Alia orders secret arrest of Nigerian Concord publisher, to take New Telegraph, Sahara Reporters to court

Nigerian Concord Newspaper

The governor of Benue state, Reverend Father Hyacinth Alia has declared a full war on journalists for exposing the activities of his administration.

Top on the list of reporters to be arrested and tried in court for libel are Aare Abiodun Oluwarotimi and Omoyele Sowore who are the Publishers of Nigerian Concord Newspaper and Sahara Reporters respectively.

Apart from this, the governor has also initiated a libel suit against New Telegraph for reporting it at the beginning of the week that he gifted a N350m SUV to his benefactor and former governor of Rivers state, Mr. Rotimi Amaechi.

Sources at the office of the Benue state Attorney General, Mr. F.B. Mnyim told one of our reporters in Makurdi that Governor Alia had directed that Aare Abiodun Oluwarotimi be secretly arrested and brought to Makurdi for trial.

According to the source, the governor is worried about some financial records which Nigerian Concord Newspaper published three weeks ago and has urged the police to torture the publisher when arrested to disclose the sources of the Benue state government’s financial records.

It was gathered that a petition had been sent to the Benue State Police Commissioner in Makurdi against Aare Abiodun who may be declared wanted on pages of some national newspapers next week.

The governor has also called for the arrest of Omoyele Sowore, the publisher of Sahara Reporters for reporting some fraudulent activities of the state government under Governor Alia.

Recall that Nigerian Concord had last month reported how the governor spent over N46B on hotel bills, travel expenses, guests, food and others in 4 months.

It was also in the report his the governor spent N2.3 billion on refurbished buses and presented them and brand new ones for Palliatives

Nigerian Concord reported that on the 5th of September 2023, the Alia government spent N2,040,780,000.00 for the procurement of vehicles for the Governor, his Deputy, Assembly Members and other government officials in the state.

Again on the 28th September, 2023, Governor Alia released additional N504,175,000.00 for the same procurement of official vehicles for himself, his appointees and Assembly members.

The company that handled the vehicles procurement contract was MBS Investments and Properties.

The same day, 28th September, 2023, the Alia government released N2,236,000,000.00 to Lajec Engineering Services Ltd for the procurement of refurbished Hummer buses for palliative measures and some used Toyota Hilux 2018/2019 model vehicles.

Our investigation further showed that the Hummer buses were converted from right hand drive to left hand drive.

Our fact check however shows that the current market prices of the used Hummer buses are only N10 million per unit.

The records showed that on 6th October, 2023, the state government awarded M/s Triacta Nigeria Limited the sum of N2,760,018,000.00 for the construction/rehabilitation of 16 roads within Makurdi metropolis (15.39km) (contract No. BSPPC-47/2023).
A tour of the Benue State capital however indicated that work is not progressing on any of the road projects.

On 15th August, 2023, Governor Alia spent N65,000,000.00 for the replacement of 500kva JMG generator at the Main Power House, Government House, Makurdi.

The same day, the government claimed that it spent N43,500,000.00 for the purchase, transportation and installation of 2.5MVA 33/0.14 distribution transformer in Government House, Makurdi.

Interestingly, the records showed that on the 7th September, 2023 the government spent N98,032,900.00 for the procurement and installation of 2500kva power transformer/ring main unit at Government House, Makurdi.

At the same time, the government said it had spent N9.7 million to recharge prepaid electricity meters in Government House for September and October, 2023.

The government of Rev Fr. Alia also claimed that it spent the following amounts for the running of Government House Makurdi: 4th July 23, spent N63,508,333.00 on overhead and other unclear expenses.

27th Jul 23, spent N63,508,333.00 for overhead cost and other expenses. Spent same amount of N63,508,333.00 for August and September, 2023.

Between 14th August and 4th September, the Governor said he spent N60 million on provision of food for his guests at Government House, Makurdi.

Within the four months under review, Governor Alia spent over N5 billion on his travels and other expenses, most of which are personal to his office as the governor.

Meanwhile, the governor has stated that he is ready to take the publisher of New Telegraph newspaper to court if he fails to retract his story and tender an open apology with a compensation of N5b over the report of N350m SUV gift to Rotimi Amaechi.

This was contained in a press statement signed by the governor’s Chief Press Secretary, Kula Tersoo.

The statement reads:

The Benue State government has demanded a retraction, an apology and 5 billion naira as compensation from the Publishers of New Telegraph Newspaper, over a defamatory publication on the person of the Governor, Rev. Fr. Hyacinth Alia.

Recall that the online edition of the New Telegraph Newspaper had on Monday, December 11th, 2023, published a story with the caption ‘2027: Alia Joins Forces With Rotimi Amaechi – …Donates Lexus LX 600 SUV To Former Transportation Minister.’

But in a correspondence to the publisher of the newspaper, the Honourable Attorney-General and Commissioner for Justice and Public Order, Benue State, F.B. Mnyim, described the said publication as false and fabricated, insisting that it was done to demean the character of the governor and to paint him bad as someone using state funds to offer gratification and compensation for personal favours.

Mnyim, added that the defamatory story has made the governor to appear as someone who is insensitive to the plight of the Benue people and party men who supported and voted him into office as the Governor of Benue State on the platform of All Progressives Congress (APC).

“The publication made available online portrayed our client as unprofessional, unprincipled, unethical, and dishonorable, unreasonable and prejudiced public officer who is insensitive, indifferent, and apathetic to the plight of the Benue people and party men who supported and voted him into office as the Governor of Benue State on the platform of All Progressive Congress (APC).

“The said publication was with a clear intent and motive to vilify, malign, denigrate, disparage and defame our client and portray him in bad light in the eyes of reasonable members of the public, especially to incite the Benue people, members of the All Progressives Congress (APC) and the general public against our client.

“The publication was made in an invidious, unpleasant, insidious, sinister and treacherous manner and it has inflicted and caused grievous pains, shock, anguish, psychological torture and trauma, humiliation, degradation, dishonor, embarrassment and dehumanization of our client, and reviling and holding our client up to public obloquy, lowering him in the estimation of the public, and exposing him to disgrace, dishonour and contempt” part of the letter by the Attorney General insisted.

According to him, it was done in total disregard for the Code of Ethics for Nigerian Journalists and is injurious to the person of the governor and the government of the state, especially as the governor is someone who is seen as a noble man of sound character, who commands respect in his spheres of influence, among the citizens of Benue State and the general public.

He called for the withdrawal of the publication, accompanied by a clear and unqualified apology published in the newspaper within the next 24 hours as well as N5 Billion as compensation for the injurious publication, of which failure to do so will attract a court action.

“On account of the foregoing, our client has instructed us to request and or demand, and we do hereby perfect those instructions, that: (a) You withdraw the offensive publication forthwith accompanied by a clear and unqualified apology to be published conspicuously in the next issue of your publication. (b) You pay compensation to our client in the total sum of N5 Billion only for the damage caused to our client’s reputation, integrity and character. (c) You are to act within 24 hours of the receipt of this letter.

“Take notice that if our client’s demands herein are not addressed, resolved or fulfilled within the time prescribed, our client shall be at liberty to seek redress in a court of law, in accordance with the remedies outlined above, without further recourse to you” stated the Attorney General on behalf of the state government.

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