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There Were 7 Attempts On My Life In 8 Years — Gov Ortom




•‘How Buhari denied me of funds’

•Says only cowards will run away from EFCC, ICPC after May 29

In this interview, outgoing Governor Samuel Ortom of Benue State speaks about his trials and triumphs as he bows out tomorrow after eight years in the saddle.

You’re leaving office in a couple of days can you share with us what gave you joy and what saddened you in the last eight years as governor­

First of all, I want to appreciate God Almighty for helping me thus far. I’ve been here on a divine mandate because I saw that I would be governor in 1992 when I was local government chairman. I proclaimed it and told everyone that cared to listen to me and it came to pass and although it came through a very turbulent situation of time. Even in 2015 it was not easy but by the grace of God, I made it. To further confirm that it is a divine mandate, in 2017, I chose that I would not contest for a second term, that I would finish my first term and by the grace of God leave for another person but God’s divine arrangement was not what I thought. God told me he was not done with me that I would contest and win. And I proclaimed it to the people, I told them it was more turbulent than 2015. All the might that you know, the federal might, the state might, the local might, whatever might came against me but I still made it. So, I give glory to God for making it possible.

Throughout my tenure for about eight years, it has not been easy. I have passed through challenges just like the Psalmist said, -Though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil because God is with me, His rod and his staff will comfort me and he will prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies and anoint my head, my cup will run over and surely his mercies and goodness shall follow me all the days of my life, that is what I have seen. I’ve gone through very turbulent times. Many people around here and the federal level even attempted to even remove me as governor through illegal means but they were unable to do it.

The terrorist Fulani’s attempted to assassinate me seven good times but God preserved my life, they were not able to get me. All I have to say is that I’m grateful to Almighty God for helping me.

What are your regrets?

No regrets. Given another opportunity I will still stand strong to defend my people to ensure equity justice and fairness, I won’t do anything different. Some people think that my people betrayed me because I lost my Senatorial election. My people did not betray me; this is an opportunity for them to see the kind of leadership I gave them. I can boldly say that I’ve not committed any crime against humanity, I have not killed, I have not spilled blood, I have not defiled anybody’s child, I have not defiled anybody’s wife, I have not stolen money from government, people can say what they want but I have not stolen any money from government.

Do you have any fears about the EFCC or the ICPC demanding for clarifications with regards to financial decisions you took while in office as you exit on Monday, May 29?

My budgets are there and I’m ready to face the EFCC and the ICPC. I was told that the EFCC said some Governors are planning to run away, those who are planning to run away are cowards, they are not men. If they are men, they should stand back and justify whether four years or eight years of their administration. For me, everything I did I’m ready to clarify, as far as I am concerned, I have not committed any crime that will warrant me facing persecution at least for now, nobody has brought anything to my attention. I have no reason to regret.

Your stance against some actions and inactions of the Federal Government gives the impression that your administration is at loggerheads with the Federal Government. What are the issues?

I am sad about one development because as a federating unit where I preside over, here in Benue State as Governor, I expected cooperation from Local Governments which they gave me but the cooperation I needed from the Federal Government to help turn things around and add value to the development of this state and provide security of lives and property which is the primary responsibility of any responsible government and then make things work for our people and make our people happy, I have not seen that complimentary effort from the Federal Government rather, it has been hostility, rather it has been a kind of politicking instead of governance.

You can play politics to get into positions of government but when you get there, you do governance, you don’t do politics again. As governor of Benue State, I am the governor of PDP, I am the governor of APC, I am the governor of APGA, I am the governor of the Labour Party, and I am the governor of everybody.

I am governor of non-partisan people but here was a different case because of the agenda of certain people it would be a logical fallacy to say that all Fulanis but some Fulanis were corroborating with foreign Fulani mercenaries and terrorists to take over Nigeria as their country that is the only problem that I have. The sad thing is that the killings have gone on, raping of our children, wives and women has gone on for a long time there has not been any form of condemnation or stoppage.

