By Chinelo Obogo
Abia State government has refuted claims from a former Managing Director of Diamond Bank, Mr. Alex Otti, of mismanaging the N22 billion Paris Club Refund that was paid to the state.
The state’s Commissioner for Information, John Kalu, said in a statement, that Governor Okezie Ikpeazu used the funds judiciously and received accolades from the Nigerian Governors Forum and the Independent Corrupt Practices Commission (ICPC) which reviewed the application of the funds.
Kalu said the state received three tranches of Paris Club Refund of N10.6bn N5.7bn and N5.7bn and explained that the funds except N1.7bn were used exclusively for payments of arrears owed Abia State workers partly before the Okezie administration.
“Our attention has been drawn to a press release by the two time defeated APGA governorship candidate in Abia State, Mr. Alex Otti, who has since abandoned the party that made him to join APC, on the management of Paris Club Refund to the state wherein he tried very hard but vainly to drag the Governor Okezie Ikpeazu-led administration into what he clearly knows nothing about.
“In the first instance, Mr Otti who copiously cited the yet to be verified allegations of his former colleague at First Bank and fellow APC Chieftain, Mr Obinna Oriaku, who served as commissioner for finance in the state, against a previous administration in the state failed the test of altruism by deliberately refusing to mention that same individual exonerated Governor Ikpeazu and his administration from any wrongdoing in the management of the Refunds.
“In both the written and broadcast interviews of Mr. Oriaku, he clearly affirmed that Governor Ikpeazu managed the N22bn Paris Club Refund judiciously and received well deserved accolades from the Nigerian Governors Forum and the ICPC which reviewed the application of the funds. Oriaku also stated that while the greater chunk of the funds were applied to settlement of some arrears of pensions and salaries, it was still not enough to settle all the arrears, some of which date back to the military era and other administrations before the emergence of Governor Ikpeazu.
“The not so subtle attempt by Otti to present his intervention in a manner that misleads the reading public into believing that the Ikpeazu administration was involved in mismanagement of the refunds is typical of him as once acknowledged even by the Presidency that was at a time also forced to respond to him on his misrepresentation of facts involving the Debt Management Office.
“We wish to restate that upon receipt of the refunds, Governor Ikpeazu inaugurated a committee made up of leaders of organized Labour and Joint Negotiating Council in the state to determine how to appropriately apply the funds to settle arrears of salaries and pension as well as fund key infrastructure projects. The State House of Assembly duly appropriated the funds in line with the recommendations of the committee and disbursements were done under the watch of Otti’s former colleague in first bank and now APC Chieftain, Obinna Oriaku.
“As already available in the public domain, we received three tranches of Paris Club Refund of N10.6bn N5.7bn and N5.7bn. All these funds except N1.7bn were used exclusively for payments of arrears owed Abia State workers partly before the Okezie administration. If anything, the government has showed confidence in anti-corruption agencies of the federal government and maintained transparency in management of public resources,” Kalu said.