Posted by News Express | 23 May 2020 | 925 times
Former Secretary to Ebonyi State Government, Professor Bernard Odoh, and his erstwhile boss and Governor of Ebonyi State, David Umahi, have been at daggers drawn since April 2018 when he resigned his position as SSG under the latter’s administration. Odoh had penned a strongly worded resignation letter wherein he accused Governor Umahi of highhandedness and dictatorial tendencies.
Odoh in the resignation letter, said the way Umahi’s administration had remained in the past two years had not offered conducive atmosphere for all members of the State Executive Council and himself to sincerely air and express their views on sensitive policy matters.
Part of the former SSG’s resignation letter read: “Having assured you on my inception of office and at several times that I owe you the responsibility to be truthful and honest always, I wish to inform you that all is not well in your administration sir.
“If you observe carefully, almost all your appointees are nearly completely disconnected from your policy direction as they lack genuine sense of purpose, dignity, clear sense of commitment to decision taken in Council because of low morale.
”My appointment as the Secretary to the State government is hereby resigned in good faith. I have handed over the status of cabinet office to the most senior staff office, Barrister Ogbonnaya Otta in line with the best practices of service.”
Governor Umahi who was deeply shocked by Odoh’s resignation, had continued to maintain that he would get a payback for betraying him, in spite of all he did for him. Expectedly, many groups then, staged peaceful demonstrations to condemn the Odoh’s resignation and reaffirmed their loyal¬ty to Governor Umahi.
To make the matter worst, Odoh has since then, continued to be critical of Umahi’s policies and programmes. At different times, he has described the State’s tax system as obnoxious and other policies as anti-people. Recently, he tackled Umahi over the rising poverty index of Ebonyi State under his administration; even as he alleged that the debt profile of Ebonyi State had continued to rise geometrically due to frequent internal and external borrowings by Umahi. He maintains that the people of the State had been impoverished under Umahi’s administration due to obnoxious policies. This, has left the duo irreconcilable enemies since April 2018.
Odoh, in one of his criticisms against Umahi’s administration said: “The World Bank Ease of Doing Business ratings, Ebonyi is 36th out of 36 states of the federation in enforcing contracts; 31st out of 36 in dealing with construction permits and; 32nd out of the 36 states in Starting a Business? Under Governor Umahi, Ebonyi Domestic Debt Stock rose by 36.78% from NGN34, 168,940,626.65bn in 2015 to N46, 737, 752,798.83bn in 2019. Within the same period under review, our External Debt Stock increased by 38.22% from USD$ 47, 166, 600.06 in 2015 to USD$65, 195, 266.98 in 2019.
“Further, it was my position as one who is very conversant with the happenings in both the government, and within the Ebonyi populace that as our debt grew, our Human Development Index and GDP declined and worsened. I had also disclosed that meanwhile our birth rate is 5.3%; the highest in the South East region. The implication of this is that Ebonyi more than any other southeastern state, produces children who have less access to money for social services in Education, Health, Balanced Nutrition and Good Shelter despite huge debt and FAAC monthly allocations.
“By implication, we borrowed the money we didn’t need to invest in projects that do not serve our needs just to impress those who do not care about us. Among every 10 Ebonyians, 8 are terribly very poor with income less than N18, 000 per month, I had finally submitted. I still stand by these.”
Apparently angered by Odoh’s criticisms, especially his repeated commentary on the rising poverty index and debt profile of Ebonyi state, Umahi may have decided to take his own pound of flesh having set up a commission of inquiry to investigate the spending of N2bn CACS agric fund meant for disbursement as loan to the people of the State in 2016, which was allegedly disbursed by Odoh. This was the resolution at the State Executive Council meeting held on Friday, May 22, 2020, at old government house Abakaliki.
“The motion by the HAG seeking approval of EXCO to reactivate the State Commission of Inquiry into spending of N2bn CACS Agric fund in 2016 and to amend the membership was approved by EXCO. EXCO approved the request, thus the chairman is Hon. Justice P.C Eze while Barr. Emeka Nwode will serve as the Secretary/member,” the state government said in a statement issued to journalists shortly after the meeting.
Before the Commission of Inquiry was set up, Governor Umahi had on Wednesday, May 20, 2020, accused Odoh of diverting the N2bn CACS agric fund using ghost workers and vowed to probe him. Umahi, made the allegation against Odoh on the sideline of his weekly broadcast to update the citizens on the efforts of his administration in the fight against COVID-19 pandemic.
Umahi noted that Odoh who is criticizing his government, diverted the N2bn agric fund domiciled in his office as SSG to disburse to Ebonyi people as loan, using ghost workers and was never recovered. He said the N2bn allegedly developed wings and flew out of Odoh’s office, adding, “he didn’t even give it to his people, but he claims to love them”.
He said the N2bn would have gone a long way in lifting the people out of poverty, but was allegedly diverted by the same man preaching against poverty.
The Governor maintained that those criticising his administration had the opportunity at various times to positively touch the lives of the people and never did anything; adding that his administration was doing everything humanly possible to alleviate poverty in the State.
According to him, everybody must know that you cannot fight poverty without infrastructure. And you don’t fight poverty by sharing the little money that is given to you to pay salaries.
“When people talk about poverty in Ebonyi State, like I told the Security Council, nobody is saying there is no poverty in Ebonyi State and I’m not interested in the poverty in other states. I’m interested in the welfare of our people.
