Stakeholders in Kogi state have been pitched against President Muhammadu Buhari over the current vacant ministerial slot in the state since the death of James Ocholi, then minister of state for labour and employment.
Various groups and individuals are lamenting that one year after the death of Ocholi the president has refused to name a replacement.
The executive director of the Centre for Human Rights and Conflict Resolution, Idris Miliki, speaking on the issue, said Buhari had violated the constitution he swore to uphold.
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He said: “As a civil society person and somebody from Kogi, I am disappointed. The constitution states clearly that there shall be a minister from each state of the federation, who shall be an indigene of such state.”
“If the law states that ‘there shall be’, it means it is compulsory. What does it take the president to appoint a minister from Kogi State? This government practises impunity in the name of due process.
“I think it is time the APC-led government watched their administration. We are becoming disappointed with their government, both at the federal and state levels.
“The number one effect is that when it comes to voting, Kogi has no vote in the Federal Executive Council. There are some elements of democracy at that level. If there are debates and divisions, they would vote on a particular issue. In that case, the state will have no vote.
“Secondly, the office Ocholi occupied is vacant and has no impact whatsoever on the people. If there is a minister, he would have to appoint some aides and would equally visit his people to know their problems, with a view to making case for them.
“When Ocholi was alive, he used to tour all the places in the state to meet traditional rulers to know the problems in their domains in order to render assistance to them. All these are lacking today since there is no one there for the people.
“The state is completely lagging behind; we have no votes, we have no opinion, we have no suggestions and we have no benefits. Even in preparing the national budget for 2017, Kogi State had no input.
“Now, the federal government has made a proposal to the National Assembly; then tell me, who is supposed to present the position of Kogi State? Of course, it is the minister, not the governor. It is the minister from the state who would mention the number of federal roads in the state that need attention.”
Tom Adejoh, secretary of the APC in the state, said the party was equally worried that a replacement for late Ocholi had not been appointed.
“Frankly speaking, we are not happy about the whole situation. Kogi State in particular surprised the nation in the last presidential election. The margin of votes the APC got in the state was unimaginable," he said.
President of Ujache Igala Association, a pressure group, Goodman Akwu, said the situation showed that President Buhari was insensitive to the plight of the people.
He said: “I wonder why a whole state of about 8 million people can be excluded from their country. It is undemocratic, unacceptable and unbelievable that the man we gave so much has decided to use hot water to wash our face."
Meanwhile, the Igala in Kogi East senatorial district, want the president to appoint a replacement from the area, which the late Ocholi hailed from
In an open letter to President Buhari, signed by its legal adviser, Bameyi Audu, the group explained that its position was in reaction to “widely circulated” positions of other ethnic groups, who have continued to clamour for the ministerial nominee to come from their zones.
Recall that James Ocholi died in a ghastly motor accident along the Kaduna-Abuja road on March 6, 2016.
In a related development, APC chieftains have threatened to cut down Bola Tinubu’s influence in the north-central state. The hatred followed reports that Tinubu is trying to get his candidate James Faleke to replace late Ocholi.
This has angered the Kogi party chieftains who have vowed to block Faleke’s emergence and also cut down on Tinubu’s influence in the state. The chieftains believe that the party would be thrown into turmoil should the president accept Faleke’s nomination which is being pushed forward by Tinubu.