There was a mild drama in Benue State on Monday as eight lawmakers in the state House of Assembly led by the impeached speaker, Terkibir Ikyange, commenced the process to impeach Governor Samuel Ortom.
They accused the governor of alleged fraudulent activities, nonpayment of workers’ salaries and non-performance.
The members were said to have moved into the assembly complex amidst tight security around 6am but some pro-Ortom youths who got wind of the sitting reportedly invaded the house to prevent the lawmakers from sitting. They (the youths) were dispersed by security men, thus paving the way for the lawmakers to sit.
The session, it was gathered, lasted for about one hour during which the members suspended the 15 members loyal to the governor.
The house has 30 members .The group loyal to the governor led by the new speaker, Titus Uba, claimed to have 22 members and the other group loyal to Senator George Akume have eight members.
But Ikyange said that 12 members on Monday met and took decision to commence impeachment process against the governor.
He noted that the group had got an order from the court directing banks to give them mandate to open accounts for some workers which they allegedly used to siphon money.
Addressing journalists at his official residence at the Commissioner’s Quarters along the Otukpo Road, the leader of the factional group, Ikyange, said 12 members sat to review the political development of the state and took the decision.
According to him, two decisions were taken.
“One, the members looked at the action of some members who invaded the house of assembly causing unrest in the state and concluded that the conduct was unacceptable. We have given the 15 members six months’ suspension each.
“Another item was the motion brought by the majority leader of the house to give a notice of impeachment to the governor because of some impeachable offences he (the governor) has committed in the past three years.
“We look at the offences and saw they have merits. The house found N50m fraud in each of the 23 local governments running to N33bn in the past three years from the local government funds.
Another N22bn of state funds were misappropriated in the last three years by the governor.
“Also, the nonpayment of salaries of seven months to state workers, 11 months to local governments’ workers and pensions up to 15 months as well as nonperformance which has affected the economy of the state are some of the governor’s misdemeanour,” Ikyange said.
When asked whether the members formed a quorum, Ikyange said that 12 members sat during the sitting.
Ikyange said that the group would in the next seven days transmit the notice of impeachment to the governor.
But the group loyal to Ortom which held its plenary session at the Banquet Hall of the Government House, Makurdi, also suspended the other seven members who held session with the impeached speaker.
The ‘majority leader’ of the G 22, Paul Biam, described the sitting by the Ikyange-led group as illegal, saying that the group had secured a court injunction restraining the impeached speaker from parading himself as speaker.
“In spite of the injunction restraining the former speaker from parading himself as the speaker of the eight assembly, this morning as we approached the assembly we found security men armed to the teeth with armoured vehicle and refused to allow us to enter the chambers.
“We learnt that seven members including the suspended speaker without the mace, clerk of the house and the clerks at table without forming a quorum, held an illegal session.
“During the session, the house took decision and we have suspended the seven members,” Biam said.
When asked why the members at the Monday sitting were 18 instead of 22 earlier claimed, the ‘majority leader’ said that the four members had gone to Abuja to honour the invitation of the EFCC.
However, while speaking, one of the four absentee members, Sule Audu, strolled in.