The Benue State Governor, Samuel Ortom, on Saturday described as unfortunate, the Presidency response to the Catholic Bishop of Sokoto Diocese, Matthew Kukah’s recent presentation to the United States Congress.
The cleric had during a presentation to the US Congress Committee on Foreign Affairs accused the Nigerian government of demonstrating little commitment to the fight against bandits, Boko Haram insurgents, and other criminal elements in the country.
He also accused President Muhammadu Buhari of nepotism in the appointment of officials into his government.
However, the Presidency in a statement issued by the Senior Special Assistant on Media and Publicity to the President, Garba Shehu, described the Catholic Bishop’s claims as outright falsehood.
Shehu also warned Kukah on the danger of pitching Nigerians against each other.
Ortom, who reacted to the Presidency’s criticism of the cleric in a statement issued by his Chief Press Secretary, Terver Akase, advised the Presidency to stop intimidating patriotic Nigerians raising genuine concerns about the worsening insecurity, economic situation, and nepotism in the country.
The governor said he stands with the Catholic Bishop on his presentation and would have said a similar thing if invited to address the Congress.
The statement read: “Governor Ortom states that the country’s constitution guarantees the freedom of speech to all citizens, unlike a military regime which suppresses the right of the people to voice their opinions on challenges facing their country.
“He believes Bishop Kukah is one Nigerian who is selfless and speaks his mind frankly on national issues calling on the government to ensure justice, the rule of law and equity for all.
“The governor wonders why the Presidency has chosen to politicize the views of Bishop Kukah when all the issues he highlighted in his address were facts about the country.
“He claims Kukah was right when he stated that nepotism has been elevated above federal character by the present administration. He further agrees with the Bishop that Christians across the country are targets of elimination and thousands have already fallen to the sword of jihadist supremacists.
“Governor Ortom states that Kukah is not to blame for the ranking of Nigeria as the 8th least peaceful country in Africa and the rating of killer herdsmen as the 4th deadliest terror group in the world by the Global Terrorism Index.
“He expects the Presidency to rather be worried that Nigeria is ranked as the most terrorised nation in Africa with an average of over 2,000 deaths per year on account of terrorism.
“He emphasizes that the combative approach the Presidency has adopted in engaging citizens on issues will not solve the problems confronting the country.
“He urges the Presidency to listen to the voices of reason and resist the temptation to whip into silence those who genuinely love the country and are offering solutions to its challenges.”