Court Halts Benue  Govt’s Probe Into Former Gov Ortom

The Benue State High Court has issued an order restraining the current Benue State Government from investigating the administration of former Governor Chief Samuel Ortom. 

The ruling, delivered by Justice T. T. Asua, puts a temporary stop to the activities of the commission of inquiry recently established by the state government to scrutinise the income and expenditure during Ortom’s tenure from May 29, 2015, to May 28, 2023.

This judicial intervention follows a motion ex-parte filed by Ortom, seeking a prerogative writ of prohibition against the inquiry commission.

 The commission, set up by the incumbent Governor of Benue State, aimed to delve into various financial activities of Ortom’s administration, as detailed in the Benue State Gazette No. 17, Vol. 49, dated February 27, 2024.

Chief Ortom’s legal representative, Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN) Oba Maduabuchi, argued that the Auditor General of Benue State had already conducted a comprehensive audit of the state’s finances.

 According to Maduabuchi, the Auditor General’s reports were submitted to and acted upon by the Benue State House of Assembly, in compliance with the provisions of the 1999 Constitution (as amended). 

Therefore, Maduabuchi contended, the commission of inquiry set up by the current governor is redundant and constitutes an overreach of executive powers.

The counsel highlighted that the Auditor General’s findings were published in several official gazettes, making them public documents. 

Maduabuchi emphasized that the state assembly’s prior actions based on these reports rendered the new probe unnecessary and suggestive of a vendetta against the former governor.

Justice Asua, in his ruling, agreed that the applicant had demonstrated a substantial interest in the matter, justifying the court’s intervention. 

The judge ordered that the commission of inquiry refrain from any further actions related to its terms of reference until the motion on notice is fully heard and determined. 

The hearing of the motion on notice is scheduled to occur within 14 days, as stipulated by Order 40, Rule 5(4) of the court’s rules.

This decision marks a pivotal point in the ongoing political and legal tussles in Benue State, highlighting the complex interplay between administrative actions and constitutional mandates.

 The outcome of the forthcoming hearing could set a significant precedent regarding the extent of executive power in initiating probes against previous administrations.

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