Benue Govt. Demands Explanation Over 600 Million Naira Debt

benueThe Benue State Governor, Mr Samuel Ortom, may be asking his predecessor, Gabriel Suswam, to explain the 600 million naira allegedly over paid contractors for biometrics for local government officials.

The state government observed that the said amount was withdrawn from government coffers and was later recovered as payment for biometrics.

The Secretary to the State Government, Barrister Targema Takema, told newsmen in Makurdi that the former administration allegedly mismanaged the funds which was meant for 23 Local Government Areas.

He said that as a former member of the transition committee he was privy to the fact that the former administration left huge debt for the current government to settle.

He said that the new government of Governor Samuel Ortom, is now battling for survival.

Jonathan Holds Closed-Door Meeting With PDP Caucus Members

JonathanPresident Goodluck Jonathan on last night met behind closed-doors with caucus members of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) at the State House, Abuja.

At the meeting were the Vice President, Namadi Sambo, Senate President, David Mark, Senate Leader, Victor Ndoma-Egba And Deputy Senate Leader, Abdul Ningi.

Governors at the meeting that started about 8.30pm, were Gabriel Suswam (Benue), Emmanuel Uduaghan (Delta), Jonah Jang (Plateau), Godswill Akpabio (Akwa Ibom) And Theodore Orji (Abia).

Others at the meeting were the PDP Chairman, Adamu Muazu, PDP Deputy National Chairman, Uche Secondus, former PDP chairman, Ahmadu Ali, PDP Board of Trustee (BOT) Secretary, Walid Jibril.

Also at the meeting were the Special Adviser to the President on Political Affairs, Rufai Alkali, PDP National Women Leader, Kema Chikwe, Petroleum Minister, Diezani Alison-Madueke and Minister of Justice and Attorney General of the Federation, Mohammed Adoke.

The meeting ended at about 10.30PM and the Delta State Governor and his Abia State counterpart said it was mainly about working out the details of their timetable towards the 2015 electioneering.

The BOT meeting of the party will also hold at the Presidential Villa on Wednesday night ahead of the National Executive Committee (NEC) meeting of the party slated for Thursday at the PDP National Headquarters, Abuja.

Benue Teachers’ Strike: Public Primary Schools Shut For 8 Months

Benue schoolChildren attending public primary schools in Benue State have been stuck at home for over eight months following a prolonged strike by their teachers.

The State Government and the Nigeria Union of Teachers (NUT), in the state have been engaged in a deadlocked dispute over teachers’ salaries since the implementation of the national minimum wage.

Channels Television was in Makurdi, the Benue State capital to examine the situation and the consequences of the strike for the pupils, the teachers and primary education in Benue State.

Life appeared normal on the streets of Makurdi, until visits to the public primary schools, where the classrooms were completely empty, with school grounds deserted and some overgrown with weeds showed the real situation.

In some cases, the buildings were already falling into ruin and the situation was the same all over the state as the prolonged strike by public school teachers had taken a heavy toll.

According to the Benue State NUT Chairman, Godwin Anyam, the problem started with the implementation of a minimum wage for public servants in the state, including schoolteachers.

“When the minimum wage was approved in the state and before its approval, I was part of the negotiation on behalf of the teachers. So when this was approved, that means the teachers also must also be part of the wage.

“What we were collecting before the coming of the minimum wage was what other workers were collecting. The only difference we had was the 27.5% enhanced allowances with the teachers, which we also fought for and was also approved by the Governor’s Forum.”

However, the State Governor, Gabriel Suswam, explained that what he decided to do was to appeal to the core civil servants whose salaries were mistakenly increased out of proportion to at least let the Government “take a small percentage” of what they had increased for them so that they would be able to accommodate teachers.

“There’s no way, even if the teachers are on strike for 20 years, I can’t raise 4billion (Naira) to pay all these salaries; that is practically out of place”, he said.

While the private schools have been cashing in on the situation and children of the privileged are receiving standard education; other children have been on the receiving end of the crisis as some have been in the streets, struggling to make ends meet.

A parent, John Awuru, expressed worries over the future of the children whose parents could not afford the cost of private schools and challenged the Government to find a lasting solution to the situation rather than condemn the pupils to a life in which they would not be able to fulfill their potentials.

