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Court stops Benue Govt. from probing Ortom

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Benue Gov, Fr Alia dragged to court over 'abuse of local government system

A Benue State High Court has restrained the Benue State Government from probing the administration of the former Governor of the state, Chief Samuel Ortom.

Recall that the Benue State Government recently set up a commission of inquiry into the funds (income and expenditure) of Benue State Government from May 29, 2015, to May 28, 2023, to probe the immediate past administration of former Governor Ortom in the state.

The order stopped the panel from sitting, pending the hearing and determination of a motion on notice filed by former Governor Samuel Ortom.

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Justice T. T. Asua gave the order while ruling on a motion ex-parte seeking leave of the court to issue the prerogative writ of prohibition on the Benue State income and expenditure commission of inquiry from sitting or taking any action in respect of the terms of reference, paragraph 3(a)-(o), listed in the Benue State of Nigeria Gazette No. 17, Vol. 49 of February 27, 2024, by the Governor of Benue State.

Counsel to Chief Ortom, Oba Maduabuchi, SAN, told the court that the grounds of the application are that the Auditor General is imbued with powers under the 1999 Constitution (as amended) to investigate and probe the finances of the state.

According to Ortom’s counsel, the Auditor General had already investigated, probed, audited, and certified the accounts of the Benue State Government and had submitted his reports to the Benue State House of Assembly as authorized by the 1999 Constitution (as amended).

He stated that the Benue State House of Assembly has also acted on the said report of the Auditor General, as also authorized by the constitution, and all the terms of reference listed in paragraph 3(a)-(o) of the Benue State Gazette No. 17, Vol. 49 of February 27, 2024, have already been investigated and probed by the Auditor General, who wrote reports and submitted to the State Assembly, which also acted on the same.

He further stated that the said report of the Auditor General was published in several Benue State Gazettes, which are public documents.

According to Maduabuchi, SAN, in view of the above facts, the Governor of Benue State lacks the powers to constitute the income and expenditure commission and the commission lacks the jurisdiction to sit and investigate matters listed as items in the gazette, and the action of the governor constitutes a gross abuse of office and vendetta.

After listening to Maduabuchi, SAN, Justice T. T. Asua granted the motion as prayed.

He stated that the applicant has shown sufficient interest in the matter to warrant the grant of the leave sought.

He added that the motion on notice shall be entered for hearing within 14 days after the grant of leave, pursuant to Order 40, Rule 5(4) of the Rules of the court, and further restrained the commission of inquiry from taking or further steps in respect of the matter to which the application relates until the motion on notice is heard and determined.

 

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