By Hope Abah
Just over a year into the tenure of Governor Samuel Ortom of Benue State, at least four top officials of his administration have been linked to murder of indigenes, including government officials.
First was the governor’s Special Adviser on Special Duties, Arch. Joe Ikyaagba, who has already resigned from Ortom’s cabinet.
He was arrested by the police with eight others in June this year over the killing of Denen Igbana, Ortom’s Senior Special Assistant on Security, at his Tion-Sha residence along Naka Road in Makurdi on May 20, 2016.
Ikyaagba was arraigned in court for conspiracy and murder but was granted bail by Justice Adah Onum on health grounds on July 11. The Secretary to the State Government (SSG), Bem Melladu, last week confirmed the resignation of Ikyagbaa, who was suspended after his arrest on June 4. He was on his way out of the country on an official assignment when arrested.
The Chief Press Secretary to the Governor, Terver Akase, in a statement, reiterated Governor Ortom’s resolve not to protect anyone linked to the killing, no matter how highly placed.
On October 25, a Chief Magistrate’s Court in Makurdi remanded the sole administrator of Buruku Local Government Area, David Yiman, along with Kosuvenyi Kungwa and Emmanuel Nyajo in prison custody over their alleged involvement in the killing of a university lecturer. The court said they were to remain in prison till January 23, 2017.
The sole administrator was sworn in with 22 others on October 11 by Governor Ortom. According to the First Information Report (FIR), Aondosoo Wilfred Tondo, a 50 year-old lecturer in the Department of Political Science, University of Mkar, Gboko, was killed in August 2016. Tondo, an APC chairmanship aspirant, was shot dead at about 4am while observing morning prayers with his family at his official residence within the university premises. His killing was suspected to be politically motivated.
During police investigation, Kosuvenyi Kungwa, Emmanuel Nyajo and David Yiman were arrested for conspiring with many others to carry out the killing.
When the case was mentioned, no plea was taken for want of jurisdiction as the police prosecuting officer, Hyacinth Mbakwor, told the court that investigation was still in progress and asked for another date.
The counsel to the accused, E.C. Tereve, did not oppose the application for adjournment as he maintained that he would apply for the bail of his client.
The Chief Magistrate, Isaac Ajim, adjourned the case to January 23.
Our correspondent gathered that on August 30, the police also interrogated the Commissioner for Arts, Culture and Tourism, Sekav Iortyom, over the murder. He was suspected of having frosty relations with the deceased who was said to be the preferred candidate of power brokers in Buruku where both hailed from, against the commissioner’s wish.
The state Commissioner of Police, Bashir Makama, told our correspondent that the commissioner was invited but did not state reasons for his invitation.
Reacting, the Peoples’ Democratic Party (PDP) Publicity Secretary, Bemgba Iorytom, flayed government appointees’ links to murder cases.
He argued that the latest case involving the commissioner brought to four, the number of murder suspects in Ortom’s government, and urged the administration to purge itself of bad eggs.
Speculations are rife that the commissioner is on the run, just as several visits to his office by our correspondent showed that he had been away for more than two weeks at the time of filing this report.
The Acting Secretary to the State Government (SSG), Dr. Bem Melladu, confirmed that the commissioner was interrogated by the police but said: “I cannot say whether the commissioner ran away as is being alleged but I am aware that he was invited and interrogated by the police in August this year, why should this man run away?”
One Terwase Akwaza, popularly known as “Ghana”, was declared wanted over alleged involvement in the murder of Igbana among others. The Joint Security Task Force has continued search for him.
Ghana had embraced Ortom’s amnesty programme in September last year, was granted pardon and given the job of collecting revenue for the state government.
But this did not last as a result of his link to Igbana’s murder and his sudden disappearance. The state government has placed a reward of N5million for any useful information that could lead to his arrest.
As these murder cases hang at different stages, a new twist emerged Wednesday last week following the invasion of some courtrooms by hoodlums who seized vital documents, perhaps to frustrate ongoing trial of accused persons.
It was gathered that the hoodlums broke into the Magistrate’s Court hearing the case involving the sole administrator and stole case files containing charges against him, a computer and other items, and scattered files of other disposed and pending cases, implying that this may not be the last word on the subject.
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