Forensic audit: You have deep aversion for me – Ikpeazu knocks Otti

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Former Abia State governor, Dr. Okezie Ikpeazu has reacted to the allegation of fund diversion raised by Governor Alex Otti against his government.

Otti had alleged that a forensic audit revealed how the immediate past government of Abia State released some funds to some contractors to handle the construction of a state-owned airport and other infrastructure believed not to be in existence.

Governor Otti revealed this during a presentation at the Johns Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies. Washington DC, United States.

But reacting through his spokesman, Onyebuchi Ememanka, Ikpeazu tagged the report as a tissue of lies, intricately woven by a spin doctor to deceive his audience.

The statement further alleged that Otto’s target by the allegations, is to internationalize his deep aversion for his predecessor.

The statement reads, “Our attention has been drawn to trending reports of a speech delivered by the Governor of Abia State, Dr Alex Otti at a forum somewhere in the United States of America, wherein he made certain allegations against his predecessor in office, Dr. Okezie Ikpeazu, bothering on financial malfeasance.

“Ever since leaving office as Governor of Abia State for two consecutive terms, Dr Okezie Ikpeazu has carried himself with the dignity his present situation in life demands and has, as a matter of personal policy, avoided any confrontation with the present Governor and his administration.

“At best, what Dr. Ikpeazu has authorized are clarifications whenever the current administration seeks to misinform the public about what transpired during the last administration. Clear instances of these abound and a few of them shall be highlighted later in this release.

“We want to make it abundantly clear that what the Governor spewed at that forum is a tissue of lies, intricately woven by a spin doctor to deceive his audience and internationalize his known deep aversion for his predecessor.”

Questioning the secrecy surrounding the audit firm in charge, the statement said, “For starters, we welcome the fact that the Governor has chosen to bring in a reputable firm of auditors who conducted a forensic audit. According to him, the firm “is one of the top three in the world”, therefore it must be Deloitte, Ernst and Young or PriceWaterHouseCoopers. These are firms whose professionalism and global repute are not in doubt.

“When forensic auditors are appointed and when they complete their task, the reasonable thing to do is to make the Forensic Audit Report public and allow the document speak for itself.

“Forensic Audits are no voodoo schemes. They are acceptable means of investigating the finances of organizations and governments. They are carried out by top accounting professionals who are disinterested in politics and internal shenanigans in the organization they are auditing.

“They are not even conclusive evidence of any guilt on the part of any person. They are at best, pointers to financial malfeasance. When they are to be used in a criminal trial, lawyers will subject it to cross-examination and the people involved will be afforded the opportunity to defend themselves.

“Governor Alex Otti should, as a matter of public policy, name the Accounting Firm that did the audit and release the audit report. Abia State has a functional website. The audit report should be posted there immediately. Going to a foreign land to make comments about a document that is not in the public domain portrays the Governor as an administrative comedian.”

Addressing the main issue on diversion of funds and the claims of the construction of an airport, the statement said Ikpeazu never built an airport and had never claimed to have built one.

“At this point, it is important to address the issues raised by the Governor one after the other, naturally starting with the one that has generated the most reactions – the missing airport.

“Even the Governor himself found his own claims ridiculous and he couldn’t help laughing at himself because his claims are utterly senseless.

“Former Governor Okezie Ikpeazu never built any airport and never claimed to have built one,” he said.

Explaining further, the statement said, “Facts are sacred. At some point in our administration, the idea of building an airport came up. It was an ambitious idea which the Governor wanted to pursue and one of the schemes that were considered then for funding the project was a Public Private Partnership.

“The State Government announced their plan to invest the sum of 10 Billion Naira into the project. Some private investors showed interest and the Government through the Ministry of Lands, commenced the acquisition of a large expanse of land at a location between Ikwuano and Isiala Ngwa North LGAs.

“There were interfaces between the Ministry and the representatives of the land owning communities, and some investors actually came to Abia to hold preliminary discussions with representatives of the State Government on the project.

“While these talks went on, a section of the Abia public felt that the airport idea was ill-timed. Indeed, the State Traditional Rulers Council led by their then Chairman, Hrm Eze Joseph Nwabeke visited the Governor and advised him to shelve airport plans and channel such funds, if they were available, into the completion of some critical road projects then. This advice aligned with realities on the ground.

“This was exactly what the Governor did. Indeed at a hangout with some selected journalists in Lagos, then Governor Ikpeazu, after speaking on the advantages of having an airport, told the journalists that he had decided to backtrack on the project based on the yearnings of our people. The video wherein the Governor made that statement is available and will be made public after this release.

