SHOCKING: Sporadic Gunshots, Students Protest Scuttle Abia Governorship Debate

LAGOS JANUARY 23RD (NEWSRANGERS)-Sporadic gunshots sent people scampering for safety, even as four persons were wounded and property worth hundreds of thousands of naira were destroyed at the end of the Abia State Governorship Debate in Umuahia on Tuesday.
The debate held at Abia Hotels was organised by Online Media Practitioners Association of Nigeria (OMPAN), in conjunction with some radio stations which broadcast the event live, for some select governorship candidates.
Governorship candidates who participated in the debate were Dr Okezie Ikpeazu of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Dr Okezie Ikpeazu, Dr Alex Otti of All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA), Barr. Mr. Emeka Uwakolam of Accord Party and Dr. Blessing Nwagba of Social Democratic Party (SDP).
Witnesses said pandemonium engulfed the venue as the debate was rounded off with Ikpeazu hurrying to leave the venue to catch up with the South East Zonal Rally of the PDP at Owerri when members of the National Association of Abia Students (NAAS) swooped on the venue.
Witnesses added that security details of the governor warded off the students, who, angered by the action of the security aides, barricaded the gate of the hotel in their bid to get the governor to address them.
It was gathered that the security aides started shooting and firing teargas into the air to scare the students away, thereby plunging the environment into confusion.
According to sources, four persons were injured during the melee while the students who felt neglected by the governor, vented their spleen on the property of the hotel, destroying chairs, doors and windows at the conference Hall where the debate was held.
A students who pleaded anonymity, said the students came to witness the debate, after which they had expected the governor to address them because he alleged that it has been difficult for them to have an audience with him.
He added that in their bid to get the Governor’s attention, his security men pounced on the Abia State president of NAAS, Nwazuo Remijius, and others, injuring many.
A Senior Special Assistant to the Governor on Grassroots Mobilisation and Political Matters, Hon. Ugwumba Adiele, said the students acted hastily, saying that the Governor was ready to address them before leaving the premises.
During the two-hour debate which featured questions on issues such as infrastructure, education, economy, agriculture and salaries, Ikpeazu was at the receiving end as other candidates accused him of non-performance and leadership failure.
It was the opinion of the other candidates that Ikpeazu has not done enough to address road deficits in the state.
Then first signal that the governor would have it rough was when he was regulated while he tried to do justice posed by his opponents.
His protested when he was stopped at the dot of three minutes allotted to each speaker. His supporters snarled the process and held up proceedings for about 10 minutes until the moderator acceded to his demand for more time.
Otti of APGA said by his findings, Ikpeazu’s administration has built a total of 59 roads measuring 79.38km, which cost should be determined by the standard of the roads, to which Ikpeazu replied that his government was not adopting any state’s methodology in road construction but according to the topography of the areas.
He said his government has in four years done more roads than any other past government in the state.
Defending his government further, the governor asserted no road in the state has lasted more than 10 years. “I plan to do roads that will outlive my reign, so that my successor will not have problems with roads,” he stressed. He also announced that his government is the first to be constructing a fly over in the state.
On her part, Blessing Nwagba of SDP agreed that some roads have been fixed, but added that a lot more could have been done if resources accruing to the state were prudently managed.
The candidates were taken up on the economy where they extensively gave insights into how they plan to take the state out of the woods.
Ikpeazu believes that by 2030, the population of Abia State would have doubled, that drastic measures were required to keep the state going.
He recommended two options for the state: agriculture and industrialisation, saying he was not running the government for election, but for the next generation.
With the flyover project still ongoing, Otti asked the governor if he was still contesting for re-election going by his alleged statement that he (Ikpeazu) would not seek re-election if he did not complete the Osisioma flyover.
Ikpeazu answered in the affirmative, adding that he was unable to complete the flyover because he had used part of the money meant for it to construct a bridge in Arochukwu.
To this, Otti praised Ikpeazu for doing the bridge but was quick to add that he would have been surprised if the Governor did not build the road leading the ancestral home of “some people in Akwa Ibom State.”
Also, Ikpeazu’s opponents spared nothing at rubbing in that the government has failed in its economic policies because of its inability to pay civil servants’ salaries.
The candidates said poor management of the resources available to the government was the major problem of the state and suggested ways to address the situation.
Otti expressed the view that the economy of Abia needed stimulation through prompt payment of salaries and went ahead to explain that non-payment of salaries means shutting down the state’s economy.
He blamed the government for condoning illegality and fraud in government parastatals and agencies by failing to sack erring officers who failed to follow government’s orders. “There is a saying that the fish gets rotten from the head. When there is a problem, look at the head, government has failed,” Otti said.
The Accord Party candidate agreed with the submission of his APGA counterpart, describing the scenario as a “leadership failure.” He said that “governance was a serious business that requires honesty, commitment and transparency.” He also told the governor to provide money for parents to feed their children at home by paying them salaries instead of the school feeding programme.
“I will not earn a kobo until all Abia workers are fully paid. There is an institutional failure in Abia State that is why government is unable to fire erring workers,” he said.
Meanwhile, some governorship candidates who were excluded from the debate have complained about their exclusion.
The candidate of the Young Progressive Party, