….Says Abia still owes 8-month salary arrears
By Chinelo Obogo
The leader of the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) in Abia State and governorship candidate in the 2015 election, Dr. Alex Otti, has called on the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) to investigate the financial activities of Abia State government.
Speaking during a press conference in Lagos yesterday, he urged the anti-graft agencies to demand the state government to account for how it has used the bailout funds, Paris Club funds, statutory allocations and loans it has received from the Federal Government.
Otti, a former managing director of Diamond Bank, said despite receiving N14.150 billion as bailout funds, N5.7 billion Paris Club funds, monthly federal allocations, Internally Generated Revenue and loans sourced from local banks, the state has not paid workers and pensioners this year.
He also called on the National Assembly to revoke the loan of $200 billion it recently approved for the state until the state government is able to account for the billions it has received so far.
“On assumption of the present Abia State government led by Dr. Okezie Ikpeazu, he began dishing our figures of funds required to clear arrears of salaries owed Abia workers. After initially claiming it required six billion Naira to clear workers’ arrears, the governor later approached Abia State House of Assembly seeking approval for a loan of N30 billion from a local bank. My party, APGA, challenged that request after the state government contradicted the then speaker who had informed his house members that the said loan was for infrastructural development, only for the state government to turn back and claim that it was meant to clear different debts owed by the state. The objection raised by my party led to an unjust suspension slammed on the then APGA minority leader for months.
“Unfortunately, the government remained dodgy until it received N14.150 billion bailout funds 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.
“The state government again received the tranche of the Paris Club refund, totalling N5.3 billion, but, it went again to say it needed N700 million to augment the N5.3 billion to be able to clear all arrears of salaries owed workers. Unfortunately again, this turned out another humiliating trick, leaving unpaid arrears of workers piling up unchecked. Sadly, immediately the N5.3 billion arrived, the government came up with another atrocious story which was that it got less than what it expected.
“We also recently got the sad news of the approval of 200 million US dollars loan for the state by the National Assembly. This loan which is supposed to come from the African Development bank has a tenure of about 20 years with a seven-year moratorium.”
…I’m ready, gov replies
IN his reaction, Governor Ikpeazu, denied any wrong doing, saying his administration has nothing to hide.
In a statement by his Chief Press Secretary, Enyinnaya Appolos, the governor said he is available for any probe of his administration by any constituted authority of the state or Federal Government.
He urged Mr. Otti to visit any relevant institution and offer information on any aspect of the management of the resources of the state.
The statement read: “At no point did the Governor Ikpeazu’s administration publicly claim that it needs only N6 billion to clear salary, pensions and gratified outstanding in the state. Rather it is a matter of public record which can be verified from the CBN and Debt Management Office (DMO) of the presidency that the documents submitted by Abia State government in lieu of the request for bailout indicated a requirement of N38b to clear all the outstanding as at October 2015, only N14.2b was approved for the state.
“With regards to the approval from the Abia State House of Assembly to borrow N30b, Ikpeazu’s 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. It is common knowledge that Nigeria is in recession and the primary effect of the current economic situation in the country is that revenue inflow to the state from federal revenue receipts have fallen much below wage bill level for many states, including Abia State, for most of the past 22 months.
“At a particular period the state wage bill hovered around N2.7b with FAAC receipts at between N1.6b and N2b monthly.“When the state received the first tranche of Paris Funds of N10.6bn, the governor approached the State House of Assembly to approve the investment of 50 percent of the funds on outstanding salaries, as suggested by the presidency, with the remaining 50 percent allocated to infrastructure development projects.
“It was on that basis that the state house of assembly approved N5.3 billion on salary arrears and pensions, N1.7 billion for road construction projects, N2.5 billion on bridges, N685 million on Hospital projects and N200 million for street lighting projects.
“When the state applied for the second tranche of Paris loan refunds, it was calculated that based on verifiable figures the state will receive a minimum of N15billion”