All hope is not lost for those who cannot afford the cost of attending private schools, however, as few makeshift education centres had sprung up to keep the children busy for fees as low as 500 Naira per child.

As the battle over the implementation of wages continues to rage between the State Government and the Teachers’ Union, both sides appeared unwilling to concede,

The Chair, Benue NGO Network, Justin Gbagir, spoke to Channels TV, he said, “If we know the importance of education, particularly primary education which is the foundation of education, then we feel that the relevant stakeholders would have done all that is needful to ensure that the primary school teachers did not go on strike in the first instance. If at all they went on strike, they would have done everything to ensure that the strike is not prolonged.”

The Benue State Head of Service, Terna Ahua, however, explained that the State Government was approaching the problem in two directions; to cut down on the cost of governance and to increase the components of the state’s internally generated revenue.

Many public primary school children and perhaps teachers in Benue State continue to suffer the endless holiday and their deserted schools have become accommodation for the internally displaced persons fleeing herdsmen’s attacks in neighbouring Nasarawa and Taraba states.

One lesson the out-of-school children may have learnt is the meaning of the adage, “when two elephants clash, it is the grass that suffers”.

Benue Governor Says Attackers Not Just Herdsmen But Terrorists

Gov Gabriel SuswanThe Benue State Governor, Gabriel Suswam, has said that the people responsible for the killing of five people in Uikpian, a community in Guma Local Government Area of the State, are not just herdsmen but terrorists.

Governor Gabriel Suswam was at the village to see the carnage, where he also met with some of the villagers.

Speaking later, he said that the manner of operation showed that the assailants were well trained.

The Governor, whose convoy was attacked by the gunmen when he arrived at the scene where the assailants were burning down another village, also said that by virtue of the attack on his convoy, they could not be ordinary herdsmen.

The Governor’s views appeared corroborated when some of the displaced persons also revealed that the attackers came in large numbers and were carrying different weapons.

Another threatening dimension to the crisis was the alleged use of chemical weapon by the herdsmen, as one of the survivors, who is also a Vigilante Chief, Emmanuel Ifam and the Commissioner of Police, Adams Audu, gave accounts of the suffocating effect of the alleged chemical weapon.

Accordingly, the Benue State Government has ordered an autopsy on the corpses recovered from villages that were invaded by the Fulani herdsmen for verification of the allegation.

Governor Suswam, speaking on the borderline security arrangement with Nasarawa State, complained that Nasarawa remains a transit route for the attackers, but his Nasarawa counterpart, Tanko Al-Makura insisted that both states have a common problem with the Fulani herdsmen who remain a challenge to the region.

Jonathan Congratulates Shagari At 89, Commiserates With Emir Of Kano

Nigeria’s first democratically-elected President, Shehu Shagari

President Goodluck Jonathan has written to congratulate Nigeria’s first democratically-elected Executive President, Shehu Shagari, on the occasion of his 89th birthday, on Tuesday, February 25, 2014.

According to a statement by the Special Adviser to the President on Media & Publicity, Dr. Reuben Abati, the letter was addressed to the former President at his residence in Sokoto.

President Jonathan praised his continued dedication to the unity and well-being of the nation.

“On behalf of the Government and people of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, and on my own behalf, I write to felicitate with you as you celebrate your 89th birthday anniversary.

“May Almighty Allah ceaselessly prosper you and bless you with robust health as you continue to give of yourself in the service of our dear nation,” President Jonathan wrote.

President Jonathan wished Alhaji Shehu Shagari a very happy birthday and also conveyed assurances of his highest consideration and warm personal regards to the former President.

The President has also written to commiserate with the Emir of Kano, Alhaji Ado Bayero on the death last Friday of the Tafidan Kano, Alhaji Tijani Abubakar.

“On behalf of the Government and people of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, and on my own behalf, I write to commiserate with Your Highness, the people of Kano Emirate, and the entire people of Kano State on this sad loss,” President Jonathan wrote.

He prayed that Almighty Allah would grant the Emir, Alhaji Tijani’s family and the people of Kano the fortitude to cope with the painful loss of the Tafidan.

Council Of State Approves Holding Of National Conference

The Council of States on Tuesday approved the convocation of a National Conference as suggested by President Goodluck Jonathan.