We have done everything under the sun here in Benue State to stop the carnage we discovered that there is gross inadequacy of security personnel to surmount this challenge because the federal government allowed all Fulani terrorists from Senegal, Mali, Futa Jallon, Chad, all over the place to come in with AK 47s and kill our people and they’ve not hidden it. Hear what the Fulani Nationality Movement, FULAM; hear what the MIYETTI Allah Kautal Haure, and MACABAN all are saying.

Macaban is not that violent, they are merchants but Katal Haure, they are saying that their agenda is to take over Nigeria and make it theirs. How can anyone come here in the 21st Century and make me a slave? It’s unfortunate that gullible Nigerians who through complacency is their second name even those in high places who have been given responsibility and powers to ensure the protection of lives and property decided to do otherwise. The reality is here. But for me, I have chosen to stand by the truth no matter what it will cost me.

What has it cost you?

It has cost me a whole deal. I have been denied funding by the Federal Government to augment what we are doing here. For instance, everybody knows that I inherited huge amounts of money as outstanding workers’ salaries, pensions and gratuities other states did too.

We started well, part of this money was given in order to liquidate these debts. I was denied because I refused to accept the evil agenda of fulanisation over our land, I’ve been denied and I give a typical example. When I came, the total arrears of salaries and pensions were over N70 billion, N28 billion was given, we liquidated them for both states and local government areas but going forward the balance of N42 billion was outstanding, other states have been given, I have been denied because of my stance and position over our land.

Every process that was required I went through, the State Executive Council, the House of Assembly, the Federal Ministry of Finance, DMO and the Central Bank, as I talk to you today, the papers are with the Central Bank, they have refused to act on it.

Another instance is the Infrastructure Fund which was created by the Central Bank to give loans to state governments, most of my colleagues got it, some got as much as N50 billion, some N40 billion some N30 billion, we applied for N20 billion, every process was followed.

I was denied. The papers are still with the Central Bank. It is part of the pains I am talking about apart from the killing of my people.

I didn’t contest to be governor to preside over dead people. From 2015 to this day over 5,000 of my people have been killed. If I take you back the people that have been killed are more than 6,000 even today, my people are being killed by these herdsmen. I stand for the truth.

Several great men paid the supreme price for their stance although I have not paid the supreme price, attempts were made on my life seven times.

How did you know about the attempts on your life?

It was the Fulanis themselves that came and sat where we are now and told me, look, the one that happened to you on Gboko Road which you know is just one case, we have attempted seven times and they came to know the secret that I have that they’ve not been able to kill me.

There is this general perception that you did next to nothing for the people of the state in terms of projects as governor. Why do you think this is so?

It may be my fault, everything in this country today revolves around money. Maybe I wasn’t able to pay enough to get publicity. I’ve been to states where people commissioned projects and in some cases, half a kilometer, two kilometers or three. Here, I’ve commissioned 30 kilometers of road, 40, 46, 30, 5, 10 and all that. We’ve done electricity projects in rural areas because I have a passion for giving people light because it brings a lot of development especially in rural areas. In urban renewal, we have a work outline despite all the challenges that I am talking to you about here including paucity of funds and security challenges, we’ve been able to do a lot with very little.

In the area of security, we have been able to do things in collaboration with conventional security outfits. We provided massive support; we do it because without security you can’t have meaningful development. There are instances where contractors are out there were killed by bandits, their equipment were burnt, in spite of this we always knew that history will demand what we did when we were in government and that has persuaded us, we have been able to reach out to all the zones in terms of road infrastructure, electricity, schools and all of that.

When we came in 2015 we identified that we had to build a solid base for our primary schools because the foundation of any child is important. We did not abandon secondary and tertiary institutions where there were bad cases, we intervened. We sank over N20 billion in primary schools alone since we came to not just upgrade buildings but provided desks, chairs and other infrastructural materials.

