Governor Alex Otti of Abia State has conveyed to his predecessor, Dr Okezie Ikpeazu, that joining the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC), as he is reportedly planning to do, will not shield him from scrutiny by anti-corruption agencies regarding the substantial debt his administration accumulated for the state.
In Umuahia on Thursday, Otti emphasized that the Ikpeazu administration left him with a debt of over N191,239,307,593.67.
Governor Otti, speaking through his Special Adviser on Finance, Mr Mike Akpara, refuted assertions made by Ikpeazu’s aides that the former governor had left N24 billion and an additional $250 million for the current administration.
Akpara, reading from a prepared speech titled “Abia Financial Status: Separating Ikpeazu’s Fictions,” declared that there was no truth to the ex-governor’s “fabricated claims.”
He said:”The Alex Otti led-government woke up to the shocking news of the several billions of naira allegedly left behind for the Alex Otti led-government by the former government of Dr. Okezie Ikpeazu.
“We waited to see if Ikpeazu or his spokespersons would refute the false and offensive claims, but to no avail, rather we saw astronomical increase in the number of his allies and former aides circulating the fake news with the intention to misrepresent facts and deceive the public, especially workers and pensioners whom he treated with utter disdain and disregard.
“For the record, the public should note thus: The Okezie Ikpeazu-led government did not leave any N24 billion in the account of Abia state government as they falsely claimed.
“The $200 million and $50 million dollars they claimed they left for the new administration are loans they were pursuing which is yet to crystalize.
“Outside the humongous financial liabilities left behind by the Ikpeazu-led government, they also left physical liabilities in all our key institutions. For example; our University Teaching Hospital lost accreditation for the first time in history.
“Our only state Polytechnic also lost accreditation. The regulatory authorities predicated their action against these institutions on non-payment of salaries, lack of equipment and lack of infrastructure.
“Poor internal generation of revenue, with the little they generated frittered away in payment to consultants for no added value. They pay as much as 20% which is highly unethical.
“Doctors who have been on strike since February 2023 just called off their strike, and they emphatically stated that they based their decision on their conviction that Governor Otti would solve the problem that necessitated the strike action.
“The elementary question is: if Ikpeazu had the billions he claimed to have left behind for the Otti led-government in April and May, why did he not pay workers and pensioners before leaving office, since Governor Otti just took over from him on the 29th of May 2023?
“If Ikpeazu is trying to preempt anti-corruption agencies by making such provocative false claims, he should know that they work with facts and figures, therefore, even if he runs into the APC to seek refuge as he is planning to do, these anti corruption agencies would pursue and bring him to justice from there.”
Otti further alleged that the Ikpeazu administration engaged in the embezzlement of state funds, including “picking” N2.8 billion from the Sure-P funds that were deposited into the state’s account just three days before Ikpeazu left office.
According to Otti, if it weren’t for the diligent efforts of some of his aides, an additional N3 billion in Joint Allocation revenue that was accrued to the state on the eve of Ikpeazu’s departure would have also been collected by the former governor and his associates.
He stated that anti-corruption agencies were already pursuing them, and some of his bankers had already provided statements to the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).
Governor Otti reiterated his commitment to paying workers before the 28th of each month, and he assured that arrangements were being made to clear all outstanding pension arrears by December 31, 2023.
During the briefing, Akpara was accompanied by Ferdinand Ekeoma, the Special Adviser to the Governor on Media and Publicity, Mrs Njum Onyemenam, the Accountant General of the State, and Kazie Uko, the Chief Press Secretary to the Governor.