Juliana Taiwo-Obalonye, Abuja, Rose Ejembi, Makurdi
Chairman of Nigeria Governors Forum (NGF) and Governor of Zamfara State, Abdulazeez Yari, has described as illegal, an attempt to shut down the government through the freezing of Benue State account by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).
Yari, while fielding questions from State House Correspondents, said, shutting down a state government account especially a state like Benue that is facing security challenges, is unconstitutional.
Ortom had recently defected from the All Progressives Congress (APC), to the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).
Yari, spoke after a closed door meeting with the Acting President, Yemi Osinbajo, had with him his Kebbi State counterpart, Atiku Bagudu and Deputy Governor of Nasarawa, Ali Agara.
He said that the sack of the Director General of Department of State Services (DSS), Lawan Daura, should serve as a deterrent and warn heads of agencies that the Muhammadu Buhari’s administration would not tolerate illegality.
He said, “The freezing of any account of the state government whether Benue or anywhere is unconstitutional and is not right. That is shutting down government. Government must spend, most especially Benue that is facing insecurity challenges. Well, we don’t know why the EFCC took the action. But if indeed EFFC freezed the account, from my point of view, it is wrong.
“This government will not sit down and oversee unlawful operation from the security agencies. From what happened yesterday, (Daura’s sack), everyone can understand that government is following due process and the laws of Nigeria. For one to just send security agencies to shut down the National Assembly, and the action that followed, that is what gave credit to this government by local and international community.
“Similar thing had happened in 2011 and 2014 respectively, but nothing was done about it, this time around, government said enough is enough. But the government of Muhammadu Buhari is following due process and will never oversee an unlawful activity by any security agency. So in the case of Benue, I believe something must be done.”
Meanwhile, Chief Press Secretary to Benue State Governor, Terver Akase has confirmed the freezing of government’s accounts by the anti-graft agency, describing the development as a case of witch-hunting and victimization.
In a statement yesterday, Akase disclosed that the action was already taking a negative toll on governance in the state.
“Yes, it is true that accounts of the Benue State Government have been frozen by EFCC. It is part of the political witch-hunt against Governor Samuel Ortom. The action of EFCC is already having negative impact on the running of government in Benue State. It is a move that will affect salaries, pensions and other sundry payments.
“The question we are asking is; why did EFCC not investigate the governor’s security votes when he was still a member of APC? Why start the investigation now?
“EFCC should not allow itself to be used as an attack dog unleashed against perceived political opponents.
“Let the Federal Government tell us how much it has spent on prosecuting the fight against Boko Haram and how much it spent on the other operations such as Python Dance, Crocodile Smile and Whirl Stroke.
“Benue has suffered heavy attacks by Fulani herdsmen since the beginning of the year. Within the period, the state government has spent a lot to legitimately support security agencies to protect the people of the state. Governor Ortom has not diverted funds. He runs a transparent administration.
“We welcome the investigation, but as I said earlier, it should start from the Presidency and go across the 36 states. Benue should not be singled out for victimization, intimidation and harassment as the Federal Government with its agencies is currently doing.”
After almost two weeks of siege on the Benue State House of Assembly, security operatives drawn from the Nigeria Police Force and the Department of State Service (DSS) have vacated the premises even as normalcy has now returned.
Security operatives took over the House of Assembly following a fracas among lawmakers which left the House factionalized into two camps of eight and 22 respectively.
Speaker of the assembly, Mr. Titus Uba who confirmed the development to newsmen yesterday during an inspec- tion of the Assembly complex disclosed that lawmakers and staff of the Assembly now have free access to their offices to carry out their official duties.