“Ladies and gentlemen, the only money the Ikpeazu administration committed into the airport project was 10 Million Naira, released to the Ministry of Lands during the process of acquiring the land and to manage the interface with the local communities. Not a Kobo more was spent.

“The Honorable Commissioner for Lands then, is still alive.

“I have spoken to some of the officials who managed finances then, and based on their answers to me, I now make these responses.

“There was never any design for the airport. There was never a contractor selected and there was never any contract signed between the State Government and any person for this job.

“Neither Governor Ikpeazu nor the State Executive Council at the time, approved the payment of any money to any contractor for any airport.

“It is only God in heaven and Governor Otti who knows where he found records of 10 Billion Naira paid to any person to build an airport.

“It’s disturbing that people actually believe this trash. Which State Government in Nigeria will pay 10 Billion Naira for any project at all and not make it a press event? At least, there will be a flag-off for such a project that the Government paid 10 Billion! In Abia, ceremonies are held for the flag-off of road projects, let alone an airport.

“We hereby throw a PUBLIC CHALLENGE to Dr Alex Otti, Governor of Abia State, to make public the audit report that shows that the sum of 10 Billion Naira, or any other amount at all, apart from the initial 10 million Naira mentioned above was paid to anyone for an airport!

What is the name of the Contractor who received the money?

“Who authorized the payment?

Was it a one-off payment, or was it paid in different tranches?

Which bank handled the payment? Or was it paid in cash?

“Is it possible at all for any State Government to make such payment in the absence of a design and even a contract document?

“So Abia State, under our watch, that was struggling with poor finances, will pay 10 Billion Naira to someone, just like that?

“The Commissioner for Finance and Accountant General of the State then who should be in the know of such transaction are still alive.

“If Governor Alex Otti fails to provide answers to the questions above, we will leave the public to draw their conclusions about the character of the man who occupies the office of Governor of Abia State.

“The above response on the so called airport project is hereby adopted as our response to the other fables Otti told his audience in America, with some amplifications there.

“He claimed that “79.3 Billion was paid to 7 Contractors for contracts that were not executed at all up till today”. Those were his exact words.

“There is no need for any long grammar on this. The Governor should immediately release the names of the 7 Contractors and evidence of monies paid to them together with the contract papers.

“We demand to know the dates the monies were paid and the banks that handled the payments. Otti is a banker. He still runs Signature Bank. These information shouldn’t be difficult to get. No one should take 79.3 Billion of Abia money and walk away just like that!

“If Governor Otti is serious about confirming the projects done and which contractors did what, he knows where and how to go about them.

“At this point, it is important to note that the total budget for Abia State under the watch of Ikpeazu never got to 170 Billion Naira for any year throughout the 8 years he held sway as Governor. This included both recurrent and capital expenditures. Indeed, capital expenditures in any particular year hovered between 70 and 80 Billion Naira.

“Having said that, the public should note the assertions made by the Governor on this point are false and malicious. Just like the airport issue, we challenge him to make public the audit report.

“The next tale was that almost 16 Billion Naira was paid to 63 contractors with no supporting documents anywhere.

63 contractors? With no supporting documents anywhere?

“Since there are no supporting documents anywhere, how did Otti know that they are contractors? Contractors are defined in contract documents which also define in clear details what job they will do.

“Governor Otti should immediately provide the names of the 63 contractors for the public to know.

“Under the Ikpeazu administration, no money was paid to any contractor without supporting documents. That is not even possible and no proper Accountant will effect such nebulous payment. No Accounting department will allow such malfeasance.

“Since there were no supporting documents, on what basis were the payments made? Yet the people who allegedly authorized the payments are still walking free?

“He went on…”Another 12 Billion Naira was paid to 2 contractors for contracts that do not exist”. These contractors, don’t they have names? It was here that he said that out of the 12 Billion, 10 Billion was paid to a contractor for the airport. Our response to the airport nonsense is already stated.

“While we await the release of the audit report with the names of the contractors who were paid, we wish to remind the public that this is not the first time Governor Otti will lie in public about issues of the State finances.

“Upon taking over in May last year, he told the world that his predecessor incurred a debt of about 190 Billion. He “wondered” where the money went to.

What he didn’t tell the public is that the amount he mentioned represented the aggregate total of all the debts incurred by the State since creation, including loans that were carried over from the old Imo State.

“He also didn’t tell the public that since the foreign loans component are dollar-denominated, their current value is affected by forex differentials.

