Following the allegation of how N10bn was paid to a contractor for non-existent Abia Airport by the immediate past Peoples Democratic Party(PDP) Government of Abia state led by Governor Okezie Ikpeazu facts have emerged tracing to how the funds was paid.

CANDID REPORTERS gathered that documents have shown that the sum of N10bn was paid to Ferotex Construction Company for the execution of the controversial ‘non-existent’ Abia Airport Project.

Recall that the allegation was recently made by the administration of Governor Alex Otti where it faulted that funds were collected for several projects which were never executed.

investigation according to source revealed that the alleged payment are contained in the forensic audit report on the eight-year administration of the former Governor Okezie Ikpeazu.

The collection of funds for various projects without evidence of execution is a reflection of the huge corruption that has characterized the tenure of public officeholders in Nigeria. The report also revealed that the N10bn was secured by Ferotex Construction Company for the construction of Abia Airport project through a term loan.

THE WHISTLER gathered that through a letter dated September 25, 2020, Ferotex had requested a term loan of N10bn (which is 80 per cent contract amount) to continue the execution of the contract awarded to them during that period by the state government for the construction of Abia State Airport.

Two weeks later, specifically by October, 8 2020, records available to THE WHISTLER revealed that the Abia State Government, under Ikpeazu, issued an Irrevocable Standing Payment Order to United Bank of Africa confirming the purpose of Ferotex’s request for the construction of Abia State Airport.
An Irrevocable Standing Payment Order (ISPO) is an order issued by a state government requesting a bank to deduct funds from its accounts and credit a nominated party, usually a contractor or creditor.

Findings revealed that the ISPO instructed United Bank for Africa to debit its ABSG Federation Account Allocation Committee/Value Added Tax Accounts with a repayment amount of ₦406,620,817.24 for a period of 30 months,and credit the contractor’s account domiciled with UBA the ₦10bn term loan.

According to investigations, UBA was said to have disbursed the ₦10bn term loan to the contractor on September 25, 2020, which was before the October 8, 2020 date that Abia State Government sent the ISPO to UBA.

A Forensic Audit Report commissioned by the administration of Governor Alex Otti which was conducted by KPMG Advisory Services revealed that the schedule of the contract awarded by the state government under Ikpeazu’s watch does not include any contract for the Abia Airport project as the project was confirmed to be non existent by the Ministry of Works.

“The schedule of contract awarded by ABSG during the period under review, does not include any records of the contracts, and upon enquiry the Government Officials in the Ministry of Works stated that the Contract does not exist,” the audit report reads in part.

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In a bid to get the Abia State House of Assembly to appropriate funding for the Abia Airport project, investigations by THE WHISTLER showed that the immediate past Governor, Okezie Ikpeazu wrote a letter to the Speaker to achieve his objective.

Specifically, it was gathered from documents obtained by THE WHISTLER that the ex-governor, through a letter dated October 13, 2020, addressed to the then Speaker of the Abia State House of Assembly, Chinedum Orji, had requested for approval for his administration to use the FAAC/VAT Accounts to guarantee a loan of N10bn.

In the letter to the Speaker which was also exclusively obtained by THE WHISTLER, Ikpeazu explained that the funding would enable the state to “start and complete on time, an international airport for the state.”

The letter to the House of Assembly Speaker, was personally signed by Ikpeazu, dated October 13, 2020 and titled “Request for approval for Abia State Government to use the FAAC/VAT accounts of the state to guarantee a loan of N10,000,000,000.00 (TEN BILLION NAIRA).”

It reads, “In a bid to start and complete on time, an International Airport for the State, the State Government is requesting the House Authorization to use the State FAAC & VAT Accounts to guarantee a loan of N10,000,000,000.00 from UBA Plc to the contractor handling the Project.”

Budget Virement means the process of transferring budgeted funds from one line item to another, with the approval of the lawmakers, to enable budget managers to amend budgets in the light of experience or to reflect anticipated changes.

There are no records from the administration of Ikpeazu that the N10bn funds were reallocated to another project as no virement request was received by the lawmakers for that purpose.
The lawmakers’ resolution approving the N10bn request from the ex-governor reads, “Pursuant to His Excellency’s letter of October 13, 2020 on the above subject matter, the Abia state House of Assembly sitting in an Executive session on Tuesday 13th October 2020 considered the said letter and agreed that there is need for the state to use the FAAC/VAT accounts to guarantee a loan of N10,000,000,000.00 only from the UBA PLC to the contractor handling the International Airport project.

“Consequently, the House unanimously resolved as follows: That the Abia State Government is hereby authorized to use the FAAC/VAT accounts to guarantee a loan of N10,000,000,000.00 from UBA PLC.”

THE WHISTLER confronted the Managing Director of Ferotex Construction Company, Mr Festus Onu through a Freedom of Information request dated April 30, 2024, containing details of our findings.

In the FOI request sent to him, he was asked to state how much has so far been released by the Abia State Government for the implementation of the project to his company, the level of implementation/execution of the project, and when the project will be delivered and handed over to Abia State Government.

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The letter was delivered on Wednesday, May 1 to the Managing Director in the headquarters of the company located in Port Harcourt. He said there was no need to reply the letter.

We rejected Airport Project From Ex-Governor Ikpeazu – Ferotex MD

Upon receipt of the letter, the Managing Director, who was in his office with the Company’s Legal Adviser told THE WHISTLER in a chat that the company rejected the contract from Abia State Government.

He said the reason for the rejection of the contract was because Ferotex Construction Company specializes in road construction projects and does not have the needed expertise to handle airport projects.

He said, “Our company is majorly into road construction. We don’t handle airport projects.

“So, when the government of Ikpeazu brought the airport project to our company, we rejected it and told the Governor that we don’t handle such project.

“Our company did some road constructions and supervised some other projects in Abia during the last administration.

“There’s no contract agreement between the company and the Abia State concerning any airport.

“We don’t have any information regarding the Abia airport project by the Ikpeazu administration.

“Our company is a reputable construction company. We deliver in all our projects to the standard stipulated in our contract agreement.”

Conspiracy Of Silence: No Evidence From Ferotex That Airport Project Contract Was Rejected

Not satisfied with the explanation of the MD that the company rejected the contract from the ex-governor, THE WHISTLER probed further by requesting that the company provide the following information to support its claims.

  1. Letter of contract award sent to Ferotex Construction Company by the Abia State Government for the award of Abia Airport Project.
  2. Acknowledgement copy of Ferotex letter to Abia State Government rejecting the contract.
  3. Evidence that Ferotex Construction Company returned the term loan of N10bn that it took from the bank for the project given the fact that the money was withdrawn from Abia State Account all through the period.
  4. Letter from Abia State Government confirming that it accepted Ferotex’s rejection of the Abia Airport Contract project
  5. Any other supporting document(s) to substantiate the fact that the contract was rejected by Ferotex Construction Company and monies returned to the coffers of Abia State Government.

But the request by THE WHISTLER for the above information to support the company’s claim that it rejected the contract was ignored and not responded to as of the time of going to press.

The Managing Director did not also pick up repeated calls to his mobile phone number.

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