The Council meeting, presided over by President Goodluck Jonathan ended at the Presidential Villa, with the body endorsing some key national programmes.

Some of the decisions taken by the council after a comprehensive deliberation by its members include the approval of the appointment of a new chairman for the National Population Commission, NPC.

At the end of the meeting, the Benue State Governor, Gabriel Suswam told journalists that the Council of State is worried about the insecurity situation in the country, and following a briefing by the National Security Adviser, Colonel Sambo Dasuki (Rtd), the council said that some of the unguarded statements by some politicians are capable of inciting the people.

It therefore warned politicians to be careful, to avoid issues that would incite the generality of the people.

Present at the meeting were former president, Shehu Shagari, Generals Yakubu Gowon, Ibrahim Babangida and Abdulsalami Abubakar, as well as Senate President, David Mark, Speaker of the House of Representatives, Aminu Tambuwal, some state governors, and former chief justices of the federation.

The meeting lasted for about six hours, from 10.45am till 5pm.

ASUU: Jonathan Orders Suswan-Led Committee To End Strike

President Goodluck Jonathan has directed the two federal government committees’ negotiating the demand of members of the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) to take immediate steps aimed at ending the strike.

Addressing State House Correspondents in Abuja, the Benue state governor, Mr. Gabriel Suswam says the committees are optimistic that the industrial dispute declared by ASUU will be resolved soon.

He reaffirmed the commitment of the federal government towards transforming the nation’s education sector.

This, the governor said, is part of the president’s efforts to ensure that university students return to their various schools.

University Don Berates Deadlocked ASUU/FG Meeting

A Psychology lecturer in the University of Lagos, Mr Dan Ekere on has berated the deadlocked meeting between the federal government and the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU).

Speaking on the Thursday edition of Channels Television’s breakfast flagship programme, Sunrise Daily, Ekere berated the comments made by the Head of the Implementation Committee of the Needs Assessment Report and the Benue State governor, Gabriel Suswam.

In his words “Each time we hear Gabriel Suswan after the meeting come out and tell us there is hope, they will soon call off, I don’t know whether he is the one who will call the strike off”

He added that “so far there has not been any meaningful made”.

He wondered why the finances agreed upon by both parties were not considered before signing the agreement adding that “this is the government we are talking about”.

He queried the federal government for alleging that the “this agreement predated this government” wondering “if government is no longer in continuum”.

“This is an agreement the federal government entered into with ASUU and you cannot tell me that those who signed the agreement were so unreasonable” he said.

Ekere, however exonerated the ASUU president for not granting interviews to the press after meetings with the federal government to confirm or counter the utterances of those representing the federal government.

Ekere noted that the academic union is fighting the government to “make the system work so that the state to be sound” maintain that “it is not just about individual but it is about the system as a whole”.

The academic, who noted that “these are people who went through the university system”, wondered why “they want to destroy it for the coming generation”.

He said there shouldn’t be any basis for any strike if the federal government passes the 2009 agreement entered into, warning that “no academic is interested in strike”. He however revealed that the agreement provides room for a re-negotiation which can be done from time to time.

Meanwhile students in Calabar, the Cross River state capital are considering the possibilities of continuing their education abroad.

The students, who cut across different ages and educational qualifications, frown at the inability of the Federal Government to address the demands of ASUU.

Some of the students “hoped that the root of the problems will be identified and addressed once and for all”.

VIDEO: Benue, Nasarawa To Share Intelligence On Communal Crisis

The Nasarawa and Benue State governments have agreed to identify routes and hideouts used by gangs that are responsible for the killing of over 28 people and destruction of property on the border between the two states.

This was contained in a nine point communique issued at the end of a security meeting between the Governor of Nasarawa state, Tanko Al-Makura and Gabriel Suswam of Benue state in Lafia, the Nasarawa State capital.

Mr Al-Makura promised that the two states will share intelligence on how to tackle the communal clashes between both states.

The two governors agreed to set up a committee to ensure that community and traditional leaders are held accountable for any breach of peace within their domain.

The governments of both states want traditional leaders to play active role in ensuring the protection of lives and property in their environment.

