Abia: FENRAD invokes FOI for forensic report on N107.2b contracts

The Foundation for Environmental Rights, Advocacy and Development has written to Governor Alex Chioma Otti of Abia State requesting the publication of the forensic reports on airport and other contracts by the former Governor Okezie Ikpeazu administration.

It made the request via the Freedom of Information Act, signed by its Executive Director, Nelson Nnanna Nwafor.

Nwafor said that in line with the Freedom of Information Act, 2011, FENRAD, a pro-democracy and environmental rights advocacy group based in Abia State, writes: “Your Excellency in respect of the subject matter mentioned hereinabove.

“Following the revelation by Your Excellency in America on certain contract scams, to the tune of N107.2 billion, perpetrated by the past administration led by former Governor Okezie Ikpeazu, our curiosity to know everything about the contract scandal, and to join in any form of campaign, advocacy, and even legal action that can serve justice to Abians grew intensely.

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“To us as a group of rightists, it comes as a shock bearing in mind the public debt profile of the state, including an inherited backlog of unpaid gratuities, pensions and salaries Your Excellency met upon assuming office on May 29, 2023.

“Again, coming directly from Your Excellency, the allegations could be read as the official position of the state on the matter. This is the reason FENRAD is willing to probe deeper into the issue.

“As a foundation working on diverse rights sectors, including advocating fiscal prudence, open governance and budgeting, FENRAD does not recall seeing the alleged airport contract sum (N10.2 billion) on any budget heading in all the appropriations of the past administration. There were no advertisements on national dailies, as is the law nor was there a listing on the state official website.

“The meaning to us as a foundation demanding prudent management of the lean Abia commonwealth is that such crime, if it had happened, would indeed require financial experts, like the auditing firm whose services Your Excellency engaged.

“The Foundation is happy about the end of an era when political dynasties in Abia State awarded contracts to cronies or companies owned by family members through, mostly, non-competitive tender. It is a thing of joy today that construction giants like Julius Berger are working in the state. We could not be happier.

“It is known in evidence law that ‘he who asserts must prove.’ Now that Your Excellency has asserted, the burden of proof lies with him to also, in the interest of Abians – most of whom were denied basic infrastructure, livelihoods, pensions and perquisites in the intervening period – publish all records of the forensic audit report on the contract scams.

“We trust that Your Excellency will not spare any sacred cow, aware and convinced that such records are meant for the public, especially Abians, as the collective owners of the alleged looted patrimony.

“Again, the economic situation in the country, amid subsidy removals on energy and petrol, is already in a parlous state and such funds, if recovered, could go a long way in helping Your Excellency provide more basic amenities to Ndị Abịa, and as well cushion the effects of worsening hardships like food crisis and inflation being experienced in the state.

“As a group familiar with procurement laws, the Foundation urges Your Excellency to publish all available records on the alleged contract scams, including the one on the proposed Abia airport, to enable it to legitimately pursue the matter as a group committed to transparency in the public finance sector and fiscal discipline. These allegations are weighty, and as a group, we will not rest on our oars until a closure is reached. We wish Your Excellency well in his strides as he pilots Abia in an excruciating time like this.  Accept, sir, the assurances of our esteemed regards.”

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