By Dapo Akinrefon
THE 2015 governorship candidate of the All Progressive Grand Alliance (APGA) in Abia State, Dr Alex Otti was yesterday locked in a war of words with the Abia State Government over the propriety of a $200million loan request approved by the National Assembly.
While Dr. Otti insisted that the government accounts for the funds so far given for its development, the state government in a retort challenged Dr. Otti to allow the books of Diamond Bank where he last worked to be opened up for public scrutiny.
Otti, a former Group Managing Director of Diamond Bank Plc, also called on the Abia State House of Assembly to set up a panel to investigate the financial activities of the Dr Okezie Ikpeazu-led administration.
Addressing a press conference, yesterday in Lagos, Dr Otti urged the National Assembly to review the approved $200 million loan, saying the state government lacks the capacity to repay the loan.
He said: “On assumption of office, the present Abia state government led by Dr. Okezie Ikpeazu began dishing our figures of funds it required to clear arrears of salaries owed Abia workers. After initially claiming it required N6 billion to clear arrears owed Abia workers, the governor later approached Abia State House of Assembly seeking approval for a loan of N30 billion from a local bank.
“My party, APGA challenged that request after the state government contradicted the then speaker who had informed House members that the said loan was for infrastructural development, only for the state government to turn back and claim that it was meant to clear different debts owed by the state.”
Responding yesterday, the Abia State government in a press statement issued by Enyinnaya Appolos, Chief Press Secretary to the Governor said: “It is also hoped that Mr Otti will publicly encourage the auditors of Diamond Bank Plc to publish detailed audit reports of the bank covering the period that he served as Managing Director and the year after. The public needs to know the sources of the operational losses that were masked through asset revaluation and other smart accounting tricks.
“A review of the contents of the document he circulated reveals a man who is either plain ignorant or full of deceit, as even the introductory paragraphs of his press release contained outright lies, half-truths, contradictions and conjectures.”
“Mr Otti was part of the status quo he derided in Abia from 1999-2015.
“At no point did the Governor Ikpeazu administration publicly claim that it needs only N6b to clear salary, pensions and gratified outstanding in the state. Rather it is a matter of public record which can be verified from Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) and Debt Management Office (DMO) of the presidency that the documents submitted by Abia State Government in lieu of the request for bailout indicated a requirement of N38b to clear all the outstanding as at October 2015.
Only N14.2b was approved for the state. It is also public knowledge that when the facility was received the state government transparently set up a committee dominated by Labour leaders in the state to allocate all the resources to the payment of some of the outstanding salaries and pensions.”