PEOPLES Democratic Party, PDP, Benue State chapter, has slammed the governor of the state, Samuel Ortom for his brazen disregard for the rule of law by instructing officials of his government to forcefully take over the residence of his predecessor, Gabriel Suswam despite a pending court action to determine the ownership of the property. The party in a press statement signed by its publicity secretary, Bemgba Iortyom and made available to Nigerian Pilot in Makurdi yesterday, said that Suswam purchased the property, Atom Kpera Lodge, located in Makurdi from the state government during Sen George Akume’s administration and it had served as his residence following the expiration of his tenure as governor. However, last year the administration of Gov. Samuel Ortom revoked Suswam’s ownership of the property following which the former governor had approached the state high court in Makurdi challenging the revocation. According to Iortyom, the presiding judge of the High Court, Justice Theresa Igoche, had struck out the matter on 10th February
2016 for lack of jurisdiction of her court to entertain it, and Suswam, through his Counsel, David Iorhemba Esq leading Barristers M. T. Nyiutsa and T. A. Shija, had approached the Court of Appeal sitting in Makurdi. He said: “We further understand that on 27th June, 2016, after adopting the motions of both parties, presiding judge of the appellate court, Justice Oyebisi Oluwaye JCA, had adjourned the matter to 6th October, 2016 for the entertainment of written addresses of both parties, and had further directed against a forceful take-over of the property by government, reiterating to its Counsel, Barr. Mike Assoh, the need for compliance and warning against the consequences of disobedience of the directive. “However, we find it regrettable and deeply disturbing that despite such a clear position of the law on this matter officials of the Ortom administration a few days back had gone and forced their way into the property which still houses the personal belongings of the former governor, stating an official directive to convert the place into office accommodation for an agency of government.” But in a swift reaction, the Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice in the state, Mr Michael Gusa has debunked rumours that Gov Ortom ordered government officials to take over the Atom Kpera Lodge purportedly allocated to Suswam. Barr. Gusa whose views were made available to Nigerian Pilot by the Chief Press Secretary to Gov Ortom, Terver Akase, explained that it was the decision of the State Executive Council which directed the revocation of the said lodge after discovering that the allocation was illegal as due process was not followed. He said the State Executive Council discovered that the former governor misused power and allocated a government lodge to himself before necessary application was tendered for processing and the Council directed its revocation and taking over accordingly. Gusa further explained that Suswam took the State Government to the Makurdi High Court but the suit was dismissed against him and the State Government accordingly took over its property. He explained that by law, the State Government was right to take over the property, saying that even if the former governor had gone on appeal, no court has issued any stay of execution
order against the government restraining it from making use of the affected property. Yet, Nigerian Pilot gathered that Gusa, had advised against forceful takeover of the property, pointing out that such action would have negative consequences on the government since the matter is still pending at the Appeal Court. The PDP, in its press statement also expressed grave concern over the open willingness to throw caution and decorum to the winds by government in dispossessing Suswam of the property while several other persons, including the former Head of Service, Mike Iordye, former president of Customary Court of Appeal, Justice APB Utsaha, one Mr Ahom and a relation of the Och’Idoma bought government houses during Sen Akume’s regime. “It ought to be noted that the property in issue here, Atom Kpera Lodge, like several other lodges, was sold out during George Akume’s tenure as governor, who bought one for himself, with the then Head of Service, Mr. Mike Iordye who presided over the sales, also buying one, while Mr. Ahom had bought one and another was sold to former President of the Customary Court of Appeal, retired Justice A.P.B. Utsaha and the remaining sold to a relation of Och’Idoma. It is the one earlier sold to retired Justice Utsaha, who it is said could not meet the stipulated terms of payment, that Suswam eventually bought,” the party further stated. The party also disclosed that Mr. Ahom has not paid for the lodge allocated to him and up till date the one allocate to him is still left unoccupied, stressing “if office space is what the Ortom government is actually in need of it should have taken up the vacant lodge rather than opt to forcefully take-over the one encumbered by litigation even at the risk of contempt of court.” It would be recalled that Gov Ortom’s government recently removed Suswam’s name from some of the major projects he executed or completed when he was governor of the state.