Connect with us

Society

N10 billion ‘non-existent’ airport project: Gov Otti, Ikpeazu trade words!

Published

on

Governor Alex Otti of Abia State and his predecessor, Okezie Ikpeazu, are currently trading words over the alleged allocation of N10 billion by Mr Ikpeazu-led administration to a non-existent airport project in the state.

Mr Ikpeazu served as a two-term governor of the state under the platform of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) between 29 May 2015 and 29 May 2023, when he handed over to Mr Otti.

Mr Otti was elected as governor of the state on 22 March 2023 under the Labour Party ticket.

He defeated the PDP candidate, Okey Ahiwe who was Mr Ikpeazu’s preferred candidate.

How it all started

Mr Otti was at the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies in the US, where he delivered a lecture on 19 April.

The governor spoke on the topic, “State of Governance and Economic Transition: Meeting the challenges.”

During his lecture, Mr Otti accused Mr Ikpeazu of allocating N10 billion to a non-existent airport project in the state.

He claimed he obtained the information from a report of a forensic audit carried out by a firm contracted by his administration.

A text of the governor’s speech in the US was forwarded to PREMIUM TIMES by his spokesperson, Kazie Uko.

A video clip which showed the governor making the speech has been circulating on various social media platforms.

“Talking about corruption, I had set up a forensic audit as soon as I took over office in Abia, last year (2023). So that there won’t be any argument, I called in one of the top three audit firms in the world, and not too long ago, they turned in their report, and some of the things in their report are frightening,” Mr Otti said.

“So, some N9.3 billion was paid to seven contractors for contracts that were not executed at all up till today. Another N15.9 billion was paid to 63 contractors with no supporting documents anywhere in the state. Another N12 billion was paid to two contractors for contracts that do not exist. Out of this figure N10 billion was on September 25, 2020, paid to some contractor for the construction of the Abia State Airport.

“We have spent time trying to locate the airport and up till now have not been able to locate it. So, as we continue to look for our airport, we have also involved the security agencies to help us search,” the governor stated.

Although Mr Otti did not mention Mr Ikpeazu’s name or his administration in the comment, the former governor was in power within the period the allocation of the funds allegedly took place.

‘Release the audit report’

In his first response in late April, Mr Ikpeazu, through a statement by his spokesperson Onyebuchi Ememanka, denied the allegation describing it as “senseless”.

The former governor consequently challenged Mr Otti to release the audit report which he relied on and also made public details of other projects which were allegedly not executed.

“We hereby throw a public challenge to Alex Otti, Governor of Abia State to make public any documentary evidence or any kind of evidence at all that shows that the sum of N10 billion was paid for an airport.

“When forensic auditors are appointed and when they complete their task, the reasonable thing to do is to make the forensic audit report public and allow the document to speak for itself,” he said.

We gathered that like Mr Ikpeazu, some civil society organisations, such as the Centre for Reform and Public Advocacy, have written to the Abia governor demanding a copy of the forensic audit report and other details of his allegation.

It is unclear, for now, if the governor has released a copy of the forensic audit report to the organisations.

How I spent N10 billion Airport fund – Ikpeazu

In his second response, Mr Ikpeazu, through his former commissioner for Information, John Kalu, explained that the N10 billion originally budgeted for the airport project was rechanneled into other projects following the approval of the then State Executive Council.

“Shortly after we announced Exco’s approval of the airport project, Governor Okezie Ikpeazu received in audience executives of Abia State Traditional Rulers Council then led by HRM Eze Joseph Nwabekee.

“On the 13th of November 2020, Okezie Ikpeazu informed members of the State Executive Council about the details of his meeting with representatives of the traditional rulers in Abia State, who requested that we suspend the airport project and commit the funds earmarked for it to do more roads in the state, as we are surrounded by airports already but need to urgently improve internal roads that would give a further boost to the socio-economic activities of the state.

“The members of the State Executive Council thereafter voted to approve the suspension and request to use the earmarked funds for road projects in the state,” he narrated.

