From Rose Ejembi, Makurdi
Benue State Governor Samuel Ortom has described as shocking the call for a state of emergency in Benue by the former governor of the state and current Minister of Special Duties and Intergovernmental Affairs, George Akume.
Governor Ortom stated this in his response to a press conference by the former governor in Abuja on Monday where he had called on the Federal Government to declare a state of emergency in Benue to bring the security situation in the state under control.
But in a swift reaction, Governor Ortom, through his Chief Press Secretary, Terver Akase, fired back at Akume, saying his outing in Abuja was nothing more than a massage on the ego of the Presidency to curry personal favours.
The statement read:
‘We read the text of press conference addressed today in Abuja by the Minister of Special Duties and Inter-Governmental Affairs, Senator George Akume with other All Progressives Congress, APC leaders from Benue State.
‘We had earlier alerted Benue people and other Nigerians to expect the said press conference. It is one in a series of organised smear campaigns against Benue State Governor Samuel Ortom.
‘As expected, Senator Akume and his group avoided responding to the issues of insecurity in the country which the governor has repeatedly and rightly accused the Presidency of complicity.
‘The outing of George Akume and others in Abuja was nothing more than a massage on the ego of the Presidency to curry personal favours. As long as he and his group secure their meal tickets, Benue can go to hell. A media attack on Governor Ortom instantly attracts a package from the Villa.
‘Akume and his group must have been under immense pressure to hold the press conference and hurl vituperation against the governor. This, they had to do to keep their jobs.’
Ortom added that the leadership of APC in the state, having lost grip of the party membership in the state with hundreds defecting to PDP every week, now see a window of opportunity to relaunch themselves into relevance.
‘As a two-term former Governor of Benue State, it is shocking that Akume is now calling for the declaration of a state of emergency in the state to dismantle democratic structures.
‘Is it not contradictory that Akume faults Governor Ortom over his statements on the President’s handling of the security situation in the country but goes ahead to brand the governor as a criminal and sponsor of a militia?
‘We challenge the Minister to provide evidence to back his claim that the governor is involved in corruption and sponsors militia.’
The governor recalled that when Akume was governor he challenged then-President Chief Olusegun Obasanjo for not doing enough to end the Jukun/Tiv crisis on the border of Benue and Taraba State, adding that he is on record to have confronted former President Obasanjo and said uncomplimentary things to the President.
‘Now he finds it convenient to give lectures on respect for hierarchy in government and age.’
On Akume’s call for a probe, Governor Ortom said he has no objection to that, saying he is running a transparent administration and has nothing to hide.
‘We however invite Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC to begin their probe from 1999 when Akume became governor. The N2 billion that went missing at the twilight of his administration is yet to be accounted for.
‘Akume’s utterances in 2019 are still fresh in the minds of Benue people. After the state came under herdsmen attacks and hundreds were killed, he accused Benue people of killing themselves. That the people responded to him by voting him out of the Senate confirmed their anger towards him.
‘Lastly, we expected APC to hold the press conference in Benue to test their popularity among the people of the state,’ the governor concluded.