TEXT OF A PRESS CONFERENCE ON THE CURRENT STATE OF EVENTS IN BENUE STATE, PRESENTED BY COMRADE AUSTIN AGADA, CHAIRMAN-ELECT ON BEHALF OF BENUE APC EXCO- ELECT, WEDNESDAY DECEMBER 1, 2021 AT THE PARTY SECRETARIAT IN MAKURDI.
Gentlemenofthe press, it has become expedient that the state exco- elect of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Benue State lend its voice on the current state of affairs in Benue, especially as it concerns activities of the Ortom administration and the governor’s unguarded utterances that are bringing our state to public ridicule. It is often said that ‘evil reigns when people of conscience decide to unwittingly keep sealed lips in the face of glaring absurdities’.
The APC in Benue, as you all know is the major opposition party with dominant population whose mandate was robbed in a controversially complicated happenstance. But having gauged the overwhelming incompetence and drought of progressive governance ideas on the part of the current PDP government in Benue, history again beckons on our party (APC) to urgently wrestle power from PDP in the next electoral dispensation so as to allow Benue taste development like other states of the federation.
To start with, we are greatly dismayed the manner at which Gov. Samuel Ortom and his few supporters have been clutching at straws to foist the reasons for his legendary poor performance as Governor on the Leader of our party in Benue, Senator Dr George Akume, Honourable Minister of Special Duties and Intergovernmental Affairs.
These attacks on our Leader have been brewed consistently over time and intermittently unleashed on him with great mischief. But while we may have tolerated this bashing for so long, the Governor has again embarked on a dangerous campaign of calumny, trying so desperately to run down the towering profile of Senator Akume, who is one of the very few Nigerian past governors without criminal records.
The target of this campaign of calumny, we ultimately know is to lower Senator Dr George Akume who is highly celebrated by many Nigerians in the eyes of the public thereby, weakening his chances of emerging as the National Chairman of the APC, now that majority of APC members across all states of the federation are clamouring for his emergence to the position.
Let it be known to all APC faithful and the whole world that the fraud allegation currently leveled against Senator Akume by Gov. Ortom and his Government is clearly an act of political witch-hunt, why conjure a haphazard probe report about the Akume administration of many years now, same government had leveled 107 billion naira allegation against the Gabriel Suswams administration but later nullified same; will the same government not overrule itself tomorrow over these frivolous reports that seek to indict Senator Akume today?
To those of us who are conversant with operations of the present day Benue State Government, this is merely another diversionary tactics, this administration has a history of raising unfounded claims and excuses, each time money comes into the state.
Recall, the day it was confirmed that the federal government has made available another tranche of over 18 Billion Naira bailout to Benue State, Gov. Samuel Ortom has become strangely more loquacious and hostile, not just to his benefactor, Senator Akume but also to the Benue civil servants and pensioners that he has refused to pay their salaries and pensions; the internally displaced persons that he has described as thieves stealing his cassava from the farm and now, rudely referring to all Benue people as drunkards who idly start drinking as early as 9am daily, till dawn which you all know cannot be the true identity of the Benue people who have been known over the years as very hard working and great farmers.
7. It is regrettable that rather than employ Benue people, the Ortom administration has perfidiously sacked thousands of youths (BIRS interns) that were absorbed into the Benue State civil service by his predecessor; he has also sacked many other civil servants as ghost workers without employing others, an act that has skyrocketed the rate of unemployment in the state.
Despite all the sacks, the salary wage bill of Benue under his administration has rather climbed to over 7 billion naira, based on his claims. In all fairness, what has Gov. Samuel Ortom done to take the Benue man off the street and alcohol in the last 6 years of his administration? What has been the social intervention programme of his administration when businesses are rather closing down in Benue due to multiple taxations? The Governor ought to have been ashamed that despite his deliberate impoverishment of the state, his subject could still afford a bottle of beer to sip and forget their poverty and misery.
Never for once has Benue State been this stagnant in terms of policy framework and development. No sector of the state economy seems to be working. State workers are currently owed about 7 months arrears of salary in Benue, primary school teachers and local government staff are owed for over one year while pensioners are still owed for over 32 months, not to mention their gratuities. Benue farmers are denied farm inputs to boost their food production while farming in Benue remains at the subsistence level in this modern age.
9. We wish to establish sufficiently that the present Benue State Government lacks the capacity and basic ideas on how best to develop the state and should not be allowed another chance to succeed itself.
It is on this note that we reiterate our earlier call on all officials of the Ortom administration to honourably resign and live their lives, rather than continue to smile while suffering and deceiving themselves that they are in government. We have equally uncovered his plans to appoint more “Suffering Special Assistants (SSAs)” for the sake of elections that are fast approaching and we can only sympathize with those helpless victims that may be named eventually.
We call on the Governor to face squarely, the herculean task of governance before him in the exiting phase of his administration and avoid the careless affront on President Muhammadu Buhari, Senator Dr George Akume and the suffering population of Benue state that he has already branded happily as drunkards. For now, history has recorded that the Ortom administration is the worst that Benue State has ever experienced.
Comrade Austin Agada,
State Chairman- elect
For: The New State Exco