summarising the views of his fellow Obas, the foremost traditional ruler said this was the time for an Ekiti indigene to become the President of Nigeria, adding that Ekiti people had helped many other tribes in the past to get to the top.
“All Ekiti Obas will support Fayemi wholeheartedly in the 2023 presidential election,” the Alawe stated.
Oba Alabi recalled the memorable and positive remarks made by the Sultan of Sokoto and Governor Nasir el-Rufai of Kaduna State during the October 2020 Arewa Summit in Kaduna. He said they expressed implicit confidence in Governor Fayemi.
The monarchs concluded that Fayemi would make a good President to lead Nigeria at this critical period of the country’s history. They, however, advised politicians in Ekiti to be united and work together on the project.