Cost of Governance Down in Abia, Otti Insists, Says He Permits Only Necessary Expenditure

Emmanuel Ugwu-Nwogo in Umuahia

Abia State Governor, Alex Otti, has said the cost of governance has drastically reduced over the past 10 months he took charge of the affairs of the state. 

He stated this at the weekend during his monthly media chat at the government house Umuahia, saying that he has banished frivolities in government expenditure. 

“We’ve been able to rein in the cost of governance. It’s tough but we have to do it,” he said, adding that “if any expenditure is not necessary, we leave it”. 

Otti stated that he has so far not borrowed a dime for the ongoing road projects across the state, noting that the funding was made possible by a reduction in the cost of governance. 

He said that his administration has deployed effective management of resources and expenditure hence the state was keeping to his promise of using Abia money to work for the state. 

“We’ve been able to manage (our resources). We’ve been able to cut costs. We’re doing financial engineering,” the economist and former bank chief said. 

The Abia governor stated that the era of frivolous spending was gone in Abia, pointing out that his predecessor increased the debt profile of the state from N34.4 billion to N192 billion, yet had nothing to show for it. 

“I have been asking where the money went to,” he said, adding that the immediate past governor, Okezie Ikpeazu incurred N157.6 billion, mostly in bank overdrafts, in addition to N34.4 billion he inherited from his predecessors. 

Otti acknowledged that the opposition had accused him of borrowing N145 billion, which he said was a false allegation and propaganda. 

He said that the Debt Management Office(DMO) has vindicated his administration as the agency did not list Abia in its latest report on states that have borrowed money. 

According to him, since the DMO has spoken, the Abia opposition “has shut up” because they could not hold onto any substance to persist with their false claims. 

The governor said he means well for the state hence Abians should “take it for granted” that they have “a government that is listening and working for the people and not for those with vested interests”. 

On the inherited pension arrears, Otti declared that he had cleared the debt owed the retirees, adding that it was an aberration if any retiree did not receive the bank alert for the payment. 

He said that N9 billion has been paid out so far out of N10 billion which was earmarked to clear the mountainous pension arrears that dated back to 2014. 

Explaining the modalities used in paying the pension arrears, Otti said that it was done in the spirit of the agreement with the state leadership of the Nigerian Union of Pensioners (NUP). 

He said that the amount earmarked for the payment was put in the basket and the progressive method was used to determine what each pensioner should receive to achieve equitable payment. 

According to him, pensioners with a smaller amount of total arrears received a higher percentage while those with a higher amount of pension arrears (such as retired permanent secretaries) received a smaller percentage. 

“I am happy that they (Abia pensioners) are happy,” Otti enthused, adding, “If you are serving the people and the people are not happy, you are not serving.”

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