Gentlemen of the press, good afternoon and welcome to this important Press Conference convened by my humble self, Alex Otti.
Permit me to start by informing you that I convened this press conference, in my capacity as Alex Otti, and as the leader of the main opposition political party, the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) Abia State.
Recall that when the ugly developments which bothered on nationally acclaimed misgovernance in Abia assumed a frightening dimension and became an intolerable embarrassment to some of us, I took an audacious decision of quitting my plumb job in the bank, a decision which many informed Nigerians, including many of you gentlemen of the press considered unNigerian through your analysis then. I took that decision because I knew that the pathetic Abia situation required uncommon altruism if the anti-people statusquo must be challenged and defeated.
Though the Abia cabal dwelled on unimaginable brigandage and barbarism to deny Abians their choice and remain in power at the expense of the people, you were witnesses to the people inspired giant strides we made which ended their reign of absolutism and proved to Abians that their oppressors are not invisible after all.
Regrettably, the continuous existence of the same people, the same system of government and governance, and the tragedy it has continued to bring upon the people precipitated this press conference.
On assumption of office, the present Abia State government led by Dr. Okezie Ikpeazu began dishing out figures of funds it required to clear arrears of salaries owed Abia workers. After initially claiming that it required six billion Naira(N6B) to clear the salary arrears owed Abia workers, the governor later approached the Abia State House of Assembly seeking approval for a loan of Thirty Billion naira (N30B) from a local bank. My party APGA did challenge 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 APGA minority leader for months.
Alarmed by the suspicious claims and moves of the government regarding state financial matters I sought clarification from the government through my Media Aides and my party on the specific amount required to clear arrears of salaries owed Abia workers, unfortunately the government remained dodgy until it received N14.150 billion Naira Bailout fund from the Federal Government. Shortly after receiving the 14.150 Billion naira bailout fund, the governor, through his then SSA on public communications, Sam Hart 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.
Gentlemen of the press, what this specific promise by Dr. Ikpeazu meant was that the government had its record intact and accurate, and knew that the bailout fund would be enough to offset the salary arrears. Unfortunately, that promise turned out a dangerous political gimmick that got Abians bamboozled, and workers seriously hurt.
While the groaning of Abia workers and Abians as a whole continued unabated as a result of mounting debts owed workers and general absence of good governance in the state, the state government again received the first tranche of the Paris Club refund totaling N5.3 Billion. Once again, the government went on air this time around through the Commissioner for finance, Obinna Oriaku claiming that it needed extra N700 million to augment the N5.3 billion to be able to clear all arrears owed Abia workers. Unfortunately again, this turned out another humiliating trick, leaving unpaid arrears of workers pilling up unchecked.
Just about a month ago, the Ikpeazu government once again occupied the Abia radio airwaves with endless jingles of how the government was going to clear the same salary arrears immediately the second tranche of the Paris Club refund arrived. Sadly, immediately the N5.7 billion arrived, the government came up with another atrocious story this time around, which was that it got less than what it expected.
Gentlemen of the press, this primitive and callous administrative ineptitude has left many Abia workers being owed up to 8 months salary arrears, making their lives and those of their wards miserable.
Mind you, the above mentioned funds and other funds secured by the Ikpeazu/PDP led government has nothing to do with the tens of billions of naira gotten by the government as statutory monthly allocations and internally generated revenues.
While many Abians are still mourning and yet to recover from the numerous deceits of the present Abia State government, we got the sad news of the approval of the sum of 200 million United States Dollars loan for Abia 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 7 year moratorium. As observed by the House of Representatives, while the President had by a memo dated May 25, 2017, recommended $100million for approval, the Ministry Of Finance by its memo dated July 18, 2017 sent In a request for $200million which was approved. This contradiction, coupled with the lack of clarity on the repayment source of the loan were enough reason not to approve this huge loan request, but unfortunately, the National Assembly went ahead to approve the loan.
Gentlemen of the press, from the aforementioned developments, the facts of which can be verified, there is absolutely no doubt that the Ikpeazu/PDP led government does not mean well for Abia State and its people as the consistency of negativity of the government, especially in the management of the peoples’ commonwealth has assumed a provocative and insulting dimension, hence the need for all men of good conscience to collectively raise their voices in saving state by calling Dr. Okezie Ikpeazu and his collaborators to order so that they don’t plunge Abia and Abians into long term financial and economic chaos.
Bearing in mind the huge burden of expectation placed on my shoulders by millions of less privileged Abians whose voices cannot be heard beyond their abodes, I am compelled to on behalf of my self, the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA), the suffering Abia masses and indeed, the entire good people of Abia state to make the following demands:
1. That the National Assembly should review its decision taken a few weeks ago and quickly withdraw or reverse its approval of the 200 Million Dollar loan, as any money given to the Abia State government by the issuing body is bound to disappear going by its crazy record of financial recklessness. Besides, the capacity to repay this humongous loan has not been demonstrated in any way or form, irrespective of the outdated document titled “Abia State Integrated Infrastructure Development Project” dated October 2015.
2. That the state government should tell Abians where the billions given to it so far for the development of the state have gone to.
3. That the Abia state house of Assembly should without further delay set up an investigative panel to investigate the financial activities of the Okezie Ikpeazu led government and ensure that anyone found culpable in the obvious financial crimes halting the development of the state is made to pay the prize, so as to prevent the state from being plunged into long term financial and economic chaos.
4. That the federal government should henceforth prevent Abia state government from assessing any form of loan from within or outside the country until it accounts for the ones already gotten.
5. That the EFCC, ICPC and other anti corruption agencies should beam its searchlight on Abia and commence urgent investigation of the activities of the past and present governments so as to unravel the mystery behind the disappearance of billions of naira accrued to the state as allocations, internally generated revenues, loans etc, and for which the state has remained in a state of ruins and underdevelopment.
6. Finally, that the state government should immediately pay up all salary areas for which it had received bailout funds and two tranches of Paris Club funds.
May we also advise the Federal Government to pay attention to how funds are used by the states more so, when they are bailouts and other loans that future generations would be made to repay.
Dr. Alex Otti, OFR.