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25 Jun 2016


By: Tahav Agerzua
The recent statement by Dr Gabriel Suswam, former Governor of Benue State celebrating his "achievements" in the security sector and denigrating the efforts of the current Governor of Benue State, Samuel Ortom, is yet another infantile tantrum aimed at rewriting the history of the state to glorify a painful era in the history of the state.
The statement, littered with a cocktail of lies and half-truths is clearly a futile and feeble attempt at pulling the wool over the eyes of Benue people who are living witnesses to eight years of misrule and steady erosion in standards of governance.
The former governor is living in denial and is being less than honest by feigning ignorance of the mass proliferation and possession of fire arms by idle youths that he engaged as private armies in his regime.
The reign of terror perpetrated by government protected mobsters is too fresh in the memory of the people for anyone to insult their sensibilities by claiming a utopian state of security during his time.
In his haste at self-glorification and whipping up sentiments, Dr Suswam falsely accused Governor Ortom of "alleging that his administration has recovered over 600 assorted weapons, which I had given to the youths from over 800 of them, who surrendered during the Amnesty Program and that I and my cohorts believed in violence and could take everything by force."
While the assertion that former Governor Suswam indeed created terror squads to help realize his political goals may not be far from the truth, Governor Ortom has never stated at any forum that the armed people who surrendered weapons during the amnesty period were all his thugs.
What he did say at several fora was that the previous regime had procured arms for thugs to help it prosecute the 2015 General Elections and that part of such arms were being used for criminal activities which peaked at the time he assumed office hence the imperative for a disarmament program such as the Amnesty.
The fact that the security situation in the state was very dire and required an amnesty program to abate is an indictment of the previous regime which watched idly as outlaws terrorized the citizens with impunity.
Dr. Suswam seemed to have forgotten the unresolved murders of the late Tony Udu of the Examinations Board, Gwa Jande, former Dean of the Faculty of Law at the Benue State University, Pastor Adoor of the Lands and Survey, the great farmer, Simon Chaverkper, Charles Ayede, Celestine Tsebee Agber, alias Egbe Nack, in circumstances which many suspect him.
However, one would be foolhardy to expect the former Governor to score the Amnesty Program high as it would negate his political interest.
Yet major stakeholders within and outside the state including the United Nations have reckoned with the success of the Amnesty Program.
For example the Benue State Chairman of the National Union of Road Transport Workers, Comrade Elder John Shom declared in an address that “the amnesty granted to hundreds of youths who hitherto to your administration made life difficult to the people of Benue State especially in Sankera geo-political axis where apart from grounding social and economic activities in some major towns like Katsina-Ala, Zaki-Biam, Ugba, Kyado, Tor Donga, Sai, Peva and others has made people to now sleep with their two eyes closed.”
The unfortunate assassination of the Senior Special Assistant on special security to the Governor, Mr Denen Igbana, which Suswam callously referred to in his Statement is indeed a reminder that despite the efforts of the Ortom administration to protect lives and property, some people who acquired their illegal arms in the last dispensation are still on the prowl .
However, the Ortom administration remains undaunted in sustaining the Amnesty Program in spite of deliberate attempts to sabotage its fight to rid Benue of violent crimes.
The arrest of a prominent member of Ortom's cabinet on this case is proof that in the current dispensation, there are no sacred cows.
Ironically, no member of the Suswam cabinet was ever called to answer any charge despite public outcries on complicity of him or his officials in the several unresolved murder cases.
The comments by the erstwhile Governor is a half clever move to divert attention from the dominant narrative in the state which is the sustained pressure on the government to immediately commence the judicial implementation of the white paper of the report of the Kpojime Commission which requires that he and his cohorts refund N107 billion.
One thought that if Dr. Suswam had a conscience, he would not be talking about allegations of fraud against any one.
He remains the first former Benue State Governor to be indicted by a judicial commission of inquiry and to be arraigned by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission in court over fraud.
While has he remained silent about sale of the Benue Cement Company, BCC shares, and those of Julius Berger? Why has he not explained why Benue State has no director on the board of Julius Berger? What about the bonds he collected and diverted to personal use? What explanation does he have for collecting N450 million as overhead arrears two days to the end of his tenure? All these issues were raised during the town hall meetings and reported in the media.
Governor Ortom would wish to draw a line and move on but his predecessor’s deliberate booby traps keep cropping up.
Imagine the non-accreditation of the College of Health Sciences at the Benue State University and its Teaching Hospital, the withdrawal of accreditation of the Schools of Nursing and Midwifery as well as the College of Health Technology, Agasha.
While such critical matters with serious implications for health care delivery were pending, the former Governor would rather prefer to throw a birthday party at which hundreds of millions were spent.
Governor Ortom sorted out the accreditation at the College of Health Sciences and three sets of doctors have since graduated from the institution.
The major issue at stake is the refund of N107 billion which would enable the Ortom administration to clear the current salaries owed workers in the state as well as retirement benefits of retirees with the investment of the leftover in the provision of critical infrastructure.
See what Governor Ortom has done with the N10 billion infrastructure facility obtained from the federal government.
The Schools of Nursing and Midwifery have been reconstructed for reaccreditation, work has resumed on 11 abandoned roads across the state while construction is on-going on two new ones, the old Assembly Complex has been renovated while work on the New Complex is about to be completed.
Work on the Deputy Governor’s office and the Cancer Screening Centre started by the former Governor is also on-going, courtesy of the N10 billion besides the investment of N7.6 billion and N2.4 billion in primary education and Sustainable Development Goals as well as other projects by development partners in all sectors across the state.
The dwindling economic fortunes of the state, occasioned by the unprecedented plunder of its resources during the last regime has no doubt created a huge challenge to meet the expectations of the people.
While the Ortom administration is setting new standards of accountability and prudent use of the little resources available, Dr Suswam and his co-travellers are engaged in propagation of mischief and circulation of phantom accusations all in an attempt to judge this administration by their own standards.
We wish to reiterate that no tantrums or acerbic vituperations can deflect the focus of the state government from bringing to justice anybody who has been involved in destroying the economic fabric of the state for personal gain.
Dr. Suswam has his chance to prove his innocence before the law.
Governor Ortom will continue to support all the security formations in the state to help weed out those remaining criminals who have spurned the Governments generous offer of amnesty.
Meanwhile, former Governor Suswam must lead his group of 52 to refund N107 billion and also account for his stewardship rather than open battle fronts that are irrelevant in the current scheme of things.

Hon Tahav Agerzua is a Special Adviser, Media and ICT to Benue State Governor. 
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