The Abia State Commissioner For Information, John Okiyi Kalu, has fired back at the two time governorship candidate in Abia, Alex Otti, saying that ignorance in industrial scale can mess up any man.
In a release signed by John Okiyi Kalu and made available to newsmen, reacted to the press release published by the two time defeated APGA governorship candidate in Abia State, Alex Otti, who according to him, 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.
According to the release, Otti copiously cited the yet to be verified allegations of his former colleague at First Bank and fellow APC Chieftain, 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 throughout his long and rancorous epistle that same individual exonerated Governor Okezie Ikpeazu and his administration from any wrongdoing in the management of the Refunds.
“For the avoidance of doubt, it is important to note that in both the written and broadcast interviews of Mr Oriaku, he clearly affirmed that Governor Okezie 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 Release reviewed that when the APC Chieftain, Obinna Oriaku, who supervised the disbursement of the Paris Club Refund was responding to journalists in Umuahia and said, “Those funds were judiciously used. Remember when these funds came, we (Abia) were about the only state that decided to use huge sum of that money for salaries. Most other states were using them for other things: contractor payment, overhead payments etc. The second tranche of N5.7 billion that came, even one naira was not taken out, and I remember the Governor using it to talk to the NUT people, he said how else do we demonstrate our commitment towards your welfare if we can commit an entire N5.7 billion for your welfare, and really which was true. No other state did that.”
The Commissioner said that 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.
“Obviously, the statement credited to Oriaku to the effect that Governor Ikpeazu warned him and other government officials when the funds were received to ensure that nobody stole any part of it, describing the money as rat poison (indocid) that whoever touched would go in for it, couldn’t make the propaganda cut for Otti, hence, his preference for indecorous manipulation of words to cast aspersions on his serial political vanquisher, Governor Okezie Ikpeazu, who has confined him to the boys quarters of Abia politics for good”, it read further.
Okiyi Kalu stated that in case anyone is still in doubt as regards facts of the matter, restated that upon receipt of the refunds, Governor Ikpeazu inaugurated a committee made up of leaders of organized Labour: NLC, TUC, NULGE, NUP, NUT and Joint Negotiating Council, in the state to determine how to appropriately apply the fund to settle arrears of salaries and pension as well as fund key infrastructure projects.
The Abia Spokesperson pointed out that 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.”
The Information boss said It is laughable that Otti believes the state government should now re-investigate matters before the EFCC or courts even after his primary source, Oriaku, stated publicly that our administration did not endorse any contract with the named aggrieved consultant and that, indeed, Governor Okezie Ikpeazu refused to pay any 30% or 20% of it to anyone.
“If anything, the government has showed confidence in anti-corruption agencies of the federal government and maintained transparency in management of public resources.
“The administration of Governor Okezie Ikpeazu has maintained its policy of insisting that every government official in Abia State invited by EFCC and any other anti-graft agencies must go and defend their record of service as we have zero tolerance for corruptiong.”
He said that the Abia government believe that 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, adding that the state 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.
He stated that if as stated by Oriaku and acknowledged by Otti, Governor Okezie Ikpeazu refused to pay the consultants in question as demanded by them, leading to the civil suit in an Abuja High Court and the report to EFCC, what exactly does Otti understand by the process of termination of contracts?
Furthermore, “If according to Otti, Abia Governement officials are appearing in Abuja High Court and the EFCC to defend the position of the government and provide relevant documents, what exactly does he mean by ‘state government should take interest in the matter?
“How else should a Governor demonstrate his position on a matter of this nature highlighted by Otti and Oriaku, than clearly and unambiguously refusing to pay what he believes is not right?”
Okiyi Kalu stressed that whatever role played by anybody in the recovery of Paris Club Refunds to the state, must have been stated in whatever contract document Otti and Oriaku made reference to, which the current administration refused to pay. It is therefore not our duty to re-litigate a matter that is before the courts and the EFCC.
As a responsible Government, the Commissioner said, they are awaiting the outcome of EFCC investigation and the civil suit in Abuja to determine our next course of action.
However, there is no gainsaying the fact that, we will always act in the best interest of Abia people as the instant case has further demonstrated so far.
“We wish to state our understanding of the symptoms of ignorance in industrial scale in an individual which can lead them into political voyages of perdition as is the case with Mr Alex Otti”, the Release concludes.
Meanwhile, the All Progressives Congress in the state had requested that the Abia State House of Assembly led by Rt. Hon. Chinedum Orji, to avoid any form of legislative rascality and a disrespect for the judiciary in the on going case concerning how Abia Paris Refund was utilized.
In a Press Release signed by the APC Publicity Secretary, Comrade Benedict Godson, said that the committee set up by the House to investigate the N22b case already ongoing in court with whatever excuse that it was brought to them by a lawyer or a law firm is unacceptable and a sign of desperation.
“How can a House led by a Speaker who is purely involved in the case convince a sane person that their purported move to ascertain the validity or otherwise of the allegations raised by Mr. Obinna Oriaku, a former Commissioner for Finance is in the interest of Justice?
“Our stand is simple, Abia House of Assembly is not a court of competent jurisdiction. It is a legislative arm of government, its Speaker is directly or indirectly involved in the case.
“We don’t want to dwell on the baseless argument that the Speaker is not the person to chair the investigation committee. All we are saying is that the House of Assembly should not try to interfere in a case that is already in court for whatever reason”, it read.
The APC agitated that the Abia House of Assembly should stay off the case and continue with their legislative duties. “Let them allow the court handle the matter, as it has appeared in court as an ongoing case.”