When in the past, just before the 2015 elections to usher in the new elective and political leaders, some democratic watchers who believed in new order of good governance were stressing the need to look beyond ethnic or indigenous politics in order to give way for issue based and people oriented leadership. The SAVE ABIA NOW group was determined to monitor the political events both in the past and present administration of Abia State government. This is why during the past administration led by Chief T.A Orji our emphasis was specifically built on the need to vote in a government that will change the old other or administrative pattern of Abia State that has not really favored the entire State and its environs since 1999. It was on the strength of this too, that the organization dispassionately rolled out series of sensitization programs so that, the electorates should be mindful or careful of choice of leaders to avoid the repeat of the past.
We wish to state categorically that the politics of godfatherism which was used to lay the political foundation of Abia State in 2007 by Chief Orji Uzor Kalu which purportedly enthroned the government of Chief T.A Orji, is still directing the affairs of Abia State till date. People that do not understand the essence of good governance may wish to pre-occupy their minds in search of knowing why godfatherism is still determining the affairs of Abia State when in actual sense, other states that have little or no economic privileges have surpassed Abia State in driving the process of defined governance yet, the State is seeking the approval of the State House of Assembly to procure loan from commercial banks to offset the debts owed by the immediate past administration. The question is, by this development, is there any economic sense in borrowing money to repay debt? You want to run away from indebtedness yet you are entrenching yourself in debts. “There is a saying that he who goes a borrowing, goes a sorrowing” the Governor should have known that by now the best way to lay foundation of a new government that seeks to surpass the former was not by plunging the state into debt profile. The Governor should equally know that an administrator who is well equipped or informed about economic reforms or restructuring ought to develop a workable strategy that need not necessarily call for dependence on credit facilities for pursuance or implementation of economic policies rather look inwards and seek the partnership of the governed to see how best he can source revenue to develop the State. Of-cause, the result of partnership of the governed cannot be easily achieved except the confidence of the people is won. Now the question is, how does the confidence of the people be won?
The Governor should spare the Abians by making public the financial engagements or activities of the immediate past administration which he inherited. No government will start on a good footing and prosper without making the activities of its predecessor a public issue especially when the government is widely acclaimed as corrupt. This way, people will develop confidence knowing that the Governor has proved that he is not under some certain influences or forces. The Governor of Abia State Dr Okezie Ikpeazu is covering the dirty deeds or blunders committed by his benefactor-predecessor (Chief T.A Orji) and in an unrepentant bid to continue to please his godfather and create pretentious impression to the public that all is well, he has gone to yet another reconstituted rubber stamp House of Assembly that has no reason to ask the Governor the rationale behind borrowing money at this early stage of his government but has gone ahead to approve the request thereby multiplying the effect of corruption and impunity hence, before such request for loan is approved, there must be a solid implementable terms between the Governor and lawmakers. This is why Hon. Abraham Uba was suspended. Hon. Abraham Uba is one of the APGA party members in the house doubling as minority leader of Abia State House of Assembly. His protest against the rationale behind borrowing money led to his suspension. According to the speaker Hon. Martins Azubuike, the rationale behind approving a request for loan facility by the governor was hinged on:
1. “Decline in the federal allocation accruing to the State.
2. Apathy of residents in tax payment. A development that had adversely affected the revenue of the State. The Speaker said that, after due consideration of the prevailing circumstance, the House decided to approve the request for a loan to enable the Governor function effectively” (see punch news Wednesday 22, July 2015).
By implication, what the Speaker was trying to drive home was that the Governor inherited empty treasury yet the Governor and House of Assembly are colourating it with loan procurement and suspension of one of their colleagues.
In a clime where democracy is being practiced with clear understanding and fairness, the refusal of a lawmaker to support a motion that seems unpopular particularly when it falls short of translating to economic realities of the poplars, does not suppose to be an issue not to talk of leading to suspension. As long as SAVE ABIA NOW was concerned, that suspension is condemnable, regrettable, lacks the basic norms in lawmaking hence rather than the House to learn the basic process of making people oriented laws given that it is newly reconstituted, it is busy bickering and witch-hunting each other thereby bringing to the public its incompetence, inaptitude, cluelessness, inexperienced and low morale. This goes to support the claim from some quarters that majority of them in the House came through the back door.
Abia State that has not recovered from the shock of 16 years of ill-governance has been plunged into another trouble. This time, worse than ever. The Governor who suppose to set the pace, is running from pillar to post in search of where to borrow money to offset the debt owed by his predecessor (godfather) and except the debts are cleared, he will not form his government. Since the inauguration of the present Abia State government barely three months now, we have witnessed what was described as “Misplacement of Priorities in the administrative duties of Abia State” the ill-timed flagged off of some internal roads in Aba for rehabilitation coupled with clearing of drainages, dredging of Aba river and demolition of roadside structures were a ground design to deceive the public hence there is no financial structure to sustain the ongoing rehabilitation projects and if this is part of reconstruction of Aba as he widely promised during electioneering campaign then, it is dead on arrival. Reasons being that, a holistic approach towards reconstruction of Aba must be based on:
1. Revisit the original master plan of Aba with a systematic reimplementation.
2. Engagement of a highly technical or experienced civil engineering company such as Julius Berger, Monier Construction Company (MCC), and so on.
3. Must create a forum for partnership with the residents and federal government following the promise by the president during presidential campaign.