Meanwhile, the Governor of Nasarawa state donated 11 Hillux vehicles to the State Security Services and the Police, to replace the vehicles vandalized during a. Violence in Alakiyo community in the state.

From several communal clashes to the Alakyo killing, Nasarawa state has witnessed several security challenges in recent times.

This meeting between the governments of Nasarawa and Benue state is aimed resolving one of the security issues; communal clashes.

The meeting became necessary after a recent communal clash in Rukubi village in Awe local government area of Nasarawa State.

ACN drums support for Akume, he remains Senate Minority Leader

The Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) has passed a vote of confidence on its senate minority leader, Senator George Akume describing the phantom plot to replace him as the minority leader as the handwork of some reactionary and anti-democratic forces in the senate.

In a statement issued on Sunday by its national publicity secretary Alhaji Lai Mohammed, the party expressed satisfaction in the manner senator George Akume has so far, discharged his onerous responsibly as the senate minority leader and reminded all busy bodies that the choice of the minority senate leader is the sole and exclusive preserve of the leadership of the Action Congress of Nigeria and no amount of horse trading, intrigue or blackmail can change this.

The party absolves its member in the upper chamber of the national assembly from this phantom plot and puts the blame squarely on the doorstep of the leadership of the senate who would rather prefer a more pliable and easily “compromisable minority leader” to our principled and disciplined senator George Akume.

ACN blamed the purported removal on the strength Akume has garnered in Benue state, which has threatened the popularity of the PDP “the plot to remove Senator George Akume according to the party can be located first and foremost in the battle for the soul of Benue state and even more importantly in the paralysis and fear that have gripped the People’s Democratic Party following the growing popularity and acceptance of the Action Congress of Nigeria all over the country”.

The party recalled that only last week a thoroughly confused People’s Democratic Party described the Action Congress of Nigeria as a tribal party. Can a party with a governor from the South South geo-political zone, senators from Benue, Edo and Anambra States, House of Representative members from Anambra, Akwa Ibom, Cross Rivers, Adamawa, Benue, Kogi and Imo states among others be described by right thinking people as a tribal party?

The party accused the ruling PDP of trying to sour its relationship with the people by giving the party a tribal coloration “Is the plot to remove Senator George Akume as the party’s senate minority leader not part of the desperate plot of the ruling People’s Democratic Party’s to give the impression to Nigerians that we are a tribal party, especially when we remove Senator George Akume and replace him with a senator from the South West”, the party queried.


Court dismisses certificate forgery case against Suswam

The Federal High Court in Makurdi, Benue State on Wednesday dismissed a certificate forgery case against the Benue State governor, Gabriel Suswam, by a chieftain of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Terver Kakih.

The Benue State Governor, Gabriel Suswam

Mr Kakih, who filed the suit in 2011, had asked the court to disqualify the election of the governor on the grounds that he forged his Senior Secondary Certificate Examination (SSCE) certificate.

Mr Kakih had alleged that the governor did not submit to Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) his SSCE certificate.

He further alleged that the certificate was forged, claiming that the governor also marred the 2011 PDP primaries to influence his win as flag bearer of the party in the state.

Mr Suswam had defeated Mr Kakih to win the PDP ticket to run for governor of Benue State in the April 2011 primaries of the party in the State.
Delivering his judgment which lasted for over three hours, Justice Marcel Awokulehin held that though Mr Kakih had the right to complain of non-level playing ground and non-conduct of ward congresses in the party primaries, it was noteworthy that the issue of non-compliance of election regularities and who the party determined to be the desired candidate in an election was an exclusive party affair.

The judge further held that the court lacked the jurisdiction to entertain the matter.

According to Justice Awokulehin, though Mr Kakih had alleged that Suswam forged SSCE certificate and that he had testified before the court that he visited the West African Examinations Council (WAEC) where he met the officer that influenced the forgery, the plaintiff did not remember the name of the officer and also denied that he was not at any point where the forgery was done.

Justice Awokunlehin said that the evidence of the plaintiff was mere hearsay, which he observed, lacked quotative value and could not sway the court to agree with him.

The judge said the plaintiff’s case is like that of a boxer who was given a technical knockout on round zero, describing Mr Khaki’s claims as frivolous, unmeritorious, misconceived and malicious.