Governor Okezie Ikpeazu of Abia State has described as baseless and unintelligent, allegations made by Mr. Alex Otti, the defeated 2015 governorship candidate of the All Progressive Grand Alliance (APGA) against his management of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) bailout and Paris Club Refund facilities to the state.
The governor said that such “clueless allegations” from a person like Otti does not deserve any response, but for the sake of unsuspecting members of the public, who may be misled by the “acclaimed dangerous misinformer, and so, it is necessary to state the facts.”
In a statement issued by the Chief Press Secretary to the Governor, Mr. Enyinnaya Appolos, he said that as a supposed former bank chief, it should be taken for granted that Otti will be a master of financial numbers.
He however lamented that since Otti started his desperate quest to become the governor of the state at all cost “with the objective of clothing himself with underserved immunity from prosecution, Otti has exposed himself at the state and national level as a man who thinks he knows, but actually knows nothing about financial numbers.
Ikpeazu maintained that his administration is open to any probe of his management of the state’s financial resources by any constituted authority of the state or Federal Government.
He asked Otti to visit any relevant institution and offer information on any aspect of the management of Abia resources under his administra
The governor said: “It is also hoped that Mr. Otti will publicly encourage the auditors of Diamond Bank Plc to publish detailed audit reports of the bank covering the period that he served as managing director and the year after. The public needs to know the sources of the operational losses that were masked through asset revaluation and other smart accounting tricks.
“A review of the contents of the document he circulated reveals a man who is either plain ignorant or full of deceit, as the press release contained outright lies, half-truths, contradictions and conjectures.
“Mr Otti was part of the status quo he derided in Abia from 1999-2015 and obviously while he benefitted from the system, he forgot to organise press conferences to call for a probe of the state’s account, including the Federal Allocation Account Committee (FAAC) that he ensured was moved to Diamond Bank when he became the MD. Little wonder Otti will easily forget the N2billion loan he ill- advisedly arranged for MOCERAM, Umuahia that later became a burden on the succeeding administration while the factory remains moribund to date.
“Can Otti honestly claim not to be part of what he pontifically described as ‘reign of absolutism’ given his close association with governments in power in the state before 2015? He should show the world his original Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) membership card so that the date it was issued will become public knowledge,” he said.
According to him, there was no time his administration publicly claimed that it needed only N6 billion to clear outstanding salaries, pensions and gratuities in the state. Rather, it is a matter of public record which can be verified from the CBN and Debt Management Office (DMO) of the Presidency, that the documents submitted by the state government in lieu of the request for bailout indicated a requirement of N38 billion to clear all the outstanding as at October, 2015,” he stressed.
The governor explained that only N14.2 billion was approved for the state, adding that, ”it is also public knowledge that when the facility was received, the state government set up a committee dominated by labour leaders to allocate all the resources to the payment of some of the outstanding salaries and pensions.
“Unlike other states”, he said, “The ICPC and labour leaders reviewed the application of the facility and commended the administration for prudently managing the bailout loan”.
Putting the record straight, Governor Ikpeazu said that till date, he has not borrowed a kobo from any commercial bank in Nigeria, adding that, “if indeed Otti is not rusty, with banking skills and processes, he can easily verify this fact from the CBN and DMO.
“In any case, states have long been stopped from borrowing from commercial banks at the prevailing double digits interest rates, especially for the purpose of paying salaries. Only Mr. Otti, the self-styled astute banker, seems not to know this and hence he continues to dish out lies which accounted for his failed governorship as Abians saw through his politics of deceit”.
With regards to the approval from the Abia State House of Assembly to borrow N30billion, Ikpeazu said that he has not accessed the funds till date and challenged Otti to publish the name(s) of the local bank which availed the facility to the state government or shut up.
The governor further said that it had become common knowledge that with Nigeria in recession, Otti has written poor articles to the Federal Government on how to exit recession, stressing that in one of his recent articles, the managers of the national economy described it as “dangerous misinformation.”
He said that Abia for most of the past 22 months, had a wage bill that hovered around N2.7billion with FAAC receipts at between N1.6billion and N2billion monthly.
Ikpeazu said: “Acclaimed mis-informer, Mr. Otti, wrote that Abia State government received N5.3 billion Paris Refund and Mr. Obinna Oriaku told the citizens that he needed N700 million to clear outstanding salaries and pensions. While the statement is expected from an unreal character who spreads misinformation as a hobby, it is important to state that when the state received the first tranche of Paris Club Refunds totalling N10.6 bullion, the Executive arm of government approached the House of Assembly to approve the investment of 50% of the funds on outstanding salaries, as suggested by the Presidency, with the remaining 50% allocated to infrastructure development projects.
“It was on that basis that the Assembly approved the following expenditure in December 2016”, he said, adding that “the details are as follows: N5.3 billion on salary arrears and pensions, N1.7 billion for road construction projects, N2.5 billion on bridges, N685 million on hospital projects and N200 million for street lighting projects.
“Labour leaders later approached the governor to add N700 million to the allocated N5.3 billion to ensure that the available funds are spread to more units of the state’s civil service, and he graciously accepted.
“At no time did either labour or the commissioner for finance claim that the N700 million was what was needed to clear all outstanding”, he said.
Ikpeazu explained further that when the state applied for the second tranche of Paris Club Refund, it was calculated that based on verifiable figures, the state will receive a minimum of N15 billion, as outstanding salary and pensions stood at N13 billion.
“However, the Federal Government only released N5.715 billion to Abia State with the balance still expected.
“As at today, all the Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDA) in Abia State, constituting more than 70% of the state workforce, have received July salaries”, the governor stated.
“With regards to the African Development Bank (AfDB) infrastructure development loan of $200 million, the negotiation for the facility preceded the current administration”, he said.
He added that the government decided to vigorously pursue the realisation of the facility which has less than one per cent interest rate with 10 years moratorium, adding that it was part of the national borrowing plan of the Federal Government and “we are glad that regardless of the efforts of Otti and others who only think politics, the National Assembly approved the borrowing after reviewing our presentation that included well-stated repayment plans.
“To underline the fabled hypocrisy of Mr Otti, it is important at this time to mention that during the 2015 campaign rounds, candidate Alex Otti told members of Aba Chamber of Commerce that he has obtained international loan of $100 billion to invest in Aba Urban Renewal Projects alone. While we knew at the time that it was one of his many lies aimed at hoodwinking the electorate it is laughable that it is same Otti that is now against obtaining a facility of $200million to do much more across the state”.
Finally, Ikpeazu said that he is not afraid of any probe or oversight by any agency of state, adding that “our books are open for inspection.”