Rose Ejembi, Makurdi
Staff of the Benue State House of Assembly, including the Clerk of the House, Torese Agena were, on Tuesday, chased out of the Assembly complex by armed policemen.
The development followed the event of the previous day where eight members of the Assembly, led by the impeached Speaker, Terkimbi Ikyange, with the help of security personnel, gained access into the Assembly chambers and commenced an impeachment process against Governor Samuel Ortom.
The heavily-armed security operatives, drawn from the Police and DSS, were said to have prevented from entering the Assembly, the remaining 22 lawmakers perceive to be loyal to Governor Ortom.
The policemen, on Tuesday, who were said to be acting on ‘order from above,’ also put the gate of the premises under locks even as they completely took over the complex.
Speaking with newsmen, in Makurdi, Agena who lamented the development, said the policemen stormed the Assembly complex without any prior notice and asked all staff to leave the premises.
According to Agena, “Today, staff of the Assembly were, after two hours of resumption of work, asked to vacate the Assembly. The security personnel said they were acting on orders given to them by the Police Commissioner, Besan Gwana.
“This is one harassment too many. I therefore urge President Muhammadu Buhari to prevail on the Inspector General of Police to withdraw his men from the Assembly so that staff can carry out their duties unhindered.”
On his part, Security Adviser to the Governor, Col. Paul Hemba (rtd), who confirmed that, at the time of filling this report, the policemen were still occupying the House of Assembly, said on getting the information, he immediately put a call through to the Police Commissioner, who told him he was acting on orders from above.
Meanwhile, a coalition of the Benue Civil Society Organisations has expressed regret and apprehension over the political developments in the state in the last few days leading to further socio-political tension in a state.
The Coalition, in a statement signed by Barr. Justin Gbajir, however, warned that the current political tussle in Benue State, which constitutes an assault on democracy and democratic ideals, has the tendency to lead to a breakdown of law and order and escalate the already existing humanitarian crisis in the state.
The group also noted that the level of security deployed to facilitate the political drama of Monday, July 30, 2018 at the Benue State House of Assembly, would have been enough to prevent the incessant and unchecked killings in the state if the Federal Government had demonstrated enough sincerity and value for every Nigerian’s life.
The Coalition said, “In the event of the desperation of politicians to take or hold on to power at all cost, the people they serve to protect are always at the receiving end.
“Therefore, the civil society as a veritable democratic institution, must stay on the side of peace and well-being of the people.”
The coalition added that the political crisis in Benue State must not be allowed to degenerate further into a state that would give the Federal Government the excuse to grant a state of emergency in Benue State.
“Therefore, all political gladiators in the crisis must amicably resolve the impasse in the interest of the peculiar security situation of Benue State and the effect of it on the Benue person particularly, women and children. Benue has had enough.
“We call on the international community and bodies to intervene and save the nascent Nigerian democracy from further militarised assault which can lead to total siege on all forms of democratic freedoms.
“Nigeria sets the pace for Africa. Therefore, a threat to democracy in Nigeria is a threat to democracy in Africa.
“We implore the government of Nigeria to give attention to the rising humanitarian situation in the IDP camps in Benue State and work modalities for the safety of lives and property and further return all IDPs to their respective homes and businesses.
“We call on all citizens of Nigeria in Benue State to be law abiding and to do their best to exercise their civic responsibility in peace as the 2019 elections approach.”