Mr Kalu added that on 17 November 2020, Mr Ikpeazu took to his official X handle (formerly known as Twitter) to inform residents of Abia State that the airport project had been suspended.

The former commissioner listed some of the road projects where the funds were rechannelled, adding that the projects were captured in the state’s approved 2020 budget.

Not the first time

Since inauguration as governor of Abia State, Mr Otti has been making various allegations against Mr Ikpeazu, which appear as discredit to the former governor and his administration.

In June 2023, for instance, Mr Otti accused Mr Ikpeazu of leaving a “humongous” debt burden for the state.

 

Premium Times.

Society

INTERNATIONAL DAY OF MENSTRUAL HYGIENE – ELEGUSHI FOUNDATION DONATES SANITARY PADS TO 2000 SCHOOLGIRLS

Published

on

By

 

International Day of Menstrual Hygiene, observed annually on May 28th, is dedicated to breaking taboos and raising awareness about the importance of good menstrual hygiene management (MHM).

The day provides an opportunity for all stakeholders to highlight the importance of menstrual care, and raise awareness about the issues faced by those who don’t have access to menstrual products, safe, hygienic spaces in which to use them, and the right to manage menstruation without shame or stigma.

In celebration of this year menstrual hygiene day and in continuation of its tradition of donating sanitary pads to young girls, the Oba Saheed Elegushi Foundation donated sanitary pads to 2000 secondary schoolgirls in Lagos State.

The distribution, which was done in collaboration with the Lagos Island Maternity Hospital, underscores the importance of community collaboration in addressing menstrual hygiene challenges and demonstrates the power of joint efforts in creating lasting change in young girls.

Speaking at an event to mark this day, Executive Director of the foundation, Aiki Odiawa said the collaborative effort with Island Maternity Hospital is essential to extend the reach of the program, ensuring that every girl in need receives adequate menstrual hygiene products. By pooling resources and expertise, we can also develop comprehensive educational campaigns that address menstrual health and advocate for policies that support this critical aspect of women’s health.

She added that in the last one year, more than 200,000 girls have benefitted from the sanitary donation, which the Elegush i foundation embarks on a monthly basis to young schoolgirls within Ikate-Elegushi kingdom.

The Apex Nurse of Island Maternity Hospital, Mrs Oluwatoyin Champion thanked the foundation for the donation of the sanitary pads, saying that every girl of adolescent age have access to hygienic menstrual cycle.

Over 2000 schoolgirls from Eko Akete Junior Secondary School, Lagos Island, Ilasan Secondary School, Eti-Osa, Gbara Secondary School, Jakande, Eti-Osa and Girls Academy, Lagos Island, benefited from the initiative.

 

Continue Reading

Society

Emefiele didn’t get approval to redesign naira – Ex-CBN director

Published

on

By

The trial of the immediate-past Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria, Godwin Emefiele, continued on Tuesday with a former Director of Operations at the apex bank, Ahmed Umar, telling the court that the naira redesign embarked upon by Emefiele late 2022 did not have the approval of the Committee of Governors.

The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission had on May 15 arraigned Emefiele before Justice Maryanne Anenih of the Federal Capital Territory High Court on charges bordering on alleged unlawful redesign and printing of the new naira notes.

In the charge marked CR/264/2024, the EFCC alleged that Emefiele carried out the naira redesign policy without the approval of the CBN Board and President, Buhari.

The anti-graft agency said without the approval of the CBN Board and the President Muhammadu Buhari, Emefiele spent N18.96bn for the printing and swapping of new naira notes worth N684.5m

It alleged that Emefiele, “knowingly disobeying the direction of Section 19 of the CBN Act, 2007” approved “the printing of N375,520,000.00 pieces of colour swapped N1,000 notes, at the total cost of N11,052, 068,062 without the recommendation of the Board of Central Bank and the strict approval of the President, Federal Republic of Nigeria, among other things.”

At the trial opening on Tuesday, the EFCC fielded ex-CBN Director of Operations, Umar, as its first witness.