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Imo Killings: Soldiers Destroy Buildings, Villagers Flee



Residents of Oriendu in Umualumaku Umueze in Ehime Mbano Local Government Area in Imo State are currently living in fear for their lives following the alleged invasion of the community and destruction of property by security personnel suspected to be soldiers.

The community invasion by the armed men came a day after some gunmen killed and set some soldiers, policemen and men of the Nigerian Security and Civil Defence Corps ablaze in two patrol vehicles in the community on Tuesday.

A video sighted by one of our correspondents showed the destruction of property in the community, even as the narrator alleged that the act was perpetrated by the armed officials.

It was gathered that residents of the area were currently living in fear of their lives and decried the burning of houses.

The resident who spoke in the video lamented that they were being punished for what they knew nothing about.

According to a video, several shops, buildings, properties, food shops and bars were allegedly razed by the rampaging soldiers seeking justice for their colleagues.

The roads of the quiet village looked deserted after the soldiers allegedly wreaked a devastating havoc on the community with only a handful of countable residents whose properties were destroyed seen.

PUNCH Metro observed from the video that uncountable crates of alcoholic drinks were destroyed, several lockup shops were set ablaze, some shop with pots, plates, chairs were also destroyed.

The narrator called on Nigerians to see the unfair treatment meted out to the community.

He said, “We have suffered in this community. What do they want us to do in this community? That a crime was committed in this community does not mean that it is Ehime Mbano people that did it. You people should come to our rescue. Shops, bars, event centres and food stalls were all burned down today by the military men of the Nigeria.

“The people they destroyed their shops; were they the ones that committed the crime? Please, we are suffering in this community; leave us alone because things are bad. People are crying and asking what did we do?”

The narrator in the video added that some indigenes of the community had fled into the bush.

A resident of Ehime Mbano, who sells building materials in the area, told PUNCH Metro that the shops and other property destroyed by soldiers belonged to innocent people who knew nothing about Tuesday’s incident.

The resident, who pleaded anonymity for the fear of being harmed, said, “The destruction of some shops and drinking joints today in Ehime Mbano by soldiers is not necessary. Shops and tents belonging to pap sellers were destroyed.

“They should investigate, arrest those behind the killing of the soldiers and bring them to book and not going setting traders shops and buildings on fire.

“The entire place is boiling; I had to close my shop and leave to avoid problem. The heavy presence of soldiers along the road is worrisome.”

Meanwhile, the Nigerian Army has denied involvement in any attack or destruction of shops, including drinking joints and restaurants, in Ehime Mbano, Imo State, following the gruesome murder of some security personnel in Umualumaku community on Tuesday.

The Assistant Director, Army Public Relations Officer, 34 Artillery Brigade, Obinze, Joseph Akubo, in a telephone interview, said he was unaware of any destruction by the men of the force in the area.

“Is it that military men came to destroy? Let’s be sure of what you are asking. I am not aware of anything like that. We don’t have a report of anything related to this.

“Unfortunately, everybody is bringing on whatever they like, but for now, the military is not conducting any operations around there. I will suggest you speak with the Police PRO.

“I think you should speak with the police; they are the ones in charge of internal security. They should be the ones speaking about whatever is taking place.”

Also, The Director, Defence Information, Brig. Gen. Tukur Gusau, said he was not aware of the incident.

When one of our correspondents called him, he said, “I am not aware.”

In a related development, the acting Inspector-General of Police, Olukayode Egbetokun, has said that the Nigeria Police Force was committed to inter-agency collaboration to uncover those behind the recent killings of security operatives in Imo State.

Reacting to the tragic loss on Wednesday, the IG, through a statement by the Force’s Public Relations Officer, Olumuyiwa Adejobi, said the Nigeria Police would leave no stone unturned in order to ensure that those responsible for the killings were apprehended.

While extending condolences to the friends, families, and relatives of the deceased officers, Egbetokun further urged anyone with useful information related to the incident to report to the police in order to aid their investigation.

