Ikpeazu denies N10bn fraud allegation levelled against him by Otti

A former Governor of Abia State, Okezie Ikpeazu, has responded to Governor Alex Otti’s remarks regarding the utilisation of N10bn for the Abia airport

EfCC arrests ex-Abia state governor Theodore Orji
INEC official turns down $100,000 bribe to alter election results in Abia to favour PDP
Ikpeazu expresses regret over looting of 4 banks, burning of police station, 18 new trucks

A former Governor of Abia State, Okezie Ikpeazu, has responded to Governor Alex Otti’s remarks regarding the utilisation of N10bn for the Abia airport project, saying, “My aim was to develop tradeport, not airport.”

Addressing the matter in a viral video post on Olu ndi Igbo with the Twitter handle @VoiceOfTheEast, on Thursday, Ikpeazu defended his decision, stating that as the state governor, he had the power to alter projects based on priority and prevailing circumstances.

Ikpeazu further clarified that while critics question the allocation of funds for the airport, his primary concern was the judicious use of resources.

He emphasised that as the state’s leader, he had the prerogative to defer certain projects, stating, “I don’t want this airport now.”

Ikpeazu said that his intention was not merely to construct an airport for the sake of it, highlighting the financial constraints involved in maintaining such a facility in Abia State.

Explaining further, 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.

He said, “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 aeroplane will land an aeroplane 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 Dubai – 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 we couldn’t connect all our markets and my vision obtained from my desire to drive trade and commerce was to interconnect all the markets. 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 he agreed with the State Executive Council at that time for the government to fix some of the roads.

He added, “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.”

The former governor, while lauding his decision, said if his government had gone ahead, the N10 billion would not have built an airport.

“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,” he said.

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

“But among the contractors, over 20 of them got as small as N30 million, some got N12 million.”

The former governor wondered 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 contractors’ accounts, it also revealed the identities of contractors given road contracts and the projects they were to handle.

He continued, “So, what I expect a discerning mind to do is to follow the trail. Nothing was paid in 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, buying sand, buying gravel and you go to Faulks Road, you see that Faulks Road is still standing, 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.”

Otti had recently said the immediate past administration transferred the N10 billion airport funds into 32 different company accounts before it was shared, adding that the money had already been transferred out of the state government account before they approached the Abia State House of Assembly for approval.

While noting that the denial of the former governor was not unexpected, Otti pointed out that it was reported in the media, that instead of denying spending the fund, they then claimed that they used it for road construction which is against the evidence available.