VIDEO: Nigerian Governor abandons multi-billion naira Government House, runs govt from country home | #NwokeukwuMascot

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  Governor Alex Otti of Abia State has abandoned a newly built multi-billion naira Government House in Umuahia, the state capital, since assuming office about six months ago.

He is running the government from his country home outside of Umuahia, according to findings by PREMIUM TIMES.

The Independent National Electoral Commission had, on 22 March, declared Mr Otti of the Labour Party as the winner of the 18 March governorship election in the state. He was sworn in as the fifth elected governor of Abia State on 29 May.

The administration of the former governor of the state, Okezie Ikpeazu, had commissioned the new Government House on 28 May, a day before the end of his tenure.

First entrance gate of the new Government House (Credit: Chinagorom Ugwu/PREMIUM TIMES)

Mr Ikpeazu’s administration inherited the project – which is at Ogurute Layout in Umuahia, a few metres from the State Secretariat – from his predecessor, Theodore Orji, who initiated and built it up to the roofing stage.

PREMIUM TIMES could not confirm the total amount of money Mr Orji’s administration spent on the project. However, a statement issued by the administration on 29 October, 2012 indicated that the government paid N175 million just for the fencing.

Similarly, the exact amount spent on the project by Mr Ikpeazu’s administration is unclear, although officials say it must have gulped several billions of naira before it was commissioned.

The sparkling mansion:

The new Government House is a two-storey mansion, with a network of tarred roads. It has a large swimming pool. The building, painted white, wears a sparkling look.

The governor’s lodge at the new Government House (Credit: Chinagorom Ugwu/PREMIUM TIMES)

At the right-hand side of the mansion, lies a separate two-storey building, said to be the governor’s lodge.

There are two security gates in the entrance to the complex.

Apart from a police operative manning the first gate, there was no other person around when a PREMIUM TIMES’ reporter visited the complex on 3 October. There was no sign of human activity within the complex.

The police operative, who asked not to be named, told this newspaper that some contracted workers do come around regularly to clean the complex, but that the building had not been put to use by the state government.

Governor abandons old Government House too:

The state government also has an old Government House in Umuahia where past governors of the state operated from. But Mr Otti has not also moved into it since he became governor.

The governor has been living in and carrying out government functions from his private residence in his village, Umuru Umuehi in Nvosi, Isiala-Ngwa South Local Government Area of Abia State.

It took a PREMIUM TIMES’ reporter about an hour from Umuahia to get to Governor Otti’s village on a Wednesday in early October.

The dilapidated road leading to the governor’s village (Credit: Chinagorom Ugwu/PREMIUM TIMES)

The governor, however, has repeatedly claimed that he usually spends approximately 20 minutes to get there.

Part of the tarred road leading to the governor’s village has several potholes. The road was built in 2008 by a former chairperson of Isiala Ngwa North Council Area, it was gathered.

PREMIUM TIMES learnt that Mr Otti often plies a better but longer road from Umuahia.

The atmosphere at Umuru was calm and quiet when our reporter got to the area.

Government vehicle accompanied by security operative spotted along the dilapidated road leading to the governor’s village (Credit: Chinagorom Ugwu/PREMIUM TIMES)

Security has been beefed up in the community, with security checkpoints mounted some metres before the governor’s private residence.

Road block mounted along a road in the governor’s village (Credit: Chinagorom Ugwu/PREMIUM TIMES)

Nigerian soldiers manned the gate at the governor’s residence. Five different vehicles were seen parked in front of the residence.

The Governor’s private residence in his village (Credit: Chinagorom Ugwu/PREMIUM TIMES)

They include two buses, a black Toyota Hilux pickup van, a white security pickup van and the governor’s bullet-proof G-Wagon, which he acquired before he was elected governor.

Vehicles parked infront of the governor’s residence (Credit: Chinagorom Ugwu/PREMIUM TIMES)

A tarred road connects his community to others. Residents said Mr Otti built the road in 2015 when he was a private citizen.

The road constructed by governor in his community leading to other communities (Credit: Chinagorom Ugwu/PREMIUM TIMES)
Chigozie John, a resident who deals in motorcycle spare parts, said the community is now very lively, with a boom in businesses because of people trooping in and out of the governor’s residence.

