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Plot to Impeach Ortom Unconstitutional, Says Buhari

Gov. Samuel Ortom 2

President Muhammadu Buhari has described as unconstitutional the move by some members of the Benue State House of Assembly to impeach Governor Samuel Ortom.

Eight lawmakers, led by impeached speaker, Terkimbi Ikyange, had on Monday announced a plan to serve the governor a notice within seven days.

Distancing himself from the plot, Buhari said he would "never be part of any unconstitutional act," and any attempt to link him with the inglorious past, when a minority of lawmakers impeached governors, will not stick.

"It will simply be like water off a duck's back. Those with open minds know this, but those who cavil would rather source everything untoward to the president. It is murky ground in which they are now marooned, as fallout of their resistance to change in the country."

A statement signed by his spokesman, Femi Adesina, in Abuja, yesterday, reads: "Even while attending the ECOWAS/ECCAS Summit in Togo, strident attempts were being made to drag President Muhammadu Buhari into the unfolding drama between the executive and the legislature in Benue State.

"Statements have been issued by different interest groups insinuating that the president may have a hand in the development in Benue.

"This is paranoia at its worst, coming from people who have wittingly positioned themselves against the clean-up of the country, and the way we do things. They prefer business as usual.

"When it suits them, they preach separation of powers and true federalism. And in another breath, they call on the president to interfere brazenly in affairs at state level.

"President Buhari will always stand by all that is noble and fair and will reject attempts to drag him into infamy. People who stoke fires by deliberate acts of omission or commission and then summon the president to come and put it out will find that this president will be guided by the constitution at all times, no matter the attempt to entangle him in unwarranted controversies."

But the police in Makurdi, the Benue State capital, yesterday, acted out a script that could leave observers questioning the sincerity of the president's stance or whether he still has control of federal security apparatus.

Policemen stormed the House of Assembly and chased out the clerk, Torese Agena, and other persons. Claiming to be acting on "orders from above" and backed by operatives of the Department of State Services (DSS), they reportedly locked the gate of the complex.

The previous day, however, Ikyange and his team, aided by the police, had been allowed access to the legislative chamber.

Last week, Nigerians watched in amazement as the police denied entry to the 22 members of the House, claiming the restriction was intended to prevent a breakdown of law and order. The lawmakers eventually used a hall within the premises where they sat and impeached Ikyange.

Narrating the ordeal to reporters, Agena said: "Today, staff of the Assembly, after two hours at work, were asked to vacate the Assembly. The security personnel said they were acting on orders given to them by Police Commissioner Besan Gwana."

He described the incident as "one harassment too many" and urged 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."

Security Adviser to Ortom, retired Col. Paul Hemba, confirmed the development.

He said that on hearing about the matter, he phoned Gwana, who insisted he was only following instructions.

This happened as an order by the state high court required Ikyange and other principal officers to appear and explain why they should not be committed to prison for flouting an earlier injunction by Chief Judge Adam Onum, restraining them from acting in their previous capacities.

The 22 legislators also initiated contempt proceedings against Ikyange and the others. Joined in the suit are the state Commissioner of Police; Assistant Inspector General of Police, Zone 4 Makurdi; Inspector General of Police; and the Director, Department of State Services, Makurdi.

While more lawmakers - 19 out of 27 - impeached Imo State Deputy Governor Eze Madumere, the swearing-in of his would-be successor Chief of Staff Callistus Ekenze hit a legal hurdle yesterday.

Guests had taken their seats at Government House as early as 9:00 a.m. At about 1:00 p.m., however, Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice Miletus Nlemadim announced a High Court order restraining Chief Judge Paschal Nnadi from proceeding with the event, pending the determination of a suit filed by Madumere.

Governor Rochas Okorocha accordingly "urged all Imo people and all the parties in the matter to remain law-abiding and allow the law to take its course."

Also, Kano State Deputy Governor Hafizu Abubakar has raised the alarm over alleged plots to impeach and assassinate him.

The professor of Food Science is a close associate of Senator Rabiu Kwankwaso who is currently involved in a political battle with Governor Abdullahi Ganduje.

On Monday, lawmakers impeached Speaker Abdullahi Atta and replaced him with

Kabiru Rurum who has since announced a willingness to cooperate with the governor.

"Attention has been drawn to orchestrated plots to frame me up on non-existing allegations, to pave way for my impeachment from office by the State House of Assembly.

"Another worry is the fact that I am residing in my private residence, not the official residence that is located in the secure environment within Government House, as government is yet to provide me with the statutory official residence. I travel no less than 40 kilometers to and from my residence to the office daily.

"In view of the foregoing realities, I am calling on the state police command to strengthen security around me and particularly at my residence in order to forestall any unpleasant security breach," he said in a petition to the police.

Condemnation, meanwhile, has continued to trail the move to impeach Ortom.

The Middle Belt Forum (MBF) blamed Miyetti Allah Kautal Hore and the Miyetti Allah Cattle Breeders Association (MACBAN) and called on Nigerians to defend democracy.

Ortom incurred the displeasure of cattle herders when he launched the Benue State anti-grazing law.

Human rights lawyer Ebun-Olu Adegboruwa flayed what he described as attempts to subvert democratic institutions, just as a former interim national chairman of the PDP, Senator Ahmed Makarfi, warned that the action portended ill for the nation's democracy.

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