4. Must develop a trust fund or financial guarantee facility that will put the state in attractive position where the lending institutions will prefer to do business with it and in-turn access their repayment easily.
5. Aba residents and their environs must be enlightened to change their attitude towards the endemic anti-environmental approach which has become part of them following an elongated neglect and bad governance.
6. The government should first map out a designed place where the owners of the properties being demolished would find alternative place. Adequate measures should be put in place to compensate the owners of these properties just like Amaechi of Rivers State that develop Greater Port-Harcourt city for alternative location with adequate compensation.
It is obvious that the government has already failed in delivering quality jobs because most of the local contractors engaged to execute the projects were either owned by government officials or linked to them. Of-cause, those that sponsored the elections must be repaid either in cash or kind.
SAVE ABIA NOW group; want to state categorically that in our perceived effort at ensuring that every government in place is ventilated to give space for public assessment or appraisal, it is important we ask Dr.Okezie Ikpeazu’s Abia State led government of:
1. His developmental blue print as it affects education, industry, agriculture, health, Youth, empowerment, security, local government council, transport, road, civil servant, pensioners, and so on. What plans does he has to bring back to shape the sorry state structures of secondary and primary schools that are littered all over the towns and villages.
2. What measures is he putting in place to bring his predecessor to account for his stewardship of eight years in office as Governor?
It is on record, that Chief T.A Orji collected well over two hundred billion naira from federation account between 2011 to 2015 (4years) in addition to internally generated revenue (IGR). Please, refer to Vanguard news Thursday July 16, 2015. This is in exclusion of local government council fund in which he was the executive Chairman and financial controller throughout his tenure.
A brief break down of the state’s expenditure process in 4 years shows that a total monthly wage bill of Abia State is put together at 2.3billion. If 2.3billion is multiplied by 48 months which is 4 years, it amounted to 96 billion and 288 million. Subtract 96 billion and 288 million from well over 200 billion collected from federation account for the period of 4 years by Chief T.A Orji, you have well over 150 billion left then add the internally generation revenue (IGR) and local government council funds which were not specified, you will be amazed at how much is left for capital expenditure. Now the question is, out of this over 150 billion left after recurrent expenditure, how much do one need to build Airport, Seaport, Renovate schools, construct good roads, and so on yet Chief T.A Orji left office with backlog of recurrent debts. See how monumental corruption by the government of Chief T.A Orji has put Abia State in economic tight corner. Those who are shielding this man from facing corrupt charges have already told the world of their complicity in this crime against humanity otherwise, what is the justification for borrowing to offset looted fund? The Governor must ask Chief T.A Orji to throw up everything he collected outside statutory salaries and allowance.
Chief T.A Orji is presently in the senate of federal republic of Nigeria enjoying the proceedings and privileges. A man who rendered Abia State economically disabled, a man who did not implement budget nor embarked on heavy capital project yet he left office with unprecedented debts of cumulated 10 to 12 months including arrears owed to civil servants, pensioners, local government staff and brief case contractors. Even when it is obvious that 60% of capital projects in the state ranging from electricity, schools, road, water, youth empowerment etc during his 8 years tenure were executed by Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC). Chief T.A Orji saw a state where anything can go and he dubiously succeeded in paying his way through by buying over INEC with tax payer’s money so that, he cleverly planted those that will cover his dirty deeds and protect his interest while away in Abuja for warming of senate bench. Back home, his political godson is in a tight fix trying to borrow to repay looted fund.
SAVE ABIA NOW, has a 100% support for the avowed anti-corruption Crusade of the federal Republic of Nigeria which gives inexcusable process of bringing corrupt government officials to book. If the present Abia State government mean well for the people and is really ready to win the confidence of the people and federal government, Chief T.A Orji and his co-travelers must be exposed to face the wrath of the law to appease the souls of them that have died in want of their wages as well as the suffering masses.
Abia State would have been in a better position to tackle this menace of successive ill-governance if alternative party had taken over the reign of the State. This is why the electorates haven been duly informed of the danger ahead, came out in mass to vote out this ruling party that has ravaged the state for 16 years of our hard earned democracy and vote in a new party that was ready to defined a new administrative order to restore the lost glory of the state. Unfortunately, the state again was thrown into the hands of the same cabal by those who have conscience but refused to listen to the voice of reasoning just because of pecuniary interest.
With what is on ground now; can they give us refinery, seaport, airport, international stadium, five star hotel, resuscitate the moribund industries, restructure to give a conducive place for learning, shopping mall, waste recycling plant to relocate the existing refuse dump sites along Aba-Port-Harcourt-Enugu express road, world class medical center, Housing estate, independent local government council, dualization of roads, street/traffic light, attractive round about, flyover, sea or water ways transport, light rails, upgrading of Ariaria market and others, good road network, decongest Aba town into a modern city, restructure road transport by rolling out city shuttle mini-luxury buses, organize a non-selective empowerment programs for young people, grant free education, award of scholarship and bursary payment, tourism attraction centers, game village, and so on. These are some of the things needed to bring Abia State at pair with other fast growing state of the federation. It is saddened to note that the present Abia state government led by Dr.Okezie Ikpeazu, lacks the moral ground and administrative prowess to enthrone a system that will withstand the daunting challenges facing the State and if nothing is urgently done about it, it means that Abia State was going to be under administrative enslavement for 20 years of Nigeria’s uninterrupted democracy.
Save Abia Now
Aba, Abia State, Nigeria.