*Says he won because INEC stood by its rules
Adedayo Akinwale, Kingsley Nweseh in Abuja and Nume Ekeghe in Lagos
Abia State governor-elect, Dr. Alex Otti has promised to clear all the backlog of salaries, arrears and pensions owed by the current governor of the state, Okezie Ikpeazu by December, 2023.
Otti gave the assurance yesterday, while featuring on ‘The Morning Show’ on ARISE News Channel.
“So, payment of salaries is a priority for me and I have given myself a deadline. I do not know what the numbers are today. But I do know that a lot of people are being owed. We are going to pay their salaries before the end of this year. And by the time we do that, we will now begin to look at the other economic indices. It is our hope that by the time we are done in four years, the N3.5 trillion economy that we have today could have doubled, if not more than doubled.”
He also said he won the state governorship election because the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) stood by its own rules and guidelines.
INEC had prior to the announcement of the winner in the election, initially suspended collation of results in some parts of Abia, in order to review the process before it was concluded.
The Labour Party candidate scored a total of 175,467 votes to defeat Okey Ahiwe of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) who polled 88,529 votes and Enyinnaya Nwafor of the Young Progressives Party (YPP), who got 28,972 votes in the election.
He said: “I would also like to thank INEC that stood by their rules. If that didn’t happen, the election would have gone the way the others went.
“You will recall that I contested in 2015, I won that election. But the same local government, Obingwa, was used to torpedo the election in 2015. And that’s exactly what they wanted to do this time around.”
Otti reiterated that the Bimodal Voter Accreditation System (BVAS) was a game changer, once the rules and guidelines are adhered to.
He said the electoral body stepped in to ensure that a review was done, adding that the mutated numbers which moved from 81,000 to 86,000 to 92,000 and finally 108,000 were punctured.
The governor -elect said just about 27,000 accredited voters were recorded in the back end of BVAS and out of that PDP scored 9,900; while LP scored 3,600.
He said the people of the state jubilated because it was the first time their votes counted.
According to him, they (Abia people) “have studied my manifesto. They have engaged with me on one-on-one basis.” “They also can attest to my character. And they believe that no matter how bad things are in Abia today, if there is one man that has the team that has the network, the skills, the competence, the character to fix those things, that it has to be me. That’s why they voted for me.”
Otti added: “This victory is for Abia people; the victory is for the suffering people of Abia; for the civil servants; for the worker; for the pensioners, who some of them were owed for close to 60 months; for health management workers; for doctors who have been on strike for about 26 months salary arrears; for the apprentices who have been suffering the outcome of bad governance in the past 24 years.”
He said he knew it was not going to be a smooth sail, but he was prepared, while promising to give good governance to the people.
His words: “How am I going to go about it? I already have my vision encapsulated in my manifesto. In the next few days, I will appoint a transition committee and subsequently appoint a team preparatory to the swearing-in on 29th of May 2023.
“I have a knack for choosing the right people. Because every organisation, every institution is only as good as its people. This will not be an exception. I’ll pick the right people who can and would help me deliver to the Abia people.”
Otti said when he assumes office, he would focus on the economy, even though the debt profile and the revenue of the state are also important areas to look at.
He explained that his government would also look at the low hanging fruits to jumpstart the depressed economy.
Otti stressed that statistics showed that the state’s debt profile was well over N190 billion as of December 2021, adding that it might have increased between December 2021 and 2022.
He said when the current administration took over that the state debt profile was just N34.5 billion.
Otti emphasised that his administration would look at the debt and ensure that everything about it was right and then begin to discuss with the lending institutions.
He said he would ensure that the debt issue in the state was dealt with in order not constitute a roadblock towards achieving the set target of his administration.
The former bank chief executive revealed that he had already started engaging the banks, saying one of the things they should be expecting was interest write-off, restructuring and debt forgiveness where possible.
He added that his administration would also get approval from the Debt Management Organisation (DMO) to issue bonds so that the loans could be spread over a long period of time.
Otti also hinted at taking more loans in order to jumpstart the economy, stressing that there was no problem with taking loans, but what to do with the loans.
Otti assured that he would not go after anybody when he assumes office, saying there was no reason for that.
He said he was not ready to spend four years chasing both real and imaginary political enemies, adding that his government has a lot of work to do and he didn’t want to be distracted.