Chigozie John, a resident of the governor’s community (Credit: Chinagorom Ugwu/PREMIUM TIMES)

“Almost every day, strangers enter the governor’s house with different vehicles,” Mr John said in a mixture of Igbo and English languages. “In fact, there is no type of vehicle we don’t see here and you know population helps business.”

“Like before, shops were rare here, but because of the crowd of people coming here, everybody is now coming out to open shops for one business or the other.”

Another resident, Amaka Michael, told PREMIUM TIMES that the community is usually lively on Mondays and Tuesdays when many people with flashy SUVs visit the governor’s residence.

Ms Michael, a PoS operator and clothes seller, said businesses thrive well on such days.

“Normally, many people with big jeeps do come here. Like on Mondays and Tuesdays, this place is usually busy with activities (inside the residence).”

“I sell more on such days, than other days,” she said, beaming with smiles.

Another resident, Obinna Onyema, said Mr Otti pays people daily to sweep the surroundings near his (governor’s) residence.

Looting allegations:

At the old Government House, Umuahuia, the spokesperson for the governor, Kazie Uko, confirmed to PREMIUM TIMES that the governor was not operating from either the new or the old Government House.

Mr Uko did not, however, clearly confirm that the governor had been operating from his private residence.

 Front view of the governor’s Office Quarters at the old Government Office (Credit: Chinagorom Ugwu/PREMIUM TIMES) 
The spokesperson said the governor has not been operating from the old Government House because officials of the immediate-past administration allegedly looted office equipment in the complex, particularly the Governor’s Office Quarters and Lodge there.

An office with removed properties at old Government House (Credit: Chinagorom Ugwu/PREMIUM TIMES)

At the Governor’s Office Quarters, a PREMIUM TIMES’ reporter observed that the television sets and the air conditioners were removed from where they were fixed before.

An office with marks of TV set and air conditioner on walls indicating they were removed (Credit: Chinagorom Ugwu/PREMIUM TIMES)

Apart from a showcase, an old book shelf and two old air conditioners at both corners, the governor’s main office within the quarters was empty.

Governor’s main office at the old Government Office nearly empty (Credit: Chinagorom Ugwu/PREMIUM TIMES)

The administrator at the quarters, who asked not to be named, told PREMIUM TIMES that he had to borrow a table to work in his office.

Also, at the governor’s six-bedroom lodge within the old Government House, the condition of the apartment suggests that it has been abandoned.

The governor’s six-bed room lodge within the old Government House (Credit: Chinagorom Ugwu/PREMIUM TIMES)

The sitting room and bedrooms looked derelict and grasses were sprouting in the balcony.
Governor’s bed at the old Government House in disarray (Credit: Chinagorom Ugwu/PREMIUM TIMES)

“Does this look like a place the governor can stay and operate?” Mr Uko asked rhetorically, apparently justifying the governor living in his private residence.

He said that the governor’s office and official lodge had not been renovated because they are not among the administration’s priorities.

Why we’re yet to relocate to Government House – Official:

Asked why the governor has not moved to the new Government House, Mr Uko said there were not enough buildings within the complex, adding what could have served as an additional office complex in the new Government House was abandoned.

The spokesperson said the ground floor of the new Government House was “slightly furnished” but that the two upper floors were not completed.

He said there were “dangling wires” at the upper floors.

When asked why the administration had not considered completing the complex, he responded: “That’s not our priority. We are talking about paying pensions and workers’ salaries that the past administration did not pay.”

Otti speaks:

Mr Otti was at the University of Nigeria Nsukka, Enugu State, on 5 October, where he delivered the university’s 63rd Founder’s Day lecture.

The governor told reporters shortly after the lecture that he chose to run his administration from his private residence because the old Government House was dilapidated.

“Anywhere that I am in Abia, that’s the Government House,” he said.

“The Government House is completely dilapidated and it will cost a lot of money to fix it. Now, as a student of economics, I draw up my scale of preferences and what is important to me is not to go and spend public money to retrofit the dilapidated Government House if I do have somewhere to operate from.

