My attention has been drawn to two press statements from the Governor of Abia State, Okezie Ikpeazu in a bid to respond to my press conference of August 16, 2017 whereby I raised issues about the management of funds accruing to the state since 2015 and also objected to the recent approval of a loan of $200m for the State Government by the National Assembly.
The two statements from the Governor contained very uncouth and foul language and was full of abuses and insults on my person for daring to ask questions about the finances of my state.
I will not want to join issues with him because I do not believe that two wrongs make a right. Like he stated in the releases, let me agree that I am ignorant, dumb, a misinformer and do not understand financial numbers and international finance. I will also agree that I am ignorant and clueless as he claimed in his releases, if that will make him happy and enable him answer the posers I raised and pay workers in Abia State.
While I have chosen not to reply to the abuses because I would not want to join the Governor in the mud, I must help him in correcting a statement made in one of the releases aimed at tarnishing my image which, however, displayed lack of understanding of how quoted companies, particularly banks, work. The reason I do this is that I do not want this kind of mistake repeated elsewhere which is capable of bringing my state and the governor into avoidable ridicule.
Part of the statement read “it is also hoped that Mr. Otti will publicly encourage the auditors of Diamond Bank Plc to publish detailed audit reports of the bank covering the period that he served as MD and the year after. The public needs to know the sources of the operational loses that were masked through asset revaluation and other smart accounting tricks”.
Mr. Governor, Banks don’t work like governments where the governor decides what to publish and what not to. Banks are regulated by the Central Bank of Nigeria, (CBN), National Deposit Insurance Corporation (NDIC), Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) and boards of Directors. Publication of audit reports and financial statements is mandatory at least annually. Banks have external auditors and Board audit committees and the books must also be examined by CBN and NDIC examiners. So it is not for me to encourage publication, it is compulsory and must be done periodically. I am aware that some of the people that passed through my training in different banks are part of your team. I will advise you to consult them in future when you are not sure or have issues like this requiring elucidation to avoid our state being embarrassed the way this has scandalized a lot of people who read your statement.
Having said that, I now turn to the issues that I believe have not been responded to and my further questions. The beauty of democracy is that people are free to ask questions and I will like you to understand that and get used to answering questions from your constituents.
On the National Assembly approved $200m loan, documents sighted by me show that the National Assembly might have been misled into approving a loan that is different from the one recommended by the President. In my last press conference, I had indicated that on May 25, 2017 a Presidential request for $100 million regarding Abia State Rural Access and Mobility Project (RAMP) was sent to the National Assembly, however, on July 18, 2017 the Minister of Finance sent a request for $200 million to the National Assembly in respect of Abia State Integrated Infrastructure Development Project (ASIIDP) which curiously, is exactly the same request that Abia State Government submitted dated October 2015. It would be helpful if you could explain the following:
- How did Abia State Rural Access and Mobility Project (RAMP) become Abia State Integrated Infrastructure Development Project (ASIIDP)?
- How did $100 million transform to $200 million?
- When was this request presented to the Abia State House of Assembly which should ordinarily have approved it before it made its way to the National Assembly or was there a waiver?
On the issue of funds that have accrued to the state and how they were utilized, information available from the office of the Accountant General of the Federation indicate that you have received the following funds from May 2015 till date
Period FAAC LGAs
May 2015 to December 2015 N25.59b N15.42b
January 2016 to December 2016 N30.56b N19.61b
January 2017 to July 2017 N18.28b N11.91b
Total N74.42b N46.94b
Grand Total N120 Billion
In addition to the above funds, you had borrowed N10b from an old generation bank and had also received the following funds:
Bailout funds N14.105b
1st tranche of Paris Club Refund N10.6b
2nd tranche of Paris Club Refund N5.7b
By your own admission, you collect N1billion monthly on internally generated revenue.
You will agree with me that these are huge sums of money. I do know that it also costs money to run government and part of government expenditure goes to payment of salaries. I do not think it is too much to ask, if a citizen demands to know how these funds were utilized.
On salaries, I will advise that you come clean and let us know why salaries are not being paid in spite of all the funds received as itemized above. It is no use making claims that are not true like the ones made in your responses to me to the effect that you have paid all outstanding salary arrears. Those who are owed are there in the state and I consider it a great disservice to them and the state when their governor makes untruthful claims about salary payments. Besides, the world is now a global village and there are credible sources including
‘Budgit’ that publish states that are in arrears of salary payments. You may wish to ask for the latest edition of such publications and see if our state is listed amongst those that are not owing.
Finally, on your claims of commissioning 26 roads and constructing 65 others, I will advise that you give Abia people real roads. All those roads built and commissioned by propaganda on the state radio and sponsored social media platforms can only remain what they are: a mirage, when many parts of Aba and Umuahia remain in ruins and impassable. You can travel very far with propaganda, but it can never take you to a real destination, except if your destination is imaginary.
Alex Otti, OFR
August 23, 2017.