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N15 billion bond: Gov Elechi in the eye of the storm

Lawmakers petition Jonathan

By Charles Kumolu

UNLIKE most states in the South-East that often times made the headlines for wrong reasons since 1999, the political scene in Ebonyi State has been characteristically stable and somewhat harmonious.

This uncommon atmosphere was such that no conspicuous political upheaval was associated with the state in an era, where controversies have remained the hallmark of governance.

Though some are unrepentant in their position that there existed a cold war between former Senate President, Sen Pius Anyim and ex-state governor, Chief Sam Egwu, when the duo were in power, there is a consensus the state is relatively calm politically.

That perception, however, now belongs to the ages, as happenings in the build-up to the 2015 general elections have enlisted Ebonyi among states enmeshed in political crises.

Nigerians have watched with keen interest the hitherto serene socio-political terrain becoming restive as a result of actions and inactions of the key actors in the state.

While the crisis in the House of Assembly and the alleged supremacy battle between Governor Martin Elechi and prominent stakeholders over succession had dominated the landscape before now, the state is currently being treated to an intriguing impasse between the governor and legislators.

The suspicion is that the state may be headed for a dramatic reversal of its political fortunes. This has been painstakingly nurtured over the years. Ebonyi was known in the past as the only state that ran a remarkable party management system that subsumed the governor within the party, in addition to creating salaried party officials who had no need to scavenge and be a nuisance. The current tension appears to be the reportedly growing lack of consultation by the governor. This development, if true, will most probably alienate enough people to ignite a mass exodus from the ruling party.

But the foregoing is really not our concern here. Let Ebonyi people sort out the matter of how to re-invent, re-engineer and better manage a state party machinery that was once managed with exemplary cohesion in the past.

Our concern here is more on a two-page letter, written in response to the Ebonyi governor’s request that the state House of Assembly approve his plan to borrow N15 billion via a bond arrangement.  His application that the state legislature should endorse the loan request was turned down. The reasons given by the House are easy to understand. The lawmakers are insisting that the governor has questions to answer regarding a previous loan, also procured via a bond arrangement. The House of Assembly is basing its position on the demand that Elechi first accounts for a previous loan of N16 billion, which he borrowed to fund specific projects.

Since most of the said projects are reportedly not anywhere near completion, the lawmakers are asking him to tell them what happened to the money earmarked for their completion – or at least give a run-down of how it was expended.  But let us note that the House is not accusing the governor of embezzlement, or anything of the sort. Besides, the governor has not said that the funds have not been expended, or that they are missing.

This groundswell anger was informed by governor’s inability to give judicious account of how the first loan was expended.

Assertions that projects across the state were financed by the first loan have not done enough to convince the legislators on why they should approve the governor’s request.

To them,Elechi owes them explanation, so as to avoid giving credence to assumptions that most of the projects were not near completion.

It was on the strength of the development that the Speaker of the House, Mr. Chukwuma Nwanzuku, petitioned President Goodluck Jonathan urging him to withhold his approval of the bond being sought by the governor.

He specifically accused Elechi of mismanaging the N16.5 billion bond obtained from the capital market in 2010 for the execution of capital projects like the International Market, the State Secretariat, Oforekpe Water Scheme among others.

Nwazunku further accused the governor of not properly utilising the bond money, adding that the projects “are scarcely attended to, to the extent that even in the next one-year, the projects will never be implemented.”

The letter reads: “Since our approval of the first bond however, certain revelations have come to light to warrant keeping the second in view pending a proper detailed briefing of the House on the use of the first bond.

“It does not appear as if the first bond has been properly used in view of the fact that the target projects the bond was meant for was scarcely attended to, to the extent that even in the next one-year, the projects will never be implemented.

“We have requested for proper briefing on the use of the first bond but rather that do so, all hell has been let loose on some House members. We are, however, not bothered by this state of affairs.

“In view of the fact that the target projects for the first bond obtained will still take over one year to complete, and in view also that the tenure of the present administration will be rounding off in the next six months, we respectfully invite Your Excellency to graciously withhold your kind approval of the new second bond which the Ebonyi State government has applied for pending when our relevant committee is properly briefed on the use of the first bond.”

For the governor, who is in the middle of the controversy, the imbroglio presents an opportunity to deflect negative impressions about him on the matter and also to puncture arguments that he had for some time, governed Ebonyi without recourse to key stakeholders.

Observers see the foregoing as a matter that should be supported by those desirous of accountability by public office holders in the country.


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