Criticisms have continued to trail the disclosure by the Abia State Governor, Dr. Okezie Ikpeazu, that the Abia State Oil Producing Areas Development Commission, ASOPADEC, has handled a whopping sum of N14 billion in the last 70 months.
It should be recalled that Ikpeazu had, while reacting to a question on alleged marginalisation of the only oil producing area in Abia State by The Nation Newspaper in a recent interview, said Ukwa East and Ukwa West have, in the last seven years, remained in charge of ASOPADEC, which is statutorily charged with the responsibility of developing oil communities, adding that the Commission had managed at least N14 billion in the last 70 months.
Reacting to the statement credited to the Governor, one of the Ukwa West stakeholders, who is a legal practitioner, Sam Ogbonna, expressed his dissatisfaction that the number one citizen of Abia State, who should be close to the people of Ukwa having come from the same Senatorial one, turned a blind eye while his people were being shortchanged.
“What baffled me most is that our own brother and the number one citizen of Abia State gave a blind eye, and his own people were shortchanged. Now that he has made this provoking revelation, is it out of place for Ukwa West people to be availed with the relevant and detailed facts on how the money was used for the betterment and development of Ukwaland at large.
“Now that he is poised to set us at daggers drawn with our own sons, are we going to fold our hands without asking questions on the usage of the accrued #14b which spanned all the years? It is true that he who plays the piper dictates the tune, but that of Ukwa should be visited. If it is our own sons who deliberately connived with people to keep us in this pitiable condition of no accessible roads, lack of electricity, no standard hospital, no higher institution that could be agent of development, we should dig further to know what transpired.”
Ogbonna, who is a retired Local Government Head of Service, called on his kinsmen who were privileged to occupy positions in ASOPADEC to exonerate themselves to avert the wrath of Ukwa people.
Lending his voice to the issue, Pastor Nwadike Nwankwo said the implication of the Governor’s statement was that it was not his fault, but that of Ukwa sons, that Ukwa West has no road or other infrastructures. He asked, “When the Governor released N14billion was he and his Agencies not suppose to supervise them; what about the State Assembly, doesn’t it have oversight functions on ASOPADEC?
Nwankwo wondered if any person from Ukwa could sincerely and actually support the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, for stealing the people dry and leaving them wretched.
In his own reaction, an Ukwa son, who is a Public Affairs Analyst based at Arochukwu, Mr. Kelvin Elendu had this to say:
“I’m not sure if the Governor knows the weight of what he said. It’s quite heartbreaking to know that this amount accrued to the interventionist agency, ASOPADEC, yet we’re told the government of Abia State suffers paucity of fund, hence the absence or inconsequential presence of infrastructural development in the state as well as in the only oil producing local government of the state. This clearly tells us that we’ve been lied to and grossly raped. The worst of it all is using the men of Ukwa extraction to orchestrate this people-centred evil.
“Funny enough, they think everyone is undiscerning and being that these men can’t talk due to the cloak of appointments and party loyalty, the governor can say whatever he feels. He unwittingly does not know that he reviles himself as the Chief Manager of the State resources.
“The handlers of our resources in the State should be held responsible for our woes. None should be exonerated. That includes and not limited to those who made themselves willing tools. The Governor also pointed out that ASOPADEC was a creation of the law, which means that anyone who steers the ship of the Commission should judiciously use funds availed him to develop their area.