Meanwhile, the Governor of Imo State, Hope Uzodimma, and the governorship candidate of the Labour Party for the November 11 governorship election in the state, Athan Achonu, have condemned the Tuesday killing of security operatives in the state.

In separate statements, Uzodimma and Achonu described the killing and reprehensible.

In a statement issued by Uzodimma’s spokesperson, Oguwike Nwachuku, the governor, assured the people of the state that the suspects would be caught.

The statement read, “Governor Hope Uzodimma has assured the public that those behind the Tuesday killing of security operatives at Ehime Mbano area of Imo State will be fished out and made to face the law.

“When Governor Uzodimma visited the scene of the ugly incident accompanied by the Imo State Commissioner of Police and the Director Department of State Services, he expressed sadness over the lives lost.

“He assured the people that the state government in collaboration with security agencies would fish out the perpetrators with a view to bringing them to book.”

On his part, Achonu asked the state government to become more serious with security in the state.

The statement which he personally issued read, “That unconscionable murder of innocent security operatives in the line of duty is reprehensible, highly condemnable and unacceptable in a modern society like ours.

“The latest onslaught in the recurrent sparks of violence is more condemnable because it happened in my own constituency.”

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Singer Khaid Donates N2m To Mohbad’s Wife, 100% Royalties From Tribute Song To Son



Nigerian singer and rapper, Sulaimon Solomon, professionally known as Khaid, has donated the sum of N2m to support Liam Aloba, son of the late Nigerian singer, Ilerioluwa Aloba, aka Mohbad.

Mohbad, who died at the age of 27 last Tuesday, was earlier signed to Marlian Record belonging to Naira Marley but left the label in February 2022.

Disclosing this via his X handle on Tuesday, Khaid posted, “It’s with great pain that I pen this, the past few days have been a rollercoaster of emotions for each and every one of us. We lost a special talent, a great personality and a friend “Imole”.

“In my own little way, I’ll love to support the family by giving N2 Million to the wife of our late brother and covey 100 royalties of the newly released tribute song “Forever” to Liam Aloba Eyinimofeoluwa. Rest On IMOLE,” he posted.

Earlier, Lagos State Governor, Babajide Sanwo-Olu, invited the Department of Security Services to join the probe of late singer, PUNCH Online reports.

This was contained in a statement signed by Lagos state Commissioner for Information and Strategy, Gbenga Omotoso, on Tuesday.

In addition to the police special investigative team in Lagos to probe the death of Mohbad, “Mr. Babajide Sanwo-Olu has invited the DSS to join the investigation and widen the dragnet with inter-agency collaboration and use of best-in-class technology to unearth the truth.

“Mr. Sanwo-Olu has directed that all those who may have played any role whatsoever in any event leading to the death of MohBad be made to face the law after a thorough investigation.

“Consequently DSS has also joined the investigation so as to get justice for the youngster, his family and teeming fans,” part of the statement read.

The state government pleaded with all those who may have vital information that may assist the investigation process to avail the investigating team of such.

“Government also appeals to the investigating team to guarantee the confidentiality and protection of all witnesses who may come forward with vital information or indicative evidence that may assist the process,” it added

Meanwhile, the management of Mohbad, on Monday night, announced a candlelight procession and tribute night for the late artiste.

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Nigeria’s Debt Jumps By 75% In Three Months, Hits N87tn



•How CBN loans to FG, new debts, promissory notes raise public debt by N37tn between April and June

•Tinubu’s reforms will improve debt sustainability, DMO assures Nigerians as latest figure overshoots agency projection by N10tn

The Debt Management Office has said Nigeria’s total public debt hit N87.38tn at the end of the second quarter of 2023.

The figure represents an increase of 75.29 per cent or N37.53tn compared to N49.85tn recorded at the end of March 2023.

The DMO in a report on Thursday said the debt includes the N22.71tn Ways and Means Advances of the Central Bank of Nigeria to the Federal Government.