“For example, if there was a loan of 50 Million Dollars taken 20 years ago when the dollar exchanged at say, 100 Naira, the current value of that loan will be calculated at the current exchange value of the dollar. So if you calculate the current debt of the State, it would have gone far far beyond what Otti inherited, solely on accounting of foreign exchange differentials.

“Secondly, Otti came on National TV to deny with a straight face that the Ikpeazu administration didn’t pay any money to for the acquisition of equity in the Geometric Power Project.

“Professor Barth Nnaji had also made that statement that Ikpeazu didn’t pay. But when we produced documents evidencing the acknowledgment of receipt of the sum of 1.4 Billion Naira by Geometric, Professor Nnaji quickly beat a retreat and came clean.


“Governor Otti till date has refused to acknowledge that any money was paid. If not for the sustained media pressure from us, Abians and the general public would have stuck with the false impression that no money was paid to Geometric Power by the Ikpeazu administration.


“Today, the government and people of Abia State proudly own 3.5% shares in a company that is valued at 800 Million Dollars!


“Another area where Otti has been economical with the truth is in the area of payment of pensions.

Few weeks ago, the Governor went to town with the news that he has cleared all pensions arrears in the State. But that was another lie.


“What he did was to pay the arrears of the 60% he owed the pensioners since his tenure started. Upon assumption of office, Otti started paying pensioners 40% of their pensions.


“This continued for 9 months when he now paid off the aggregate of the 60% plus a random selection of some arrears. He now informed the pensioners that what he paid them was full and final.


“His Commissioner for Finance, Mike Akpara confirmed this on a Radio show in Umuahia. They forced the leadership of the Union of Pensioners to forgo their other arrears.


“Yes, pensioners were owed during our time, but they were paid some of their dues too. Otti is less than one year in office and this is not the first time pensioners are getting bulk payments in Abia State. Ikpeazu also made such bulk payments in his first tenure, during the Paris Club refunds and bail-out funds era, but never forced anyone to forgo their arrears.


“Otti’s administration is much more buoyant. More money is available to them. Petroleum subsidies were removed by the federal government during his time as Governor making states to get much more.


“He is paying far less in salaries on account of the sack of thousands of workers, the 8 year limit for Directors and the endless verification of workers which has proven to be a technique to yank workers off the payroll.


“As of today, hundreds of workers in Ministries who had completed the so-called verification have not been paid for several months. These are workers whose salaries used to be sacrosanct.


“When Otti sent an Executive Bill to repeal the Law that prescribed pensions for former Governors of the State, the Majority Leader of the State Assembly whose duty it is to introduce such Bills to the Assembly stated on the floor of the Assembly that the State has been “spending Billions of Naira every year to pay these former Governors”.


“Meanwhile, none of the former Governors in the State from Orji Uzor Kalu under whose tenure the Bill was passed to Ikpeazu was paid a penny. Yet the impression created was that these former Governors have been receiving Billions. Otti is in love with mentioning Billions, real or imagined. A real Banker!


“Otti’s aversion for his predecessor is well known and has been elevated to a tool of State policy implementation.. Anything that has to do with Ikpeazu that is positive must either be suppressed or poisoned. The negatives must be blown out of proportion. Ikpeazu must be rubbished at all costs.


“Ikpeazu built a brand new Multi Specialist Hospital at the premises of the Aba General Hospital and got it fully equipped with modern hospital equipment.. There is no state owned hospital that can match it in terms of equipment. It was duly commissioned for use by the people.


“Otti came in and locked up the place for no reason at all. He simply doesn’t want any form of positive mention for Ikpeazu. He prefers to deny our people the use of such a solid health facility just to water his aversion for Ikpeazu.


“The only reason why the Osisioma Flyover, Ikpeazu’s signature project is standing today is because it will be difficult to pull it down. Instead, what they have done is to allow the environment to decay and rotten. The areas around the flyover have become a signpost for chaos and confusion. A motor park of sorts.


“Otti has simply not forgiven Ikpeazu for defeating him in the 2015 and 2019 elections. We understand that but these are facts of history and no attempt at historical revisionism can change that.


“Never in the history of Nigerian politics has a sitting Governor displayed such naked show of aggression towards his successor. For Otti, Abia was created in 2015 and every Kobo Abia has earned since creation was stolen under Ikpeazu.


“Otti should remember that he is a potential former Governor and when he leaves office, his portrait will always be placed after that of Ikpeazu. Again, he doesn’t know who will succeed him. History has a funny way of repeating itself.

“We await the audit report.”

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