Stephen Ukandu, Umuahia
Commissioner for Local Government and Chieftaincy Affairs, Abia State, Mr Uzor Nwachukwu, has opened the can of worms on the recent discovery on how ‘political locusts’ and their foot soldiers depleted Abia treasury while some compromised elders kept sealed lips.
The startling revelations were made when the Commissioner was addressing a delegation of Abia State Elders Consultative Forum during a courtesy visit to his office.
Nwachukwu decried the level of corruption perpetrated by the affected officials of Government.
He also expressed disappointment over the baffling silence maintained by elders in the state while the squandermania lasted.
The Commissioner noted that but for God’s intervention, Abia would have completely been strangulated by the cabal that hitherto held her down.
According to the Commissioner who spoke emotionally, discoveries so far since Otti came on board had shown that the state was serving as a cash cow for few individuals.
He said that Abia was already in a financial mess coupled with the near-collapse of infrastructure, but noted that Otti had come to make a difference.
“The truth of the matter is that we are in a terrible and precarious situation that if not for God, our state would have completely gone under.
“We thought it was bad but now that we are on saddle of leadership, we have seen the great rot that is in this state.
“When you see some of the things being uncovered you will wonder if they were perpetrated by Abians or foreigners.
“Just in one month verification on LGAs, we discovered 2,300 ghost workers, and saved over N220 million for Government. Meanwhile, the workers before now were not paid. Only few persons were eating the money.
“There are things if you hear, you will not believe them. For instance, this thing they built over there and called it Government House, nobody can live there. There is no road to even go there because the roads are bad. There is no light there. The plumbing is not done but it was commissioned. This is so pathetic.”
He also lamented the deplorable condition of infrastructure in the state.
“Look at our roads inside Umuahia here. Ikot Ekpene Road to Umudike, is almost impassable! There is no road towards Bende area. You can’t go to Port Harcourt or Owerri or anywhere from Abia and drive on a good road, yet we had a Government.
“Ukwa land that made Abia to be included in oil producing states has no motorable roads now. People pay as high as N4000 to get to Ukwa council headquarters on bike. But that same LGA receives over N100 million every month as allocation from Abuja.”
Nwachukwu expressed disappointment that only few individuals were converging every month to share the allocations of the state while the state deteriorated.
“It’s sad to know that what was happening in Abia before now was that they gathered every month to share money. When I took over and was coming to work, they said to me: ‘Oga, hmm, you are coming to work? People here don’t come to work; you meet them in their hotel room.”
He, however, apportioned part of the blame on the elders in the state for keeping sealed lips while ‘ Abia bled.’
“But with elders like you, and the state is like this, we are all culpable. I can’t blame them ( the wolves) alone because if the elders were shouting enough, there were things they would not have done.
“When we have children that are not behaving well, yes we say the children are bad but we share in the blame for not training them well as parents. That’s part of the collective shame that we now face in Abia.
“That’s why when salaries are paid, we start clapping hands. States like Ebonyi and Akwa Ibom that were previously behind Abia are now ahead of us and showing us what real development looks like.”
The Commissioner said that but for the emergence of Otti by divine intervention, Abia would have become the laughing stock of all states in the country.
“If God didn’t raise somebody like Dr Alex Otti who has been tenacious in his quest to fix Abia since 2015, that he at some point, almost lost his life, Abia would have been completely buried.
“The voices of many elders were silent probably because they were complicit. Many of them were on life blood tonic. Some were receiving N500,000; some were receiving N1 million; some were receiving N2 million every month. So, they looked away and never cared!
“So, when teachers were saying: ‘We haven’t been paid, and they ran to a supposed elder, he would tell them: ‘keep on trying.’ He said so probably because he just received a bag of stockfish.”
The Commissioner also expressed disappointment over the failure of the clergy to call erring Government officials and public servants to order but instead rewarded them with various awards.
“Some of them who are great men of God received them and thanksgivings from them, and did not ask them why they have not paid salaries of workers? In fact, they even gave them titles despite not paying salaries. This is what has kept us where we are.”
He, however, commended some of the elders who had always stood for the truth, and solicited their support and prayers for the success of Otti’s sanitisation efforts, change mantra and transformation agenda.
“Thank you for coming to say, ‘let’s find a way to change the narrative.’ Right now, this Government needs your support and prayers because we are struggling to raise money to pay all the debts owed over the years. Alex Otti could have decided not to bother but the people affected are Abians – our parents, brothers and sisters are owed salary and pension arrears for many months.
“Some retirees who hoped on their gratuities were disappointed but thank God, Otti has come to put things right for the good of all. So, we should all join hands to drive away evil from our land. If we don’t do that, we will all be consumed!”
Speaking earlier, leader of the delegation and the National President of Abia State Elders Consultative Forum, His Eminence, Archbishop Princewill Ariwodor, said they came to seek the approval of the Governor to convene an economic summit “where first class brains will gather and produce a blueprint for the state.”
He said that the outcome of the summit would serve as a development guide and roadmap both for the current and subsequent administrations to save the state from unnecessary policy summersaults by successive Governments.
Professor Ariwodor who emphasised that the elders were apolitical, pledged their support for the Otti-led administration which, he said he believed, had come to rebuild Abia.
He restated their readiness to support and volunteer useful advice to the Governor if he would be willing to recognise the value of elders.
“When you are in difficulty run to us. We have sufficient capacity to offer useful advice to move Abia forward. We belong to no political party; we are for the advancement of Abia.
“Abia elders are ready to support the present Government but we will not fail to advise when things are going wrong. At our age we are not afraid of speaking the truth.”
The cleric enumerated some of the efforts of the elders in the past that contributed in the new dawn in the state.
“When Okezie Ikpeazu announced Local Government election 10 days before his exit, we stopped him because we felt it was suspicious. When he wanted to get N22 billion loan we also stopped him at the House of Representatives.
“We were insulted by some Government officials then and nobody came to our defense but we never bulged. Abia elders have suffered beyond apology. If an elder is being beaten the people will not even rise to protect him.”
Professor Ariwodor was accompanied on the visit by a former Military Administrator of Cross River State, Navy Capt. Chris Osondu; the National Secretary of the Forum, Rev Joseph Adiele; and former Commissioner for Sports, and the incumbent Chairman of Nkporo Council of Traditional Rulers, HRM Eze Aronsi Uka.
Others were Professor Ogbonnaya Offor; and former Chairman of Umuahia North Council of Ndieze, HRM Eze Pastor Philp Ajomuiwe.