The political situation in Benue State took a new twist yesterday, with 12 members of the 30-member House of Assembly endorsing a move to impeach Governor Samuel Ortom.
Speaker Terkimbi Ikyange, who was last week ‘removed ‘by 19 members for alleged high handedness, yesterday told reporters in Makurdi, the state capital, that the House would serve Ortom the impeachment notice “within seven days”.
Ikyange had rejected his removal, which he described as “an act of illegality”.
Although Justice Ada Onum had granted an injunction restraining Ikyange, James Okefe and Benjamin Adanyi from parading themselves as Speaker, deputy speaker and leader, in a ruling on an ex parte motion brought by factional Speaker Hon.Titus Uba, Ikyange said he was not put on notice before the purported order was granted.
“I was not served and the entire House was not aware that we have been dragged to court. Besides, I’m with the real mace and we sat at the main chamber while the other lawmakers are sitting in Government House,” said Ikyange
He had argued that his removal did not follow due process because the 19 lawmakers met while the House was on recess.
Ikyange, who called out the remaining lawmakers for a plenary, said the lawmakers had resolved to impeach the governor for alleged gross financial misconduct.
He accused the governor of misappropriating N54 billion from the state’s coffers.
Giving a breakdown of the funds allegedly misappropriated, Ikyange said N22 billion was embezzled from the security vote while N32 billion was from local government funds.
He also claimed that the lawmakers were not happy over the non-payment of workers’ salaries.
NAN, however, reports that the identity of the members who sat with Ikyange was not disclosed to reporters who were barred from accessing the Assembly complex.
The other group of legislators, who removed Ikyange last week, described the impeachment notice as “illegal”.
The lawmakers, who were forced to use the Old Banquet Hall, Makurdi, after being denied access to the Assembly complex, said the members did not form the required quorum to sit and deliberate on the said Impeachment.
In his motion dismissing the impeachment motion, Majority Leader Avine Agbum said the presiding officer at the session (Ikyange) was the removed Speaker who had been suspended for six months.
He also moved for the suspension of all members at the session where the said impeachment notice was initiated.
Ikyange insisted that what he described as the governor’s financial recklessness was responsible for non-payment of civil servants for seven months. Local government workers are owed 11 months and pensioners 14 months.
Ortom dismissed the allegations of fraud and non – performance as blatant lies.
The governor, who said he had worked with the Speaker for three years, wondered why he did not raise the issues until his defection to the PDP.
“The only crime against me is that I enacted anti – open grazing prohibition law. which is the product of the people of Benue State “.
The governor pleaded with President Muhammadu Buhari to call Inspector – General of Police (IGP) Ibrahim Idris to order.
He said eight members of the House could not over rule 22 members
“All that they are trying to do is to change the narratives against me and demobilize me,” Ortom said.