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Tuesday, May 28, 2024

Ikpeazu responds to accusation of misappropriating N10 billion for airport project in Abia

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The immediate past governor of Abia State, Okezie Ikpeazu, has responded to an allegation that his administration diverted N10 billion earmarked for an airport project in the state.

Mr Ikpeazu served as a two-term governor of the state under the PDP platform between 29 May 2015 and 29 May 2023, when he handed over to the incumbent governor of the state, Alex Otti.

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Mr Otti was elected as governor of the state on 22 March 2023 under the Labour Party ticket.

PREMIUM TIMES earlier reported that Mr Otti, in April, accused the former governor of allocating N10 billion to a non-existent airport project in the state, an allegation which the former denied.

The governor, on Thursday, further accused the former governor of transferring the N10 billion to 32 bank accounts of different companies from where they were diverted.

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He also claimed that Mr Ikpeazu had already transferred the funds to the bank accounts long before he approached the state assembly for approval.

He claimed he obtained the information from a report of a forensic audit carried out by a firm contracted by his administration.

He also claimed that Mr Ikpeazu had already transferred the funds to the bank accounts long before he approached the state assembly for approval.

He claimed he obtained the information from a report of a forensic audit carried out by a firm contracted by his administration.

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He also claimed that Mr Ikpeazu had already transferred the funds to the bank accounts long before he approached the state assembly for approval.

He claimed he obtained the information from a report of a forensic audit carried out by a firm contracted by his administration.

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Ikpeazu’s defence

Mr Ikpeazu, through a statement by his former Commissioner for Information, John Kalu, and forwarded to PREMIUM TIMES on Monday, denied the latest allegation.

Mr Kalu said the 32 accounts mentioned by the governor belonged to contractors who were paid from the N10 billion for road construction projects after the suspension of the airport project.

“It is also important to note that the transaction he is talking about is a contractor finance arrangement with UBA Plc for N10 billion which was not disbursed to the contractors until November 26th 2020. Not funds taken directly from our state’s account as he maliciously conveys,” he said.

The former commissioner also responded to the allegation of Mr Ikpeazu approaching the State Assembly after the money had been moved.

“His allegation of getting House of Assembly approval late is neither here nor there because the bank provisioned the facility, placed a lien on withdrawal until all relevant documents were obtained and submitted to them. That practice is not strange in public finance and of course, no bank will allow you to draw on a facility without submitting all relevant documents,” he stated.

Mr Kalu stressed that, even if the governor’s allegation of the late approval was true, it was “not unusual” provided that “the funds were not disbursed.”

“Evidence from the bank will confirm that the Ikpeazu administration did not authorise disbursements to the road contractors until November 26th 2020,” he said.

The former commissioner contended that the past administration “published the names of the road contractors and the roads they were paid for with picture evidence,” and challenged Mr Otti to publish the 32 accounts and prove they are not road contractors registered with Abia State Government.

He said that the lead contractor contracted by Mr Ikpeazu’s administration was the Ferotex Construction company, claiming that the company had done road projects in nearly all states in the South-east and Rivers State.

“Most importantly, the same company is working with Alex Otti’s government in Abia State. Recently, the same Governor Otti praised the company for delivering good quality at Unuimo and Shallom streets in Aba and awarded a new 22km Umuahia-Uziakoli Road to the Ferotex Construction Company,” he stated.

Mr Kalu accused Mr Otti of borrowing N50 billion from Access Bank to fund the construction of various roads within six months of his administration, saying the governor was only out to “smear” Mr Ikpeazu for defeating him in two elections in the state.

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