The DMO stated, “Nigeria’s total public debt stock as at June 30, 2023, was N87.38tn ($113.42bn). It comprises the total domestic and external debts of the Federal Government of Nigeria, the thirty-six states, and the Federal Capital Territory.

“The major addition to the Public Debt Stock was the inclusion of the N22.712tn securitized FGN’s Ways and Means Advances.”

The statement also noted that other additions to the debt stock were new borrowings by the Federal Government and the sub-nationals from local and external sources.

It added, “The reforms already introduced by the present administration and those that may emerge from the recommendations of the Fiscal Reform and Tax Policies Committee, are expected to impact debt strategy and improve debt sustainability.”

The DMO had earlier projected that Nigeria’s public debt burden may hit N77tn following the National Assembly’s approval of the request by former President Muhammadu Buhari to restructure the CBN’s Ways and Means Advances.

The Ways and Means Advances is a loan facility through which the CBN finances the shortfalls in the government’s budget.

The Director-General of the DMO, Patience Oniha, during a public presentation of the 2023 budget organised by the former Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning, Dr Zainab Ahmed, noted that the debt would be N70tn without N5tn new borrowing and N2tn promissory notes.

However, the latest data showed that the current debt stock of N87.38tn exceeded the DMO’s projection by N10.38tn.

Further breakdown showed that Nigeria has a total domestic debt of N54.13tn and total external debt of N33.25tn.

While the domestic debt makes up 61.95 per cent of total debt, the external makes up 38.05 per cent.

The PUNCH also observed that there was a significant increase in both domestic and external debt within three months.

The domestic debt rose by 79.18 per cent from N30.21tn while the external debt rose by 69.28 per cent from N19.64tn in Q1 2023.

In its 2022 Debt Sustainability Analysis Report, the DMO warned that the Federal Government’s projected revenue of N10tn for 2023 could not support fresh borrowings.

According to the office, the projected government’s debt service-to-revenue ratio of 73.5 per cent for 2023 is high and a threat to debt sustainability.

It noted that the government’s current revenue profile could not support higher levels of borrowing.

In a report titled, ‘Report of the Annual National Market Access Country Debt Sustainability Analysis (DSA),’ the debt office said, “The projected FGN Debt Service-to-Revenue ratio at 73.5 per cent for 2023 is high and a threat to debt sustainability.

“It means that the revenue profile cannot support higher levels of borrowing. Attaining a sustainable FGN Debt Service-to-Revenue ratio would require an increase of FGN Revenue from N10.49tn projected in the 2023 Budget to about N15.5tn.”

DMO stated that the government must pay attention to revenue generation by implementing far-reaching revenue mobilisation initiatives and reforms including the Strategic Revenue Growth Initiatives and all its pillars with a view to raising the country’s tax revenue to GDP ratio from about 7 per cent to that of its peer.

The Federal Government would be unable to borrow a lot as it nears its self-imposed debt limit of 40 per cent, the DMO said.

To reduce borrowing and budget deficit, DMO stated that the government should encourage the private sector to fund some of the capital projects that were being financed from borrowing through the public-private partnership schemes.

It added that the Federal Government can reduce borrowing through the privatisation and/or sale of Government assets.

Over the years, Nigeria’s low revenue generation has pushed the government to more borrowing.

However, President Bola Tinubu recently expressed his administration’s commitment to break the cycle of overreliance on borrowing for public spending, and the resultant burden of debt servicing it places on management of limited government revenues.

Inaugurating the Presidential Committee on Fiscal Policy and Tax Reforms, chaired by Taiwo Oyedele, the President charged the committee to improve the country’s revenue profile and business environment.

Ways and Means

According to a Monetary Policy Committee member, Adeola Adenikinju, regarding the fiscal sector, both the government revenue and expenditure underperformed between January and May 2023.

In his personal statement released by the Central Bank at the last MPC meeting, he said the FG retained revenue stood at N1.67tn, lower than the pro-rata target of N1.97tn, which was due to the underperformance of FAAC receipts, gross independent revenue.

