By Chukwudi Nweje
Abia Government has described the accusations by the former governorship candidate of the All Progressive Grand Alliance, in the state, Alex Otti, that Governor Okezie Ikpeazu mismanaged N22 billion Paris Club refund as ignorance on an industrial scale
Commissioner for Information, John Okiyi Kalu, in a statement yesterday, said Otti’s allegations are baseless and unverified.
He said Obinna Oriaku, a chieftain of the All Progressives Congress (APC), and former commissioner of Finance in the state, whom Otti quoted in his accusations had previously in print and broadcast given the Okezie-Ikpeazu-led administration a clean bill in the management of the Paris Club refund.
He said: “For the avoidance of doubt, it is important to note that in both the written and broadcast interviews of Oriaku, he clearly affirmed that Ikpeazu managed the N22 billion Paris Club refund judiciously and received well-deserved accolades from the Nigerian Governors’ Forum and the Independent Corrupt Practices Commission, which reviewed the application of the funds.
“Oriaku also stated that while the greater chunk of the funds was applied to the 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 Ikpeazu.”
The commissioner described Otti’s accusation as an attempt to misleads the public into believing that the Ikpeazu administration was involved in the mismanagement of the refunds.
He said Oriaku had earlier admitted that Ikpeazu issued a stern warning to state officials that anyone that tampered with the funds will be dealt with.
“Anyone still in doubt as regards facts of the matter, we wish to restate that upon receipt of the refunds, Ikpeazu inaugurated a committee made up of leaders of organised labour 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 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.”
He said the administration of Ikpeazu maintains its policy of insisting that every government official in Abia State invited by Economic and Financial Crimes Commission and any other anti-graft agencies must go and defend their record of service as we have zero tolerance for corruption.
“We believe those agencies have the requisite resources to investigate graft while we focus on substantive governance that has been delivering dividends of democracy to our people. We will not allow politicians with the unenviable record of perennial failure and destruction of every institution they have headed and or managed to distract us with their Ill-advised political voyages,” the Abia State government said.