The Missing Abia Abia Airport

The Missing Abia Abia Airport

25th April 2024, NewsOrient
Opinion And Column, News
By Emeka Nwosu, PhD

Nothing could be more scandalous and horrifying than the disclosure by Governor Alex Otti on a missing airport in Abia State that was purportedly built by the immediate past administration of Dr. Okezie Ikpeazu. At a recent town hall meeting in Maryland, United States of America, where he had an interactive session with a section of Abia people in the American Diaspora, Governor Otti made a startling revelation on how the princely sum of N107 Billion was paid out by the Ikpeazu administration for non-existent contracts.

According to Dr. Otti, these shocking facts came to the fore following the submission of the report of a forensic audit ordered by his administration. The audit, as disclosed by Dr. Otti, was undertaken by one of the top three leading auditing firms in the world.

Giving a breakdown of the report, the Governor noted that the sum of N79.3 Billion was paid out to seven contractors for contracts that were never executed, while a total sum of 15.9 Billion was paid to 63 contractors with no supporting documents anywhere in the state.

Then came the banger: the sum of N10 Billion was paid to some contractors for the construction of Abia State Airport. According to the Governor, the huge sum was paid out on September 25, 2020. As observed by Dr. Otti, no one in Abia State has sighted the airport.

The Governor further disclosed that he had sent one of his aides to go in search of the airport and its location; but up to the time of his interactive session last week in the US, the search has not yielded any positive results. I understand many patriotic Abians have joined in the search for the missing airport. It is hoped that in due course, Ikpeazu and his defence team would help Ndi Abia to locate the missing airport!

It may seem laughable that at this age and time, the princely sum of N10 Billion would be invested in the construction of an airport; yet the airport can neither be sighted nor located. This must be a mystery airport that exists only in the imaginations of Dr. Ikpeazu and the contractors he used in executing the phantom airport.

Governor Otti is not a frivolous person and not known to given to theatrics. The fact that these unsettling revelations are the product of a forensic audit by one of the leading audit firms in the world, makes the matter very serious and disturbing.

Former Governor Ikpeazu, through his spokesmen, has responded to the forensic report by dismissing the entire report as a fabrication with no truth in it. One of the spokesmen, and former Press Secretary, Mr. Onyebuchi Ememanka, not only thrashed the report, but he went to the extent of calling Governor Otti a liar.

But a closer scrutiny of the defence of the Ikpeazu team shows clearly a clever attempt to play down the grave allegations while playing up unnecessary emotions and sentiments with a view to diverting attention from the unprecedented heist committed against the good people of Abia State.

Their argument is that the fact that Otti chose a foreign land to make the disclosures shows that there is nothing in the allegations. They further argued, albeit naively, that the claim by Governor Otti to the effect that there were no supporting documents for the contracts makes nonsense of the allegation of N15.9 Billon contracts awarded to non-existent contractors.

Their contention is that if there were no supporting documents, on what basis did Otti come by the claim of N15.9 Billion? In their desperation to exonerate their principal, they failed to realize that lack of supporting documents amounts to improper documentation. The truth, however, is that no amount of grandstanding and playing to the gallery would wish these grave allegations away.

It is believed that Ikpeazu and all those fingered by the forensic audit would have their day in court to defend themselves. No reasonable government would allow such a heinous heist to be swept under the carpet. This level of looting is mind boggling and everything humanly possible must be made to recover the funds from all those implicated in the report.

All the accused, including the contractors that vanished into thin air with the huge sum of N79.3 Billion without executing any contracts, according to our laws, are presumed innocent until they are convicted. They would be given the benefit of the doubt when they are charged and arraigned in the court of law to defend themselves.

But with the benefit of hindsight, it is now glaringly obvious why Abia State in the last eight years could neither pay the salaries of its workers nor the pensions of retirees. They were made to go through agonizing pains for many years by a government that did not believe in human capital and infrastructural development. It was eight years of bad governance and gross incompetence.

As Governor Otti takes practical steps to unravel the circumstances surrounding the mismanagement of the N107 Billion of Abia State funds and the missing airport, all those indicted in the probe must be brought to book and made to surrender any stolen funds traced to them. By this, justice would not only be said to have been done, but seen to have been manifestly done.

Dr. Emeka Nwosu, a Public Policy Analyst, writes from Umuahia.

~ NewsOrient