He said, “In the same vein, total FGN expenditure as of May 2023, was N4.77tn, 27.8 per cent lower than the budget estimate of N6.61tn. The shortfall came mainly from allocation for debt service, interest on Ways and Means, and capital expenditure.”

However, he added that the rise in FAAC overtime would help in managing the recourse of the FG and sub-national units on debts to finance government activities.

“This would also reduce Ways and Means finance and eventually reduce inflationary pressures from the monetary side,” he said.

Naira devaluation

The Deputy-President of the Lagos Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Gabriel Idahosa, blamed the devaluation of the naira as a major factor that increased the public debt, in naira terms.

He further stated that the new administration might have also inherited undisclosed debts which have accumulated to raise the figure to N87tn by the second quarter of the year.

He said, “The foreign exchange conversion will easily move the debt from N37tn to about N64tn. So, before the convergence, the rate was about N460. Now the CBN rate is about N800. So, that is almost double. So, it is not really mysterious.

“The only thing is that there is still a gap, it shouldn’t be up to N87tn unless additional debt was taken. It could be that some debts were not captured until now that the new government is opening the all the books.”

Similarly, a professor of Economics at the Olabisi Onabanjo University, Sheriffdeen Tella, cited the floating of the naira as the major factor that has caused the significant increase in Nigeria’s total debt.

Tella said, “You see, the naira depreciated seriously in the second quarter. So, that depreciation would have been used to calculate the debt. The domestic borrowing also increased because of the borrowing from the central bank to pay up debts on subsidy.

“The government was borrowing to pay for subsidy and that subsidy was steadily increasing. If you convert it to dollars, it won’t be so much, but because naira has depreciated, by the time you do the multiplication, it will increase significantly in naira terms.”

Revenue challenges

An economic expert and a former Assistant Head of Research at the CBN, Prof. Jonathan Aremu, said  there was nothing wrong with debt but stressed the need to examine the reasons the debts were being incurred.

He said, “Like I used to say, there is nothing wrong in borrowing. Borrowing is divided into two, when you borrow to finance the budget that is productive and boosts economic growth, that is good. If it is borrowing to finance infrastructure, then we have productivity in the economy. But when you borrow for dead weights, i.e., to say it doesn’t have productive uses, that is where the question arises. Any borrowing that is meant for domestic consumption, not investment is a tax on the incoming generation and is not a sustainable borrowing.”

He noted that the country appears to be borrowing for the present population to be able to feed themselves, leaving the repayment to future generations.

Aremu highlighted, “The money borrowed by the government from the CBN must be paid back within a year, that is why they call it Ways and Means. It is the way and means in which the government can use to augment its expense. It shouldn’t be the primary thing that you use to surcharge the future generation.”

He further stated that the country’s high debt would affect whatever gains from subsidy. Aremu added, “The money we are paying in terms of capital and obviously the repayment of interests will affect whatever gain we are gaining from other sectors.”

Speaking further, MPC member, Adenikinju, noted that while debt is an issue, work needs to be done in raising the country’s revenue.

He said, “This shows that we need to address our revenue challenges. Debt is an issue if you do not have adequate revenue. Therefore it is important that the government sees how it can work on revenue to service this debt and at the same time lay sustainable economic growth for this country.”

He stated that with some of the recent measures of the government, such as fuel subsidy removal, addressing the exchange rate issue and setting up a tax reform committee, would help the country grow its revenue base.

Adenikinju further advised, “In addition to raising revenue, we need to make sure that we do not incur more debt to the one that we have, except we have an assurance that the debt will lead to economic growth and generate revenue.

“The issue of cost of governance has been raised and these are things that the government has to look into. It needs to be addressed. The good thing about our debt is that most of them are owed to multi-lateral bodies and the repayments are spread over a long period of time. Also, the CBN debt has been securitised allowing repayment to be over a period of time too. So, yes, we have debt, but the structure of the debt will not necessarily constitute an issue.”

He added that the country would have been in more problem if the bulk of its debt were commercial.


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