By Uzair Adam Imam
There have been sharp retorts since the presidency’s claim on Thursday that pronounced the state governors as corrupt.
The governors continue to distance themselves from the laid down accusation, challenging the presidency to identify the governors involved in the process.
Barely 24 hours after governor Nayesom Wike of Rivers and his Benue State counterpart, Samuel Ortom criticised President Buhari over the allegation of corruption against governors, Governor Ifeanyi Okowa of Delta State also distanced himself from the allegation.
The President, while speaking about the height of corruption in the country at an event hosted for members of the Senior Executive Course 44 (2022) of the National Institute for Policy and Strategic Studies (NIPSS), Kuru, blamed the governors for looting the local governments’ allocation.
Buhari said the ugly behaviour by the governors also encourages corruption at the local government level, thereby inhibiting development at the grassroots.
But reacting to what Buhari said, Okowa, who spoke through his Chief Press Secretary, Olisa Ifeajika, said it was unfortunate for the president to have made such a “blanket statement.”
He said: “I want to say that Mr President, as one who has all the information about issues in the country, knows the governors who fall into that category of the so-called ‘thieves’ he was referring to.
“We all know that our own Governor, Dr Ifeanyi Okowa, does not belong there. He was one of the first governors, if not the first, to embrace local government autonomy when it was agreed on just like he did with the judiciary and the legislature.
“He went as far as getting legislation to grant autonomy to the legislature and the judiciary. He allowed them to run autonomously. And, for a man, who allowed these organs of government to have autonomy, he cannot have anything to do with funds belonging to the local governments.
“I repeat that the government of Dr Ifeanyi Okowa, every month, augments the finances of local governments in the state with more than N300 million to make sure they are able to pay their salaries and stay afloat.
“He does that religiously monthly; so, for a man who does that, how can he be among those who steal local government money?
“Our governor is not part of it. You are also aware that the government of Sen. Ifeanyi Okowa recently released N5 billion for pension arrears; N2.5 billion of that was a grant to the local government for payment of pensions.
“It is a grant to the local government; they are not going to pay. The governor did that because the local governments have to fund their activities, pay their teachers and healthcare workers.”