Governor Samuel Ortom of Benue State has threatened to institute legal action against the National Assembly if it continues deliberation on the National Water Resources Bill which was thrown out by the Assembly in 2018 but allegedly reintroduced.
The governor made this position known on Monday during a courtesy visit on him by the new leadership of the Tiv socio-cultural group, “Mzough U Tiv’, led by its president, General Iorbee Ihagh (Comptroller of Prison (rtd)) at the government house, Makurdi.
According to Governor Ortom, “a bill that was out rightly rejected in 2018 cannot be passed through the back door. It will not be accepted in Benue state.
“I enquired from members of the National Assembly from Benue and none of them accepted that the bill was returned when it was rejected in 2018.
“I told them it is wickedness, you want to control the waterways and extend it to about three kilometers radius which means that even Benue Government House that is close to River Benue will be removed or taken over.
“What they are doing is against the Constitution, the Land Use Act is in the constitution and the only way to amend it is through constitutional review which two third of the states will endorse before it comes into effect.
“So if the National Assembly continues hearing on the bill I will take them to court. It is very wrong and we will not continue to keep quiet on things that affect our land and our people. We cannot allow this injustice to continue in our country and we keep quiet.
“That law will not be accepted in Benue state because we have Rivers Katsina/Ala and Benue which we will not allow anybody takes away from us for the purpose of grazing cattle.
“It is a disgrace to this country that even in the Federal Capital Territory, FCT, cattle have been allowed to take over our major roads hindering free traffic flow. It is what we experience anytime you get to Abuja. It is shameful and my question is why are we not ranching our cattle?
“For our people, that bill is not acceptable and being a government that is committed to the wellbeing of our people, because we were elected by Benue people and not by Abuja or any other person, our primary responsibility is to do what Benue people want which is also my definition of democracy.
“So I wonder why anybody would want to hate me for doing what my people want. The people are my backbone so my loyalty and commitment remains with them and I will continue to do what they want.
“I apologies to the people who are not happy with me for standing with the people. The fact is that I do not have a choice.”
Ortom also called on the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, to probe the funds expended on the aborted Ruga policy for which billions of Naira was expended.
He said that he learnt reliably that money was released and contracts awarded but it was never implemented.
According to him, “EFCC should probe the contractors who were given the contract to build RUGA.
“I was reliably informed that contracts were awarded to construct RUGA across the states. When Benue rejected it, the project was stepped down but where is the money?
“EFCC Should go after the contractors. If this government is seen fighting corruption, then the RUGA settlement project should be investigated.
In his remark, the President-General, Iorbee Ihagh noted that in 2018, the National Water Resources Bill was rejected by the 8th Assembly and wondered why it is been revisited by the present government.
“We will not accept the bill. We will urge our members at the National Assembly to vote against the bill or we will tell the electorate not to vote them for the second term”, he said.
It will be recalled that eleven states were earmarked for the pilot scheme of the RUGA project and was widely reported Federal government budgeted 2.25 billion naira in the 2019 budget for the RUGA settlement project.