“But everybody must know that you cannot fight poverty without infrastructure. And you don’t fight poverty by sharing the little money that is given to you to pay salaries; by sharing it for people to take home. It is the most stupid thing to think about. I think strongly that the positions we have taken since we came on board–the empowerment and the support to our people, is second to none. We have accessed over N12bn from the CBN. One of the times the critic in Ebonyi State, who was holding a very high position, supervised the N2bn. And he used ghost workers to supervise the N2bn. It’s not recovered. He didn’t even give it to his people, but he claims that he loves his people.
“By EXCO this week we are going to set up Commission of Inquiry to look at those wickedness dished out to our people. So, I want to assure our people that we are doing everything humanly possible to fight poverty. And today is far, far better than yesterday. And we fight poverty, we may not eliminate it totally but if things are continuous in this direction, poverty will be written off but not 100% because our Lord Jesus Christ says there will always be the poor among us. It depends on the definition of poverty.
“But I don’t want our people to join that stigma of they are poor. We are the best. We are struggling in the midst of nothing. You can’t use the money for salary to do any other thing than to pay salaries”, Umahi said during the statewide broadcast on Wednesday.
But less than 24hours after the Commission of inquiry was set up, Odoh has reacted. He said: “It is either that Governor Umahi is now suffering from whimsical amnesia to have forgotten my unchallenged, detailed and factual reply to a query on the above subject matter since May 2018 (just few weeks after my resignation), when I made the said prompt response, or he has simply elevated his lying and prevaricating dispositions on virtually every issue in Ebonyi State to an art.
After my bold resignation on April 2nd 2018, (reasons for which I also audaciously made public) in my viral letter, I wish to place on record that I received a letter from the Ebonyi State Government requesting me to explain and give account of the disbursement and recovery of the loan facility for farmers under the CBN Agric loan policy, which the Ebonyi State Government got the sum of N2bn.
“As the Chairman of the EXCO Committee that was set up to oversee the scheme, I did not hesitate for a moment before issuing my response via my memo, which, for purposes of clar¬ity, I have chosen to reproduce below:
REPLY VI: Refer to EXCO proceeding of Tuesday 30/1/2018.The former Commissioner for Agriculture and Natural Resources, Barr. Uchenna Orji (now, Commissioner for Economic Empowerment and Job Creation, who is currently the Commissioner for Information and State Orientation) and my humble self-submitted detailed report on 2016 Rice Production and Loan Recovery as follows:
“Total value of farm inputs received by the 13 LGAs and EXCO farmers groups was N597, 950, 850.00 out of which a total of N114, 459, 958.13 inclusive of 9% interest rate has so far been recovered. An outstanding debt of N410, 920, 523.31 yet to be recovered for which 10th February (2018) deadline was given the debtors to pay. Details of debt by various categories of farmers are contained in EXCO proceedings of 30/1/2018. Amount spent on procurement of tractors for the 2016 Rice programme was N326m paid for by the Ministry of Finance in line with EXCO and Governor’s approval.
“After the submission and discussion, EXCO directed the then Commissioner for Economic Empowerment and Job Creation, Barr. Uchenna Orji now Commissioner for Information and State Orientation and the then Accountant General (AG) of the state, Mrs. Agwu Queen to prepare and submit a proper account of the N2BN Rice Programme loan to EXCO.
“That the Commissioner for Local Government, Chieftaincy Matters and Rural Development, Barr. Samuel Okoronwko, and the AG, should ensure that the balance of loan owed by Civil Servants and their guarantors were fully deducted from their salaries after 10thFebruary 2018.
“A comprehensive list of all beneficiary farmers, value of inputs collected, amount recovered and amount owed to government was contained in the report that was presented to EXCO and decisions on it was taken in the said EXCO meeting of Tuesday 30/1/2018.
It is on record and to the knowledge of the Governor that: The sum of N597, 950, 850.00 was disbursed to farmers across the state as inputs. The list of all beneficiary farmers and their corresponding indebtedness is contained in the documents of EXCO.
“Before I resigned from the Umahi government, the Ministry of Agriculture led by Barr. Uchenna Orji had recovered N114, 459, 958.13 while N410, 920, 523.31 was yet to be recovered from the farmers. The categories of farmers who were indebted to the state government before I resigned from Umahi’s government is contained in EXCO proceedings and approvals of 30/1/2018.
“The following categories of persons were owing government before I left of¬fice: Political Office holders, State Civil Servants, Local Government Workers, Rural farmers and the sum of N326, 000, 000. 00 was approved by EXCO and paid to by the Ministry of Finance for the procurement of Tractors.
“A total of N923, 950, 850. 00 only was the total amount that was spent from the CBN’s N2BN Agric loan while I lasted and that this spending was approved in EXCO and all disbursement made by the Ministry of Finance.
“I did not farm in 2016 and therefore was NEVER A BENEFICIARY! My office did not carry out the disbursement of funds. Rather, the Committee which I headed was only limited to providing workable and strategic leadership for the implementing Ministry of Agriculture in the state. I was only a co-Chairman of the Committee with a CBN co-Chair and the committee HAD NO BUSINESS WITH MONEY!
“I have the full records of all the beneficiaries of the amount mentioned above in the categories outlined and I stand ready to release them in due course. The allegations are lies and false with the purpose of distracting Ebonyians.”
As this cold war between the duo continues unabated, only God knows who would blink first. (Text, excluding headline, courtesy Sunday Independent)
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