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Ikpeazu, Otti trade words over Abia bailout funds



The 2015 All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA), governorship flag bearer in Abia State, Dr. Alex Otti, has alleged that most states of the federation are in the habit of squandering the bailout funds.

He therefore called on the Federal Government to begin to pay close attention to the utilization of the funds by each of the state.

Speaking during a press conference in Lagos on Wednesday, the former Group Managing Director of Diamond Bank said the Federal Government should pay serious attention and scrutinise the use of the bailout funds and loans because future generations would be made to repay them, alleging that: “misappropriation of the funds is eating deep into the growth and development of Abia State.”

He also emphasised the need for the National Assembly to review its recent decision to approve 200 million dollars loan, which it had promised state governments.

According to him, “Any money given to Abia State government would not be of any benefit to the people due to records of financial recklessness. The citizen of Abia are wallowing in hunger and poverty due to non-payment of salaries since the beginning of this year.”

He further urged that the Abia State House of Assembly, should without further delay, set up a panel to investigate the financial activities of the state and ensure that anyone found culpable face the penalty to avoid long term financial and economic chaos.

Said he, “On assumption of office, the administration of Governor Okezie Ikpeazu approached the House of Assembly seeking approval for a loan of N30 billion from a local bank apart from the N14.150 billion bailout fund it received from the Federal Government. Shortly after receiving the bailout fund, the government announced the inauguration of a committee charged with the responsibility of disbursing the funds and promised to clear all outstanding arrears owed workers by October 30, 2015, while the groaning of Abia workers and the citizens continued unabated as a result of mounting workers debt, general absence of good governance. The government again received the first tranche of the Paris Club refund totaling N5.3 billion.

“Again, the government announced through its Commissioner for Finance, claiming that it needed extra N700 million to augment the N5.3 billion to enable it clear all salary arrears it owes. Unfortunately again, this turned out to be another humiliating trick leaving unpaid arrears of workers pilling up unchecked.”

Otti frowned at the fact that the government reneged on its promise to pay the outstanding arrears immediately the N5.7billion arrived, claiming that it got less than what it expected.

He therefore called on the Economic and Financial Crime Commission (EFCC) and Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC) and other anti-corruption agencies to beam its search light on Abia government by commence urgent investigation of the activities of the past and present administration to unravel the mystery behind the disappearance of billions of naira accrued to the state as allocations, Internally Generated Revenues (IGR) and loans.

In a reaction, the state government described Otti’s allegations as baseless and unintelligent in regard to the management of the bailout funds.

The governor in a statement said his government is open to any probe of management of the state’s financial resources by any constituted authority of the state or the Federal Government, as he also enjoined Mr. Otti to feel free to visit any relevant institution and offer information on any aspect of the management of the state’s resources.

According to Ikpeazu, “Mr. Otti was part of the status quo he derided in Abia from 1999 to 2015 and obviously while he benefitted from the system, he forgot to organize press conferences to call for a probe of the state’s account, including the Federal Allocation Committee (FAAC) account that he ensured was moved to Diamond Bank when he became the MD.”

He added that at no point did his government publicly claim that it needs only N6b to clear salary, pensions and gratified outstanding in the state “rather it is a matter of public record, which can be verified from CBN and Debt Management Office (DMO) of the presidency that the documents submitted by we submitted in lieu of the request for bailout indicated a requirement of N38 billion to clear all the outstanding as at October 2015. Only N14.2 billion was approved for the state.”

He continued: “Unlike other states, ICPC and Labour leaders reviewed the application of the facility and commended us for prudently managing the bail out loan without diverting any portion to competing needs.”

He added that up to date “my administration has not borrowed a single kobo from any commercial bank in Nigeria. With regards to the approval from the State House of Assembly to borrow N30 billion, the administration never accessed those funds to date. We challenge Mr. Otti to publish the name(s) of the local bank that availed the facility to the state government.”

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