June 24, 2024

#Abia’s N10Bn #Airport Fund: Unmasking the Truth Behind #Ikpeazu’s Expenditure

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#Abia’s N10Bn #Airport Fund: Unmasking the Truth Behind #Ikpeazu’s Expenditure

…Tells Otti to stop diverting attention from Abia Q report’s show of his reckless spending

#Abia’s N10Bn #Airport Fund: Unmasking the Truth Behind #Ikpeazu’s Expenditure

In the wake of a contentious forensic audit, the former Governor of Abia State, Dr. Okezie Ikpeazu, has come forward to clarify the expenditure of the N10 billion fund initially allocated for an airport project. Amidst accusations of financial mismanagement by his successor, Dr. Alex Otti, Ikpeazu has vehemently denied any wrongdoing, asserting that not a single dime was misappropriated.

The crux of the dispute centers around Otti’s claims that Ikpeazu’s administration was financially reckless, an allegation that Ikpeazu rebuffs by highlighting Otti’s own questionable expenditures. According to Ikpeazu, Otti’s current administration has spent N3 billion on research and projects that are yet to materialize, raising questions about his motives and the veracity of his accusations.

Ikpeazu’s defense is bolstered by Chief John Okiyi Kalu, a former Commissioner for Information, who sheds light on the decision-making process behind the reallocation of the airport fund. He recounts how, upon the counsel of state traditional rulers, the Executive Council redirected the funds towards more pressing infrastructure needs, deeming the airport project nonviable due to the proximity of existing airports in Owerri and Uyo.

The narrative takes a turn as Okiyi-Kalu accuses Otti of engaging in a media spectacle, alleging that instead of releasing the actual audit report, Otti’s team opted to disseminate a damning narrative through a blogger. This move, according to Okiyi-Kalu, was designed to cast aspersions on Ikpeazu’s tenure rather than provide transparency to the citizens of Abia.

Further complicating the matter is the involvement of Ferrotex Construction Company, which, despite being at the center of the controversy, continues to secure major contracts under Otti’s governance. Okiyi-Kalu points out the irony in Otti’s actions, given his previous criticisms of the company’s dealings with Ikpeazu’s government.

The article concludes with a call for accountability and transparency, urging Prof Kenneth Kalu, the current Secretary to State Government and an appointee of Otti, to review and confirm the claims made by both parties. As the state navigates the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic and its economic challenges, the citizens of Abia await a resolution that will bring clarity and restore trust in their leaders.

This retelling of the events provides a comprehensive look at the political and financial intricacies at play, offering readers an in-depth understanding of the situation. The headline captures the essence of the story, promising an investigative journey into the heart of Abia’s governance.

“Shortly after we announced Exco’s approval of the airport project, Governor Okezie Ikpeazu received in audience executives of Abia State Traditional Rulers Council then led by HRM Eze Joseph Nwabekee.

“On the 13th of November 2020, Governor Okezie Ikpeazu informed members of the State Executive Council about the details of his meeting with representatives of the traditional rulers in Abia State, who requested that we suspend the airport project and commit the funds earmarked for it to do more roads in the state, as we are surrounded by airports already but need to urgently improve internal roads that would give a further boost to the socio-economic activities of the state. Exco thereafter voted to approve the suspension and request to use the earmarked funds for road projects in the state.”

He further said that on November 17, 2020, Governor Ikpeazu took to his official X (formerly Twitter) handle to inform Abia Citizens that the airport project had been suspended.
Okiyi-Kalu said that Ikpeazu must have informed the then Commissioner for Works, Elder Bob Ogu, of his intention to suspend the Airport project in anticipation of Exco approval, hence the State Ministry of Works selected road projects in Abia 2020 budget for funding with the N10 billion and allocated resources to the contractors.

Okiyi-Kalu gave a detailed account of the roads and contractors that received the N10billion initially marked out for construction of an airport and listed about 18 projects that were done, in place of the airport.

According to his list: “China Zonghghao for Osisioma flyover Aba & ABSUTH Road Aba got N800,000,000. Trackcare Construction Company for Aba-Owerri road Aba (Brass to Osisioma junction segment, Ururuka road Aba, Afor Ibeji/ Ubakala Umuahia, Stella Marris Catholic Church, etc got N1,035,000,000.

