George Okoh in Makurdi
The bickering between Benue State Governor, Samuel Ortom and his erstwhile godfather and Minister of Special Duties and Inter-government Affairs, Senator George Akume, has taken a new dimension as the former threatened to drag the latter to the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) over an alleged missing N2 billion from the state’s treasury.
In a leaked audio phone conversation, Ortom was heard warning Akume to get ready to refund the N2 billion he allegedly stole from the state government’s purse when he was leaving office as governor in 2007 or prepare to face the law.
Akume was the governor of Benue State between 1999 and 2007 before he handed over to Senator Gabriel Suswam.
Ortom advised the minister to be guided in his utterances to elders, particularly traditional rulers in the state.
He reminded Akume how he publicly tongue-lashed the Paramount Ruler of the Tiv land, Tor Tiv James Ayatse, when he recently described the monarch as a “king of politics.”
The governor also begged the minister to stop insulting his wife and First Lady, Mrs. Eunice Ortom, anytime he wants to insult him for political reasons, adding that politics is nothing but a game of interest and not a do-or-die affair.
Ortom, in the recorded audio, also advised Akume to stop calling him a thief since he hasn’t stolen anything from the purse of Benue State Government since he became governor in 2015.
In his response, Akume asked Ortom why he shouldn’t be allegedly called thief.
Reacting to that, Ortom alleged: “You (Akume) are a big thief. Didn’t you steal N2 billion belonging to Benue State Government in 2007? I was the one that stopped the case against you then but now, I will reopen the file so that everyone in Benue will know who is a thief between you and I.
“I helped you to win your senatorial election in 2015 when I came to join the All Progressives Congress (APC). It was my help that gave you victory, and that was why you couldn’t win again in 2019 because I left your party.
“I will make sure that you appear on the list of anti-graft agencies that will investigate the missing N2 billion which disappeared at the tail end of your regime as governor in 2007.”
In his reaction, Akume told Ortom that it was not his influence or support that made him win his senatorial election in 2015, but the governor quickly said it was clear that the minister failed to win his election in 2019 because he left the APC.
Ortom told Akume in the telephone conversation that it was the minister that held him from performing in his first term in office by allegedly collecting Benue State’s monies from him with force, noting that he has been performing by paying salaries promptly, doing capital projects and bringing development to the state since he parted ways with the minister.
Ortom in 2019 dumped the APC) following irreconcilable differences with Akume.