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Former Abia Governor Ikpeazu Reacts To Alleged Diversion Of N12.8Billion Airport Fund Into 32 Accounts, Tells Otti Govt To ‘Follow Money Trail’

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Former Abia State Governor Okezie Ikpeazu has denied the accusation that his administration diverted N12.8 billion earmarked to build an airport in the state into 32 accounts.

it was earlier reported that Governor Alex Otti of Abia State had unveiled a forensic report revealing how the sum of N12.8 billion was paid by the former governor of the state, Ikpeazu, to ghost contractors and other financial misconduct under the previous administration.

The report revealed that Ikpeazu paid the sum of N12,800,851,500 to four contractors “for contracts that do not appear to exist, per available records and discussions with relevant officials.”

The 359-page report was prepared by KPMG, engaged by the state government on July 13, 2023.

The report was released on Tuesday by the State Commissioner for Information and Culture, Mr. Okey Kanu, shortly after briefing journalists on the outcome of this week’s State Executive Council meeting.

The report stated that the alleged phoney contracts include N10,000,000,000 paid “to Ferotex on 25 September 2020 for the construction of Abia State Airport”.

“N2,000,000,000.00 (was paid) on June 6, 2022 and September 1, 2022, to Logistics De-Luke, for the ‘delivery of 22 different brand-new vehicles’ while N9,279,800,000.00 was paid to seven contractors ‘with no records that the contracts were executed, per schedules of contracts provided and discussions with relevant officials.’”

But reacting to the report in an interview, Ikpeazu stated that it was within his right at the time he was governor to change any project based on the priority and given the exigencies of time.

The governor noted that when people talk about money for the airport, they question his decision to change his mind. He said as the state governor at the time, he had the right to say “I don’t want this airport now”.

Explaining the issue, Ikpeazu said he was not thinking of building an airport for the sake of having aircraft land and take off, adding that Abia State had no money to maintain such an airport.

“Right from the outset, we were thinking about trade port. All we do in Nigeria is airport, airport, airport and they don’t seem viable, I wasn’t thinking that Abia doesn’t have money to sustain an airport if it is for the purposes of airplane will land and airplane will take off.

“So we were saying we can bring small Ariaria into the airport so that somebody can come to the airport to shop and sleep, and wait and then connect the next flight to the next location as they do in Dubia – small conference centre, small hotel and whatever so people can be, there will be life even after you know, but at some point, we found out that we had 15 markets in Aba.

“At the point we were thinking about this trade port, we realised that the road to Ariaria was bad, the road to Eziukwu Market was bad, the road to Ngwa Road Market was bad.

“So all our markets we couldn’t connect and my vision obtained from my desire to drive trade and commerce was to interconnect all the markets and I will tell you all the relevant in a minute. So we decided to suspend the airport project. Today when people talk about money for airport and whatever, I think they are questioning my decision to change my mind and I had the right at that time as governor to say I didn’t want this airport now because if you land at the airport where are you going to,” he said.

“You can’t go to Ariaria, so I had to agree with the State Executive Council at that time for us to fix some of the roads and I am happy that today I finished Eziukwu Road from that airport fund, I finished Faulks Road from that fund, Ngwa Road is okay, Osusu road is okay. So today you can connect with Ariaria through Osusu Road to Eziukwu Market and connect Eziukwu Market to Ngwa Road Market.

“So I succeeded in interconnecting all the markets courtesy of that fund,” he said.

He continued, “And thank God we took that decision because if we had gone ahead, with that N10 billion, we wouldn’t have done an airport anyway, and I know about some airports right now that were commissioned and are yet to receive aeroplanes, so how would I tie down N10 billion for nothing. So, I assure you no time that the money was diverted.”

On the allegation put up by his successor, Alex Otti, that the money was diverted into 32 accounts, he said, “No, no, no far from it. We published the 32 contractors. In short, they were not 32, they were about 20-something because the Ministry of Works got money from that, the Ministry of Public Utilities got money for streetlights from that, so it is wrong to say 32 contractors.

“But among the contractors, 20-something of them got as small as N30 million, some got N12 million.” He asked what would he divert N12 million and N30 million for. He added that then his administration gave the dates when the money was paid into the contractor’s accounts, it also revealed the identities of contractors given road contracts and the projects they were to handle.

He said, “So what I expect a discerning mind to do is to follow the trail, nothing was paid cash. You follow the trail and see if a dime was diverted into somebody’s account apart from the said purpose but if you trail and see that the man was buying asphalt, was buying sand, buying gravel and you go to Faulks Road, you that Faulks Road is still standing I mean the matter speaks for itself.

“The good thing is that if they follow the trail of that N10 billion they will acknowledge with their mouth that some jobs are contrary to the opinion that they have out there. It will be clear that Faulks Road was done by this government with that fund, Eziukwu Road was done, and Ojike Lane was done, among others.”

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