Patrick Ifeanyi Okowa, the governor of Delta State, South-south Nigeria, has excluded himself state helmsmen whom President Muhammadu Buhari alleged often steal local government funds. The vice presidential candidate of the opposition Peoples Democratic Party, said this in a statement issued on his behalf.
The president made the accusation, without naming the governors involved in the act.
Okowo, based on his denial, joins the Rivers and Benue States governors Nyesom Wike and Samuel Ortom respectively, who equally said they had never done such.
In the statement issued by Olisa Ifeajika, the chief press secretary to Okowa, the governor said President Buhari merely made a “blanket statement”.
“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,” he said.