The opposition Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, has expressed outrage over the detention of a 82 year old woman and Chairman of Ushongo Local Government Area, LGA, Mrs. Veronica Gajir and three of her colleagues from Ado, Guma and Katsina-Ala LGAs of Benue State by the Department of State Services, DSS, on the alleged orders of the state government.

The party berated Governor Hyacinth Alia for flouting a subsisting court ruling in the government’s face off with the elected Council chairmen in the state warning that the Governor’s action was an invitation to anarchy and lawlessness.

Addressing the media on Thursday in Makurdi, the State Publicity Secretary of the party, Mr. Bemgba Iortyom wondered by the octogenarian and her three colleagues had remained in the DSS detention since July 3, 2023 without being charged to court, after they honoured an invitation by the service.

He stated that: “Today marks over 72 hours of the detention of the council chairmen by DSS without stating what their offence is or charging them to court, in the face of which it is plausible to infer that their offence could only be a refusal to surrender to the illegality of their purported suspension from office under the orders of Governor Alia acting.

“Those lawfully elected council chairmen were invited and detained by the DSS at the request of the governor who has vowed to remove them from office by whatever means possible to him, in furtherance of his policy of vendetta and witch-hunt against the immediate past administration of Governor Samuel Ortom.

“And earlier today, lawyers and the bailiff of a Makurdi Magistrate Court in seeking to serve processes of the court on the DSS headquarters in Makurdi for the enforcement of the fundamental human rights of the detained council chairmen were denied access to the Directorate’s premises, neither were they attended to by anyone for the purpose of their assignment there.

“We call on the DSS to beware of its professional image and steer clear of Governor Alia’s desire to perpetrate impunity and foist an order of lawlessness on the state.
“23 Council Chairmen in Benue State were elected on the platform of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) at the April 30, 2022 local council elections conducted by the Benue State Independent Electoral Commission, BSIEC, and they were sworn into office on June 29, 2022 to a definite tenure of 2 years as enshrined in the Local Government Establishment Law of the state: that tenure expires on June 28, 2024.”

The PDP recalled that the elected Local Government Council Chairmen had approached the National Industrial Court in Makurdi for protection from unlawful dissolution by the state government and on June 15 the court in its ruling issued a restraining order on the state government, which had not been appealed, but the government went ahead to dissolve the leadership of the third tier of government in state.

While insisting that government had resorted to outright disobedience to the rule of law the PDP called on “the DSS to release with immediate effect the four council chairmen in their custody, among whom is a woman in her 80s, the Ushongo Council Chairman, whose only offence has been to answer the call to duty to serve her people in her old age, service she has been rendering with uncommon competence, and the other chairmen of Guma, Katsina-Ala and Ado, who likewise have committed no crime.

“We suspect that part of the plot being hatched by Governor Alia through the DSS might be to get the council chairmen to withdraw all court processes they have initiated to safeguard themselves and their offices, but we warn the governor, his cronies and the DSS that such antics are not only low but won’t see the light of day, as we will initiate more legal action against the governor and his agents should they continue on this path of lawlessness and vengeance.”

Meanwhile several Benue personalities have taken to their social media handles to condemn the continued detention of Mrs. Gajir and calling for the release of the woman whose late husband Chief Aker Gajir was a foremost educationist and a prominent stakeholder in the state before his demise few years back.

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