Ikpeazu clashes with Gov Otti over $3.5m Geometric investment, debt management

Ikpeazu and Otti

Former Abia State governor, Dr. Okezie Ikpeazu, and his successor, Dr. Alex Otti, are embroiled in a public dispute over the state's investments and debt management. 

The controversy stems from the five percent equity investment by the state in the newly commissioned Geometric Power project in Aba. 

Dr. Otti has refuted claims of knowledge regarding the $3.5 million investment made by the previous administration under Dr. Ikpeazu's leadership. He expressed concerns about the substantial debt he inherited, emphasizing the importance of prudent financial management and questioning the utilization of funds during Ikpeazu's tenure.

Otti in a television interview, expressed worry at the huge debt he inherited from Ikpeazu's administration, adding, "it is not about the debt, it is about what the debt is used for. 

"If you inherited a debt profile of N34.4 billion by May 29, 2015 and eight years later you ran that debt to about N192.2 billion; I really can’t see anything that you have done with the money - salaries were not being paid, pensioners were being owed, infrastructure was decaying, the place go into ruins, schools were run down completely, hospitals were dilapidated.

"So, the issue is where did the money go? If I am going to take debt, it is going to go into regenerative expenditure. 

"But when you are taking loans and you are running the state into debt, just for consumption, you are not investing in the state; you are not paying salaries; that’s actually what I was talking about."

Ikpeazu however in an interview another from the United States of America on Sunday, March 3, 2024, defended the state's investment decisions, highlighting the significance of long-term planning and continuity in governance. He said the controversy around the Geometric Power and Abia State government investment was needless, if African leaders are interested in long term planning and in sustaining the programme of their predecessors.

"This is the major difference between us and the west!" he said, adding, "Unfortunately our leaders don’t find such projects attractive because they have minimal pecuniary benefits and successive administrations in Africa destroy and abandon them (just because they don’t want their predecessor) to take credit!"

He described as unpatriotic, Otti's attempt to stop the Enyimba Economic City project, noting that the project that was capable of providing 600,000 jobs and should be of national interest.

According to him, it is only such trans-generational projects that can redefine the nation's economy and give quantum leap to economic development efforts.

"Palliatives and mere houses cannot change anything, neither can they create the kind of jobs we need, but an economic zone like Tinapa or Enyimba Economic City can," he added.

⁠"With this disposition, no governor will embark on any project that he can’t complete in four years. This is why we run a palliative economy.

"Alex Otti lied again that I borrowed and spent $115m from African Development Bank, as well as $50 million from Rural Access and Agricultural Marketing Project (RAAMP), whereas these funds were applied for under Ochendo (Theodore Orji), and they dropped just before we left office. Technically, it’s Otti that has them because we did not spend one dime," he defended.

Also, his Commissioner for Information; Trade & Investment, Chief John Okiyi Kalu, argued that if the governor had read the handover note given to him, he would have found the details of the payment.

He challenged Governor Otti to publish the letter he received on February 28, a day he appeared on national television for the whole world to see that he lied and misrepresented facts. 

Kalu called for an independent probe to be instituted with the former finance managers under Ikpeazu "to review the equity issue even though Otti’s government has now admitted receiving the confirmatory communication from Geometric."

The former commissioner stated that Otti's administration is the beneficiary of the $50 million from Rural Access and Agricultural Marketing Project (RAAMP) account for 500km of listed rural roads in Abia State.

"In addition to that, Dr. Ikpeazu negotiated and got $115 million from AfDB, to do more roads in Abia State. 

"The roads in the AfDB loan portfolio were designed by an international consultant through a procurement process supervised by AfDB with $1.5 million grant from AfDB. Governor Otti is now benefiting," he said.

The clash between these governors of Abia State underscores differing perspectives on fiscal responsibility, economic development, and the legacy of public projects in Abia State.

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