The present administration of Labour Party in Abia State says it is yet to make payment to any individual or coperate body for the occupancy of Government House Property, since its assumption of office.
Speaking in an exclusive interview with famousreporters.com, at Government House, Umuahia, the Special Adviser to the Governor on Media and Publicity, Hon. Ferdinand Ekeoma stated pointedly that the government, under the leadership of Governor Alex Otti was yet to receive demand from anyone in respect of government house rent.
This is contrary to the protracted claims by the immediate past government of the People’s Democratic Party, PDP, under the leadership of Dr. Okezie Victor Ikpeazu, which had alleged that the property was a rental.
It would be recalled that Governor Otti had upon emergence, and getting wind of the fraud, informed the people of Abia State of his intentions to accelerate efforts towards the completion of the new Government House, situated at Ogurube Layout, Ibeku, Umuahia, as the present one was believed to have been on rentage.
This unhesitant move of the Governor was perceived to have been spurred by a certain incident which occurred in the Government House, during the last months of Ikpeazu’s administration, wherein some armed security agents alongside civilians had put in appearance at the Government House and sealed off facility, alleging that the state government was owing rents to the property running into some months.
Surprisingly, within a fraction of hours, the facility was unsealed, thus paving the way for government activities to continue going on. To drive their points home, some officials of the then state government came out boldly to announce that the accumulated rents were quickly paid in their bid to avoid further embarrassment to the Governor and his government.
But, according to Ekeoma, some old staff of Government House (names withheld) have confirmed to the present government that a huge some of the state’s money was usually mapped out for the purported payment of the property.
He further added that Otti’s government was still conducting intensive investigations to prove the authenticity of the seemingly fictitious claims by the past administration.
“At the moment, we are not paying anybody. We have not paid anybody and nobody has come to ask us to pay him but in the past, we have always heard that they were paying some people for this place. Then, some staff of government house have actually confirmed that payments were being made in the past.
“But, this is a new government, we have not paid anybody and nobody has asked us to pay. So, that’s the situation for now. The issue is that we don’t want anything to distract us but the most important thing is that we are not paying anybody.
Continuing, he added: “We are not aware if it is at the moment and we cannot issue any statement on that yet. This is a government that just came on board and we have to go through the documents. And, this is something that is very complicated and we need to carry out necessary investigations on the issue to be sure before saying anything to that effect but the most important thing is that we have not paid anybody and nobody has asked for payment or said he wants the property.
“No one has asked us to pay them; whatever happened to the previous government remains with them.” He concluded.
It would be recalled that upon arrival at the State House, the government of Dr. Alex Otti had announced that his administration would accelerate actions towards completing the new government house situated at Ogurube Layout, having been made to believe that the old one was on rentage.
This decision of the Governor, Dr. Alex Otti immediately spurred Chief Ako Obioma who was a major contractor with the State Government beginning from the days of first Military Administrator Group Captain Frank Ajobena, who without fear or favour decided to reply to the statement of the Governor. His response to Governor Otti sparked utter bewilderment among some people of good conscience, as he wondered why in high heavens, anyone virtually everyone had gulped in the apparent make-believe claims of the past administration on the purported ownership of government house by some perceived inexistent beings.
In a bid to unravel the reprehensible acts of the previous administration, Chief Ako Obioma who is also the Managing Director of Daman Group with a sharp rebuff, argued that the old Government House Umuahia cannot be on rent being that it has from the creation of state, been a property of the government which the latter inherited from the old Imo State, from where Abia State was carved out.
Speaking, Ako Obioma said: “At the creation of Abia State August 1991, and the swearing Group Captain Frank Ajobena (rtd) as the first Military Administrator, I was privileged to have been introduced to him by the powers that be then and as a major contractor in the federal and old Imo State. So, that relationship gave me the privilege as his closest Abia civilian and my company was first tao be awarded contract by the regime. After his swearing in, Group Captain Frank Ajobena (rtd) remained in Douglas House for some days to allow for complete clean-up of the present Government House, Umuahia, before resuming work at Umuahia.
This present Government House was then a big two (2) bedroom duplex owned by the former Eastern Region which was used by late Or. Michael Okpara and Col. Chukwuemeka Odimegwu Ojukwu as Governor’s Lodge, with Enugu as headquarters bofore it was ceded to Imo State and subsequently to Abia State upon its creation.
Because it was the seat of power of the then Eastern Region, alt the land surrounding it was owned by Eastern region government as government reserved area with the back as forestry without encroachment until the civilian regime of the late Chief Sam Mbakwe, when few tands were allocated to defunct NPP political . cronies.
Continuing Dr. -Ako Obioma stated that “on assumption of office, Ajobena ordered revocation of those lands allocated in the GRA, especially those within the du Government House environment.
“Among those critical ones was the one allocated to the late Air Cmdr. Emeka Omeruah, where he built the uncompleted duplex which now serves as the Governor’s office. The second most critical were the lands opposite Cmdr. Emeka Omeruah’s, which were allocated to Hon. (Eze) Albert Uwanamodo, who represented Umuahia in the Old Imo State House of Assembly under late Chief Sam Mbakwe, where he was constructing (4nos) twin duplex which were at DPC levels.
Due to the personalities involved which included his boss (OMeruah), Frank Ajobena ordered that the cost of these property and structures on it be evaluated which was done and the owners were completely paid off.
Frank Ajobena now awarded contracts for the reconstruction of the Governor’s Lodge and construction of the banquet hall to to Phomo Nig. Ltd, which were completed as you have them today. He -awarded contract for the completion of the Emeka Omeruah building to serve as a Governor’s office, construction of (8 no’s) duplexes on the Chief Uwanomodo structure to serve as Governor’s Guest House and other structures were also beneficiaries too.
Furthermore, Chief Obioma disclosed that it was Dr. Ogbonnaya Onu, who was the first Civilian Governor of Abia that built the presidential lodge, adding, “while myself and another contractor gifted the building and furnishing of the Chapel to Government House.
Continuing, he added: “In the recent years past, I had taken this insinuation as rumour until your Governor Otti’s latest pronouncement, hence Abians will like to be detailed on how our property of over 60 years has become a rented apartment and who are the landlords receiving the rent?” He queried.
Meanwhile, Famousreporters.com gathered from grapevine that the past administration of Dr. Okezie Ikpeazu paid a whopping sum of N200m monthly for the said accomodation which summed up to N2.4billion yearly.
But, the current Commissioner for Information, Prince Okey Kalu, when contacted, turned down every effort from our Reporter to have him speak on the issue which has evidently thrown Abians into utter dilemma.
According to our Reporter, the Information Commissioner who would not grant a request for a one-to-one interaction, had insisted on recieving a questionnaire via WhatsApp in that regard, which she (our Reporter) unhesitatingly obeyed, yet could not get a response from the Commissioner in spite of receiving the questionnaire, as demanded. Moreso, all calls put across to him were like ‘a bucket of water off a duck’s back’.
This is even as Abians, wallowing in their state of wonderment, could still scarcely fathom a guess what in the world, the past administration of PDP had defrauded the state of billions of naira all through its period of time in office for.
And one begins to wonder the why of the Honourable Commissioner’s blunt refusal to the hearty request, a perceived approach to returning daylight to the people, having spent many years in anguish and downright darkness.