The disagreement between Governor Dave Umahi of Ebonyi State and his predecessor, Martin Elechi, has got messier with the two leaders exchanging barbs over a N29 million car gift.
The government had acquired four SUVs for former governors and a former senate president from the state at the cost of N29 million each.
The SUV vehicles were intended for Mr. Elechi, ex-Governors Sam Egwu, Ogbonnaya Onu( who is minister of science and technology), and ex-Senate President Anyim Pius Anyim.
The government said in a letter to the awardees that the gifts were “in recognition of their role in promotion of democracy in Ebonyi State and for meritorious services in that regard”.
But Mr. Elechi rejected the vehicle, saying he could not understand how he qualified for the honour.
The former governor also wondered why the same government that has failed to pay his entitlements would purchase an exorbitant car for him.
He accused Mr. Umahi of “smear campaign”.
Mr. Elechi also said the vehicle was a Greek gift as the governor was responsible for his travails at the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).
“As if the bad verdict on projects is not enough, there is the saga of malicious and false petitions against me and two of my children to the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC)… This is courtesy of Your Excellency’s ingenuity with your team players,” he wrote.
But in his reply Thursday, Governor Umahi said Mr. Elechi lied in saying that the governor was the chairman of the Executive Council Committee on Inspection under the Elechi administration.
Mr. Umahi spoke during an agricultural summit with Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) held at International Conference Centre Abakaliki.
The governor however admitted he was sometimes drafted to a monitoring team if there were engineering difficulties in some projects during Elechi’s tenure, saying he saved the state N1.6 billion when he was drafted to Agba bridge project, and equally helped revive Oferekpe water project when it had almost came to a halt.
Mr. Umahi said rejecting the car was not the best as Mr. Elechi had written to him when he assumed office to give his wife two cars which he quickly obliged.
He also faulted the former governor for saying he never advised him, saying “how can I advise somebody who does not take advice and never changes his mind when he says something?”
“I advised him on the case of NigerCem and the clergymen also did which by now, Ibeto would have revived the company but he refused,” Mr. Umahi added.
Mr. Umahi said some of the petitions to the EFCC were written when both were governor and deputy and was never from him.
The governor said he had appealed to EFCC to leave Mr. Elechi because of his age with a promise that if there was any where they found him wanting in money, he (Umahi) was going to pay. He said he made the promise because it was he (Elechi) that brought him to leadership.
He however said he did not plead for Mr. Elechi’s children.
He said the cost of most of the contracts given by the former governor were over-inflated.
He said he was ready to give Elechi peace and expressed his readiness and willingness for reconciliation if CAN could bring them to a round table.
“This administration never wrote anything to EFCC. I speak to you in the name of God I serve. I told EFCC leave this man because of his age. If you find him wanting in terms of money, tell me I will be paying small small until I finish paying it. I said that in the name of he that brought us to leadership but not for his sons. His children will answer to whatever thing they committed,” he said.
Meanwhile, a group, The Save Ebonyi Network, has criticized the government for the car gifts, saying it is a waste of public funds.
The group, in a statement issued by its national coordinator and secretary, Okorie Nnamdi and Mbam Ofoke, queried why the personalities who can afford the cars on their own, would be given the cars at a time the state government is busy cutting salaries of health workers in the state.
“The situation today in the state is that of gloom and despair as many children of civil servants have dropped out of school as the drastic reduction in their salaries has made it difficult for them to pay their children’s school fees yet the Umahi administration has millions of naira to buy cars for people who have no need for them,” the statement read.
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