George Okoh in Makurdi
Governor Samuel Ortom of Benue State has described as shameful the statements made by Senator George Akume, Governor Simon Lalong and other All Progressives Congress (APC) leaders at the recent party’s presidential campaign rally in Makurdi, the state capital.
He equally raised the alarm over a plot by the APC to create a state of insecurity so that election in the state would be declared inconclusive.
The governor made this known yesterday while speaking with journalists at Government House, Makurdi, while responding to accusations made by Akume that he was arming militia for the election.
Ortom dismissed the allegation, stating that he has not armed livestock guards as alleged by Akume.
The governor alleged that Akume and other APC leaders were only trying to change the narrative of the herders attacking the state.
He accused Akume of arming people and playing on the sensibility of President Muhammadu Buhari to allow him use security agencies to rig the election.
“I remain a very peaceful person. You can go round the town and see how they destroyed my billboards and we did not react. They also, destroyed my billboards on Lafia road and even in Gbajimba, my own home town. They are responsible for the shooting that took place in the area. All these while, I am just reporting to security agencies. I do not want anything that will create violence in the state because that is what the APC want as they have lost the support of the people.
“You will recall that I raised the alarm that Akume said when elections get closer they will invite more herdsmen into the state. He also said they will direct security agencies not to apprehend them so that there will be insecurity in the state and the election would be declared inconclusive. As I talk, so many herdsmen are coming in with their cattle and we have reported to security men waiting for their response. If they do not stop them from coming in, then we will know that what Akume said was planned and being executed. They are planning to make the state insecure so that they can rig the election.
“I expect that if security men are deployed to the state, they should be professional. I am not asking for anything more than this. How many commissioners of police have been changed but have you heard me quarrel with anyone of them. As long as they are professional, I will work with them but when they become unprofessional, I will resist them. When I speak, I do so on behalf of my people and would continue to do what they want. I won’t stop crying loud until justice is done to my people,” he said.
Ortom also said Akume, a former governor of the state accused him of enriching himself in office while Benue people wallow in abject poverty.
The governor argued that he was rich before assuming public office unlike the senator who amassed wealth when he was governor of the State between 1999 and 2003.
“The truth of the matter is that Akume cannot hold me responsible for his inability to invest. I was a billionaire before I became governor. Because of public office I had to resign as chairman of my companies when I became minister. The companies are doing fine borrowing money from NEXIM Bank, Central Bank’s agricultural development programme, Bank of Industry (BoI). You can check and confirm.
“When I discovered this window through the current Minister of Agriculture, Audu Ogbe, that there are funds meant for agricultural development programme especially those that can add value to our people, I drew the attention of Senator Akume to use his assets and secure a loan of N5 billion from the CBN, he told me that he does not have the capacity to run any business. Even a farm, he does not have and so, can he blame me for that?
“Akume who was governor for eight years and you recall that he was accused of stealing N2 billion and until today, the case is still with the Economic and Financial Crime Commission, (EFCC); just that he is in APC and nobody is prosecuting him. That is why I have often said that the EFCC has become a department of the APC government otherwise Akume would have gone to jail. Where did he get money to build palaces he has in this town and all the houses he bought? Where did he get money to build his Abuja house? Did he farm rice or Sesame seed before he got them? When you have nothing to offer as senator for 12 years and you make such allegation, it is laughable. Where is my house in Abuja? There is none. It is just last year that I started building a house in Makurdi. The only I have is the one I left for Government House. So, where is the richest man in me. That is just his imagination meant to demonise me. He is saying that to blackmail me”, Ortom frowned.
On comment by his Plateau counterpart, Simon Lalong that he is using the herdsmen/farmers crisis to whip up sympathy for non-performance, an enraged Ortom described him as ‘shameless,’ maintaining that Lalong has sold himself to bad Fulanis herders who want to resume their conquest of the Middle Belt region.
“I am not surprised at his comments. I am doing what my people want and that is all about democracy. He may not care about the killings that are going on even now; I should be bothered about it because it is the primary responsibility of any responsible government to protect lives and property of the people. And of course the issue of protecting lives and property remains that of the federal government. And so, there is no way I can leave my people behind in ensuring that they are protected.
“My government has achieved milestones in education, agriculture, health and rural development. They are changing the narrative. There is nowhere they will say I diverted or siphoned money,” Ortom explained.