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Ikpeazu reacts as Otti’s govt begins probe of Abia’s N10 billion airport project

Former Abia State governor, Okezie Ikpeazu, has reacted the planned probe of the N10 billion airport project initiated by his administration.

In a reaction to the report on the airport project, Ikpeazu stated that the project was initiated by the Theodore Orji-led administration but he dropped it despite budgeting N10 billion after the traditional institution in the state kicked against it.

The former governor further stated that the money was reallocated to other projects in the state.

Politics Nigeria reports that Governor Alex Otti recently initiated a forensic audit of the government’s account to recover stolen funds.

Otti had asked for a probe into the spending of the past administration, especially the airport project for which the immediate past governor, Okezie Ikpeazu, was said to have allocated N10bn.

Speaking during an interactive session with constituents of Isiala Ngwa South state constituency, in Nvosi, Isiala Ngwa South Local Government Area of the state, on Sunday, Governor Otti said upon assumption of office, he established an audit with the primary objective of recovering the government’s funds and not to send anyone to jail.

The governor said that the report of the audit revealed that a lot of money was looted and stolen brazenly for non-existing projects, which include the Abia Airport project.

“I am looking for the airport for which funds were moved from the coffers of the government. The people concerned with the act of moving the airport project funds in question went to the media and began to say all manner of things,” Otti said.

“If you are following the happenings in the media space, you will see these things there.

“The problem with lying is that when you tell one lie, you will need another one to cover the first lie and need three more lies to cover the second one.

“We are looking for our money and we must find our money. If we don’t find the airport, then they will refund our money,” he added.

But the Commissioner for Information during Ikpeazu’s administration, Chief John Okiyi-Kalu, carpeted Otti for allegedly misinforming the people of the state.

Okiyi-Kalu, in a statement on Monday, said that the alleged N10bn originally budgeted for the airport project was rechanneled into other projects.

He said, “You may wish to recall that during the period, the country was still struggling to emerge from the COVID-19 pandemic with very low FAAC and IGR inflows across the states.

“Shortly after we announced exco’s approval of the airport project, Governor Ikpeazu received in audience, executive members of Abia State Traditional Rulers Council then led by 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.

“The exco thereafter voted to approve the suspension and request to use the earmarked funds for road projects in the state,” he said.

He further said that on November 17, 2020, Ikpeazu took to his official X (formerly Twitter) handle to inform Abia citizens that the airport project had been suspended.

Okiyi-Kalu said 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 N10bn and allocated resources to the contractors.

Okiyi-Kalu said the current Secretary to the State Government, Kenneth Kalu, could review and confirm his claim from the records in his custody.

The former commissioner said, “Accounting for the N10bn, no dime was diverted. Otti is diverting attention from his quarterly report, which captured him spending N3bn on research and nonexistent projects.

“Why is it that he is using the same Ferrotex contractor, who he accused of receiving N10bn from us for major contracts today? What stopped him or his auditors from asking Ferrotex for explanations? We have decided to respond to him with evidence of jobs done. The time of truth has come.”

Okiyi-Kalu, who later served as a commissioner for trade and investment, said it was shocking that after a demand was made for the publication of the much-talked-about audit, Otti and his media handlers rushed to a blogger to help them publish an indicting report against his former principal, instead of the forensic audit report.

Okiyi-Kalu said since Otti became the governor, Ferotex Construction Company had been awarded the Umuimo Road, Shalom Road and Umuode Road, all in Aba.

“Currently, Ferotex Construction Company is equally handling 22.5 kilometres Isuikwuato-Abariba section of the 67.6 kilometres Umuahia-Uzuakoli-Abiriba-Ohafia Road, which is Otti’s biggest road project in Abia State,” he added.

Okiyi-Kalu gave a detailed account of the roads and contractors that received the N10bn 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 showed, “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.

“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.

“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), while 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. ⁠⁠BOK construction got N100,000,000 for the construction of Agbama Ring road Umuahia, among others.”

He noted that the list containing the tranche payments was not exhaustive, as those were the only ones in his 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 and the Ministry of Finance should be able to supply a more comprehensive list of what he had released.

Chiding Otti for his claims that he got the top three audit firms to do the forensic audit, he said the claim was untrue, adding that the three audit firms had failed to follow the money as expected of any audit firm.

“All state revenues are expected to be used to fund the state budget and from the time we had the approval to spend on the roads instead of the airport there is, no further need for legislative approval,” he said.

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