Led in evidence by the EFCC prosecutor, Rotimi Oyedepo (SAN), Umar told the court that his department in 2022 was directed to come up with the new design for the naira.

“The management of CBN directed my department to come up with a memo on the design of the naira note sometime in August 2022.

“We prepared the bill with the Committee of Governors and passed it through the line Deputy Governor Operations, which he forwarded to the Governor and it was listed for consideration by the Committee of Governors.”

The ex-director, who told the court that he joined CBN 35 years ago and retired in July 2023, explained that the Committee of Governors comprised five members, including the CBN Governor as chairman.

The witness told the court that the naira redesign memo was presented to the Committee of Governors for their consideration/ review on October 26, 2022, but the committee did not approve it.

Umar said, “We humbly requested the implementation of the amendment. (But) the extract from the COG did not approve item one and item three. While item two was modified to include N200 denomination, the proposal for the exercise in 2023 wasn’t approved by the COG.

“The procedure requires the Board of Directors to recommend to the President for design and form.

“The design shall be contained in the currency after the approval of the President then the production of the currency will commence.”

Justice Anenih, admitted in evidence, the Certified True Copy of the memorandum filed by the Operations Department and marked it as Exhibit A.

The EFCC, in the charges, accused Emefiele of spending N4.4bn to print “coloured swapped N500 notes.”

According to the EFCC, Emefiele spent N3.4bn to print “137,070 pieces of coloured N200 notes.”

The EFCC said Emefiele carried out the alleged actions between October 2022 and March 2023 in Abuja in clear violation of Section 19 of the CBN Act.

The EFCC alleged that Emefiele disobeyed the direction of the law with the intent to cause injury to the public with the manner in which he implemented the naira swap policy.

Emefiele was also accused of unlawfully approving the withdrawal of N124.8bn from the Consolidated Revenue Fund of the Federation.

The ex-apex bank chief, however, denied all the allegations, pleading not guilty.

 

Continue Reading

Society

TROUBLE LOOMS FOR CULTURE MINISTER, HANATU MUSAWA, OVER N290M STREET LIGHT PROJECT

Published

on

By

The Minister of Art, Culture and the Creative Economy, Hannatu Musawa is at the center of yet another scandal.

This time, she was accused of voting 290 million naira for street lights to be located in her local government and if not properly handled might culminate into a major crisis.

According to an article published by Daily Trust Newspapers on
May 22, 2024, the Ministry of Culture voted 290 million naira for street lights to be located in Minister Hanatu Musa Musawa’s local government.

While reacting to Daily Trust article, the permanent secretary of the ministry, Mr James Sule, said the project was a strategic one but industry watchers are peeved that the Perm Sec did not disclose the cultural jobs, culture attractions and the emerging innovations that the project will contribute to gross Domestic productivity of the nation.

The minister was also alleged to have budgeted a whopping sum of three billion naira for culture research and development in her 2024 budget.

Sources squealed that prior to this current scandal rocking the ministry, Musawa had used her appointees to falsely lay claim to culture projects done by the immediate past administration and now have resorted to deploy a tested technocrat like her permanent secretary to accuse Daily Trust of alleged misinformation on the budgeted solar lights to be domiciled her local government.

A staff of the ministry who spoke on the condition of anonymity said “If all our ministers, agency heads, and legislators now compete to domicile constituency projects exclusively in their local governments, other areas in Nigeria that did not produce ministers will end up with nothing, no roads, lights, railway, hospitals, airports and etc. What a clever way to practice nepotism and misappropriation in the name of budgeting for constituency projects”

It would be recalled that Musawa was embroiled in NYSC status scandal.

This started about three years ago when Musawa could not provide evidence of national service to senators during the screening for an appointment she was nominated for by former President Muhammadu Buhari.

But the controversy resurfaced when following the confirmation by the management of the NYSC that Ms Musawa, who was inaugurated as Minister by President Bola Tinubu, was still undergoing her national youth service.

Continue Reading

Trending