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Abia, Otti, Forensic Audit and the N10 Billion Project

The Governor of Abia State, Alex Otti, signed off tens of millions of Abia State funds to travel to Washington DC, USA, ostensibly to malign his predecessor, HE (Dr) Okezie Ikpeazu, who was not present at that forum to defend himself and indeed has not seen the so called “forensic audit” referenced by Otti. During his address, Otti falsely claimed, among others, that Dr. Ikpeazu’s administration paid N10 billion to contractors for the Abia Airport Project. Note that Otti failed to mention the concerned contractors.

I was a member of the State Executive Council when approval was given to spend N10 billion to start the Abia Airport project and in my capacity as then Commissioner for Information, I announced it to the public.

However thereafter, members of Abia State Traditional Rulers Council led by HRM Eze Joseph Nwabekee (Eze Amara), visited Governor Ikpeazu in his Government House Umuahia residence and advised that since the state was surrounded by at least four airports, the project should be suspended and the resources deployed to fix more roads.

Governor Ikpeazu accepted their recommendation and I also announced the same to the public. It is important to note that in the eight years he was in office, Dr. Ikpeazu fixed more than 200 roads including many urban roads that were bad for more than 30 years prior, and rural access roads across the state.

I will make public the list of road projects executed by Governor Okezie Ikpeazu while in office in another publication for verification by all and sundry.

Governor Alex Otti who worked at management level in a bank claimed that he hired an unnamed forensic auditor that made the false findings he had to take all the way to the United States of America to make public. Unfortunately, he forgot a key element of auditing which is the response of the auditee. To date, neither former Governor Ikpeazu nor anyone in his team has seen the report and he was never allowed to review it or state his own side. Yet, he chose to malign him in the USA on the basis of the same flawed, and possibly non-existent report.

Permit me to ask those expecting a detailed response from Dr. Ikpeazu what exactly he is supposed to respond to? Is he expected to say what we already know about Otti in the Government House, or tackle the issues raised in an audit document he is yet to see and was not part of its making?

Are we not talking about same Governor Otti that said publicly said that he was not aware of any investment in the Aba IPP project by the Ikpeazu administration whereas Prof Barth Nnaji already advised him in writing that Abia under Ikpeazu invested the sum of $3.56 million representing 3.5 per cent shares in the project? Where is the fake 24/7 power supply in Aba that Otti gleefully claimed and for which Ikpeazu was unjustly vilified?

Is Governor Alex Otti not the same man that claimed that he has “cleared pension arrears of nine years” whereas he only paid pensioners what his administration was owing them in nine months and declared the rest forfeited? The same Governor Otti that told the world that he awarded Port Harcourt Road Aba to Julius Berger at N32 billion and the company gave him N2 billion discount possibly as a groundnut seller that does not understand the public sector procurement process.

Anybody who believes whatever comes from Governor Otti is doing so at his own peril because time has proved that he is incapable of telling the truth at any point in time. He is a man consumed by hate and bitterness against his predecessor and will do anything to malign him even if it means demarketing Abia State in faraway USA.

As a citizen of Abia State and someone who served in Ikpeazu’s administration, I wish to recommend the following to enable the public get to the truth in this matter:

1. Governor Alex Otti should hand over a copy of the so-called forensic audit report to Dr. Okezie Ikpeazu for his factual response or alternatively publish it verbatim for the former Governor to read and respond to the issues with facts.

2. Publish the list of all contractors that allegedly received money from the Ikpeazu administration, with the amount involved, and did nothing. Such contractors and their accomplices deserve to go to jail if proven to be true. Yet, I know for a fact that many contractors that worked with the Ikpeazu administration are still working with Otti or are his personal buddies. Unless Governor Otti is now stealing with them, he should have no problem publishing their names and relevant contract details.

3. Governor Alex Otti should accept the setting up of a joint audit team with reputable audit firms nominated by Otti and Ikpeazu to review Abia finances from May 2015 to date. What that means is that the team will look into the finances of the Otti era in addition to that of Ikpeazu and publish the report for the world to see.

Let Otti bring his Ernst & Young or whoever that concludes and publish the forensic audit report without response or input from the auditee while Ikpeazu brings a reputable local audit firm for the proposed exercise.

In his short story titled “The Small Man”, Michael Mayr noted as follows: “the small man was…small. Not a midget nor a dwarf…just small.”

As per former Governor Okezie Ikpeazu, my advice to you, Sir, is to remove your gloves and fight back like a man. Do not allow the small man continue to hound and harass you at every platform available to him. You have enough facts to take the battle to him and nobody will blame you if you do so because he obviously does not understand the true value of golden silence. Give him ten times whatever negative energy he gives you because time will prove that he was never prepared for governance, had no agenda and is only using your name to divert attention from his own many failings and weaknesses.

His administration has only one narrative “what Ikpeazu did and not do!” This narrative is a deliberate ploy adopted by Otti to dorminate his tenure, inundate and keep the public busy with so that at the end questions will not be asked of his administration’s near zero-achievement as the public is preoccupied listening to his manufactured horror fables to the extent that they will forget to ask for his own achievements.

Let me end this piece with the words of a psychologist, Darius Cikanavicius, “People with strong narcissistic tendencies and other dark personality traits tend to blame others for their own bad behavior. If they are lying, then they will accuse others of lying. If they are cruel, they will say that others are cruel. If they are stealing and scamming, then they will accuse others of stealing and scamming. They never take responsibility, and it’s always someone else’s fault.”

 

· Chief John Okiyi Kalu is a former Commissioner for Information, Trade & Investment, Abia State

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