Former Governor Suswam tells Ortom , I am not under investigation
Former Governor of Benue State, Dr. Gabriel Suswam, has responded to the allegation levelled against him by his successor, Samuel Ortom, that he may have been under investigation for “diverting” the sum of N100bn released by the federal government to construct cattle ranches in 2014.
In a statement made available to the press on Monday, the former Benue Governor said it was unfortunate that the Ortom-led government was making “baseless insinuations” against him, rather than “close ranks to find solutions to certain weighty challenges confronting them.”
“It is regrettable to note that it’s only when the Ortom administration mentions my name that it hopes to draw attention to whatever it is saying”, Suswam said.
The Chief Press Secretary to Gov. Ortom, Terver Akase had at the weekend, issued a statement, denying that the state government had ceded a portion of land to Fulani Herders in Agatu LGA.
He, however, indicted the former Governor by saying he “diverted” the sum of N100bn released by former administration for the construction of cattle ranches in Nigeria.
According to part of the statement, “N100 billion was set aside by the previous administration for the establishment of ranches across the country. The funds were sadly diverted into private pockets, prompting the House of Representatives to move for the probe of some individuals including a former Governor of Benue State, Gabriel Suswam.”
Gabriel Suswam, however, denied the allegation of diverting the said amount, adding that he was never investigated by the House of Representatives.
“I state categorically that I am not being investigated by the House of Representatives or any agency of State over any such allegations”, Suswam said.
The former Benue Governor,however, admitted that he was appointed as the chairman of the said committee by the former administration.
He said, “to put the records straight, I was appointed by President Goodluck Jonathan in 2014 to chair the Committee which was set up by the National Economic Council, to profer solutions to the crisis between nomadic Fulani herdsmen and farmers in the country, mostly in the North-Central geopolitical region.
“As a Committee, we did our work within the ambit of our terms of reference which did not go beyond making recommendations on the best and most feasible solutions to the crisis, and those included but were not limited to the establishment of ranches across the country, for rearing of cattle.
“Our recommendations were duly submitted to the National Economic Council which was our supervising authority, and at no point were any monies released to that Committee for the establishment of ranches.
“This could not have been so since the Committee was not vested with such statutory powers or mandate. I reiterate here therefore, that I am not under investigation by the House of Representatives or any other agency of State over diversion of any monies meant for the establishment of ranches in Nigeria”.
Dr. Suswam, therefore, advised the Ortom-led government to close ranks with stakeholders, in finding lasting solutions to the crisis at hand.
“I think choosing this moment to make such baseless insinuations against me is not only unfortunate but also seeks to undermine our collective resolve as a people at a moment of grave challenges.
“The Ortom administration must explore all internal as well as external avenues to secure lasting solutions to this crisis, and this is only achievable where the government chooses to shun at such critical moment its penchant for infusing subjective negative propaganda into its actions merely to score cheap points against its perceived opponents”, he added.
It could be recalled that Governor Ortom and his government had come under serious criticism by Idoma people of Benue State, both at home and in the Diaspora; for ceding part of the war ravaged Agatu LGA to those whom he described as “indigenous Fulani” herdsmen, to graze freely.
The Governor had early last week compelled the Sole Administrator of Agatu LGC, Michael Inalegwu, to sign the agreement with the Fulani representatives.
On Wednesday last week, the Governor also led his Nasarawa State counterpart, Tanko Almakura to Agatu, where the duo perfected the arrangement for open grazing in Agatu.
The locals, however, rejected this move. Even as the youths had mobilised for a protest and some concerned Idoma lawyers also went to court, to seek an injunction, restraining the Governor from selling their “ancestral land” to their “traditional enemies.”