“Ferrotex Construction Company for Aba-Owerri road (Railway junction-Brass junction segment) Aba, Obohia Road Aba, Opobo Junction-Ukpakiri Ogbor-Hill Aba, Uratta Ugwuati, Itungwa, Rehabilitation of failed Ururuka got N1,500,000,000.

“⁠Shannah Jardon Construction Company for Okigwe Road Aba, Milverton Road Aba, Cemetery-Eziukwu Road Aba got N450,000,000. Ecklean: Osusu road Aba-N 200 000,000, Cosmos Construction Company for Immaculate Avenue Umungasi Aba got N150,000,000 while Setraco/Hartland for Port Harcourt road got N1,000,000,000.”

Further details go thus, “⁠Rockwaters for Ohanku Road Aba, Okpu Umuobo Aba got N650,000,000, MOW for Ebenma Street Aba and Ovom street Aba got N1, 130,000,000. Zubbalco for MBUBO Umuakwu got N200,000,000.”

Other details show that Tunnel End Construction Company got N780,000,000 for the construction of Umuene-Obikabia, Umuojima-umuokiri- Ekeakpara, umuakatawom-Eziama-Ohanze while Paceo Carretera company got -N312,000,000 for the construction of Agalaba Ring road in Obingwa.

From the same details, it shows that ⁠Delhope Construction Company got N557,000,000 for the construction of Umuobiakwa-Owo road Obingwa, Federal Medical Centre internal road, Aba Road Umuahia (GG-shoprite).

It was also gathered that MOW construction got N325,000,000 for the construction of
Umuobiakwa internal roads, umuobiakwa (Gov) roads, Mbawsi internal roads and desilting of Aba big gutter while ⁠⁠BOK construction got -N100,000,000 for the construction of Agbama Ring road Umuahia.

“Crystalkleen Construction for York/Jubilee/Nicholas street Aba got N30,000,000, Pumeco Construction for Aba road (Uchenna/ShopRite) Umuahia, Zero portholes in Umuahia roads got N353, 000,000, while Yodel construction for Afrata road, Umuahia got N100,000,000.

“⁠E&P for Trinity College Road Umuahia got N60,000,000 and Obitex Development Company Ltd for construction of Ohuhu road from Isiokata, diversion from the gully erosion at isiokata to Umuawa Ohuhu to Nkwoegwu got N125,000,000.”

More details provided show that Smutedge Company got N200,000,000 for the rehabilitation of failed portions of Umuikaa-umuenne, Pacon Company got N12,000,000.00 for completion of drains at
Ozuomba/Ohazu road.

“MOW company for Zero pot holes(Aba) got N 100,000,000, Charbel Company for Government house got 400,000,00 and the State Ministry of Public Utilities got N100,000,000 for Streetlights.”
He, however, explained that the list containing the tranche payments was not exhaustive as those were the only ones in his personal Exco note that he kept during meetings.
He said that it is also true that other tranche payments were made from other sources, stressing that the Ministry of Works led by Elder Bob Ogu and the Ministry of Finance led by Dr Aham Uko back then, should be able to supply a more comprehensive list to what he was saying.
Okiyi-Kalu further revealed that Ferotex Construction Company, as one of the reputable indigenous construction companies with anti-graft agencies’ clearance was selected by the Ikpeazu administration as lead company in the “contractor financier” arrangements with UBA.
He said that the above-mentioned arrangement, the “contractor financier” arrangement was not alien within the public sector, alleging that a similar arrangement was entered into by the Otti’s government with Craneburg Construction Company for N50bn facility earmarked for “various roads”.
He explained that such lead companies are more or less consultants that would receive the bulk amount and pay other road contractors as banks would not likely agree to enter into multiple agreements with all the contractors.

He said that Otti’s claim that he got the top three audit firms in the world to do the forensic audit was untrue, as his top three audit firms have failed to follow the money as expected of any audit firm, even the least ones, adding that a serious audit investigation would simply seek to establish if the allocated funds got to the companies and also if the contractors did the work.
According to Kalu, “Those who claim that there was need for “virement” may be speaking out of ignorance in this case. The road projects were already in our approved 2020 budget, hence no need for further house approval.
“All state revenues are expected to be used to fund state budget and from the time we had approval to spend on the roads instead of Airport there is, no further need for legislative approval.”
“For the further education of those who verbalize terms they do not understand, “virement” is the process of transferring items from one financial account to another. In this case, the airport project and the road projects must both be in the 2020 budget before you can execute virement.

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