Ques­tions be­dev­il­ing Benue probe

Daily Trust - - OPINION - By Terka Jam

Only the for­mer Benue state gover­nor, Gabriel Suswam who can truly ex­plain how he ran the af­fairs of Benue state in the eight years he served his peo­ple. Suswam there­fore re­quires no one to hold brief for him open­ing the public mind and eyes to what hap­pened, a re­cent Face­book post of his ex­pounded on that in some re­spect and it ab­so­lutely showed he has ca­pac­ity to prove his met­tle.

The ef­fort here is thus not to laun­der any­one’s im­age, as I ex­pect to come un­der at­tack for tak­ing the bold step of iden­ti­fy­ing and am­pli­fy­ing what the is­sues are. The con­cern is about the scope and com­po­si­tion of the ju­di­cial com­mis­sion of in­quiry and ad­min­is­tra­tive com­mis­sion of in­quiry set up by the present ad­min­is­tra­tion in the state. Ap­par­ently, the pan­els are fo­cus­ing on only Suswam’s ten­ure with hints that noth­ing went wrong prior to that.

Suswam re­vealed this much when he said he was not op­posed to ac­count­ing for his ten­ure in of­fice, an ad­min­is­tra­tion that laboured un­der a heavy bur­den of in­her­ited debts for its en­tire life­time, but that while sub­mit­ting him­self to be probed but that the pur­vey­ors of the probe must reach over to the past 16 years, from1999 - 2015.

Should those clam­our­ing for the probe agree to this, they would have to get their com­mit­tees to re­visit the debt pro­file fig­ures they have re­leased as Suswam as­serted that they failed to prop­erly dif­fer­en­ti­ate be­tween fig­ures in­her­ited from the pre­vi­ous ad­min­is­tra­tions and that ac­crued dur­ing his ad­min­is­tra­tion. In lay­man’s terms, the com­mit­tees should give a break­down of the debts and in­di­cate the dates of the bor­row­ing and pos­si­bly name the of­fi­cial that se­cured the loan.

Another poser, this time for the in­cum­bent gover­nor, Sa­muel Or­tom, is how come the pan­els are pep­pered by per­sons who were part of the two suc­ces­sive gov­ern­ments be­tween 1999 and 2015? Is it now fash­ion­able to be the judge and the jury in one’s own case? If these in­di­vid­u­als had not de­camped to the All Pro­gres­sives Congress (APC) and had re­mained in the PDP, or were not closet APC mem­bers, would they have made the list to be panel mem­bers? Should the probe ex­tend into these long past years and to­day’s APC lead­ers be­come the in­dicted in­stead of the man for whom the trap was set, would the in­cum­bent gov­ern­ment seek pros­e­cu­tion of its god­fa­thers and re­cover funds from them? It is im­por­tant to query this links so that there can be the cer­tainty that the right thing has been done.

A fur­ther poser is that at what point did Benue be­come an ex­clu­sive con­clave sub­ject to the wis­dom of a se­lect few? For a state as vast and di­verse as Benue and with its vi­brant minds, the civil so­ci­ety, tra­di­tional in­sti­tu­tions, re­li­gious lead­ers, youth or­gan­i­sa­tions and even unions should have been in­cluded on the pan­els for the sake of cred­i­bil­ity. There is scarcely that in­di­vid­ual who will hap­pily ten­der him­self to a posse that has made it clear by its com­po­si­tion that only one ver­dict is pos­si­ble.

The fact that the spon­sors of the probe re­mained re­cal­ci­trant even af­ter Suswam stated his op­po­si­tion to the scope and com­po­si­tion of the pan­els seems to con­firm that a sin­is­ter in­ten­tion is at play. His chal­lenge a High court sit­ting in Makurdi presided over by Jus­tice Iorhe­men Hwande or­der­ing a stay of pro­ceed­ings on both the ju­di­cial com­mis­sion of in­quiry and ad­min­is­tra­tive com­mis­sion of in­quiry pend­ing the de­ter­mi­na­tion of the sub­stan­tive mo­tion in the suit filed by Suswam.

One must also won­der why the same peo­ple who set two com­mis­sions upon one man can­not be pa­tient enough for the pan­els to com­plete their as­sign­ments be­fore drag­ging the same man be­fore the Eco­nomic and Fi­nan­cial Com­mis­sion (EFCC). Af­ter all, the find­ings of the com­mis­sion, as­sum­ing Suswam would be found want­ing, would have been the ba­sis to present a wa­ter­tight pe­ti­tion to the anti-graft agency while the com­mis­sion would have been a saved a waste of re­sources should the most likely out­come of the probe ex­on­er­ate him.

Suswam in­di­cated that his ad­min­is­tra­tion was bur­dened for its en­tire du­ra­tion by harsh eco­nomic cli­mate - in the first years by the 2008 global eco­nomic down­turn and more re­cently by the resur­gence of a global slow­down, Or­tom’s ad­min­is­tra­tion had not even func­tioned for weeks when the re­al­iza­tion set in and he went for a loan that was later sup­ple­mented with a fed­eral bailout pack­age.

There­fore, the truth we must tell our­selves is that for once as a peo­ple we must learn to ap­proach is­sues the right way. When pan­els are set up it should be to get to the root cause of the per­ceived prob­lem and not for win­dow dress­ing. To­day it is Suswam’s turn to be hounded us­ing con­trived pan­els that were rigged from in­cep­tion to in­dict, whose turn will it be next?

Jam wrote in from Makurdi, Benue State

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