The governor of Benue State, Samuel Ortom, on Tuesday condemned the trial at the Code of Conduct Tribunal of the Chief Justice of Nigeria, Walter Onnoghen, describing it as impunity at its highest level.
According to THISDAY newspaper, Mr Ortom was addressing journalists during a campaign tour to Tse Agbaragba, headquarters of the Konshisha Local Government Area of the state.
The governor, who is a member of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), called on President Muhammadu Buhari to respect the rule of law, adding that nobody should be above the law.
“Look at what is happening, looking at the issue of arraigning the CJN, this is impunity at its highest level,” Mr Ortom said.
”I always say that we must respect the rule of law, that is the only way we can preserve ourselves and even the positions we hold.
“Look, nobody should be above the law. We should respect the law, the presidency should respect the law, I should respect the law, everybody should respect the law. That is the only way we can preserve this country because Nigeria belongs to all of us.”
Mr Onnoghen is being prosecuted by the Code of Conduct Bureau (CCB) for alleged false assets declaration following a petition by a group, the Anti-corruption, Research, and Data-based Initiative. The case was adjourned on Monday till January 22, after Mr Onnoghen’s lawyers argued that the defendant was not duly served with the court summons.
Mr Ortom also spoke on a statement on Monday by a spokesperson to the president, Garba Shehu, via his twitter handle in which he accused Mr Ortom of visiting churches and spreading false news that President Buhari was trying to islamise Benue State.
“Governor Ortom’s campaign is clearly designed to stir division and hatred and to divert the people’s attention from his inability to pay staff salaries and pensions for several months,” Mr Shehu had said in the statement.
“It has been noted that the governor has been visiting churches in the state where he falsely tells congregations about President Buhari’s so-called plans to islamise Benue State.”
Mr Ortorm dismissed Mr Shehu’s allegation as an attempt by a cabal in the presidency to create a conflict between him and Mr Buhari.
”I have never insulted President Buhari, I have never made any hate speech against him at any given time. If I talk of Miyetti Allah claiming responsibility for the killings in Benue State, it came from them and it was before the media and everybody knew about it,” he said.
“Garba Shehu should go and concentrate on his job and he should stop trying to create hatred between me and the president because I have no issues with the president.
“I called for the arrest of these people because they were making hate speeches and displaying impunity over this country and I reported them to security agencies. I expected that these people should have been arrested. And I was just repeating that.”
The governor said he has the right to campaign in the mosque and in the church, adding that he has respect for both religious homes.
“Garba Shehu cannot tell me where I’ll go and do my campaigns. If I’m in churches, I will also go to the mosque and I respect the Muslims for who they are and I respect the churches, that is the background I come from, I am a Christian,” he added
The governor said the presidential spokesperson has no right to poke his nose into his campaign as they belong to different political parties.
“Can Garba Shehu come and tell me where to campaign? He doesn’t have the right, he is from APC and I am of the PDP and I am campaigning to win the election for my party and my presidential candidate, Atiku Abubakar because I believe he will not keep a cabal in the villa.
“I am a man, I am not a woman, that is why I respect the wife of the president who called all of us to come back that ‘where are the men in this country. Should we allow the cabal in the Villa to ruin this country? I am not a coward,” Mr Ortom said.