“So, it is a later day priority. But for now, building roads, payment of salaries, retrofitting the hospitals, ensuring that businesses that were dying get back up, supporting the micro and small-scale businesses, setting up the industrial park that we have done a few days ago – those are our priorities,” Mr Otti added, corroborating what his spokesperson told PREMIUM TIMES.

‘False allegation’

When contacted, a former Commissioner for Information under the Ikpeazu administration, John Kalu, told PREMIUM TIMES that the allegation that officials who served under the past administration stole items from the government house was false.

Mr Kalu said properties from the Governor’s Office Quarters were moved to the new Government House before the exit of the past administration.

“I know, for instance, that the old office of the governor at the old Government House, the table that used to be there and the furniture – they were moved to the new Government House before we left,” he said. “I can confirm that because I was there when they moved the properties (to the new Government House).”

The former commissioner said it was strange that Mr Otti’s administration spent over N700 million to renovate the commissioner’s quarters but refused to renovate the old Government House or the new Government House if indeed he wanted to work from a government facility.

He insisted that the new Government House was completed before its commissioning, and that Mr Otti’s administration should be blamed if the governor failed to secure government property handed over to him on 29 May.

Inside the new Government House:

Mr Uko, the spokesperson to Governor Otti, ignored several requests from PREMIUM TIMES for access to the new Government House.

PREMIUM TIMES, however, obtained some video clips and photographs showing the inside of the new Government House.

One of the clips was uploaded on a YouTube channel on 2 June.

The clips showed that the new Government House was furnished with beautiful executive seats, furniture and curtains, among others.

The floors shown in the clips were all tiled.

Contrary to claims by Mr Uko that there were dangling wires on some walls in upper floors, the clips showed that the upper floors were also completed and painted. The doors and windows of offices, seen in the clips, were all fixed.

Large air conditioners were fixed at various corners of the building.

Financial burden:

Governor Otti running his administration from his private residence has placed some financial burden on the state government, with the 20 commissioners often traveling from Umuahia to the governor’s village for State Executive Council meetings.

The secretary to the Abia State Government and the deputy governor also take part in the executive meetings, and this brings the number of people travelling to the governor’s residence for meetings to 22, at least.

This excludes Mr Otti and his aides who occasionally breeze into the old Government House and return to the governor’s village.

Abia State Government allocates funds for the fueling of government vehicles.

PREMIUM TIMES spoke to two different vehicle owners who travel almost daily to the governor’s community.

The drivers separately said they spend about 15 litres of petrol to travel to the community and return to Umuahia.

As of October, a litre of petrol in Abia State was sold at N630. This implies that the Abia State Government, by modest estimation, spends at least N10, 000 to fuel a vehicle each time government officials travel to the governor’s village for a meeting.

Given that there are at least 22 identified officials who take part in the meetings, the government spends about N220, 000 each day it holds the State Executive Council meeting in Governor Otti’s village.

The fact that the meeting usually holds on Monday and Tuesday means that the state government spends about N440,000 weekly and nearly N2 million monthly for fueling of vehicles alone.

Rented building?

There has been controversy over the ownership of the old Abia Government House, as Mr Otti recently claimed the property is a rented one.

The governor’s spokesperson, Mr Uko, told PREMIUM TIMES that he did not know if the administration had paid any rent on the property since the government was inaugurated on 29 May.

An Abia-based entrepreneur, Ako Obioma, however denied the governor’s position, arguing that the Abia State Government House was owned by the government of the defunct Eastern Region and is not a rented space.

Mr Obioma, who said more structures were later added to the original space occupied by the regional government, asked Mr Otti to investigate the matter to ascertain who had been receiving rents from the state government.

If the claim that the state government has been paying rents for the old Government House is true, it means that the state is also losing more funds which should have been channelled to other development needs.

What the law says?

Many lawyers who spoke to PREMIUM TIMES said there are no laws preventing governors from operating from their private residence.

Most of the lawyers who are based in Abia State said they are also not aware if there are such laws in the state.

A former commissioner in the state, who asked not to be named, however, said it is improper to hold government business meetings in a private residence because such practice renders the official secrets of government unprotected.

“The fact that they are holding official meetings at the governor’s private residence means official government files and documents are being kept in the house which is very wrong,” the former commissioner said.

Click here to video of the new Abia state government housecomplex(in and out).




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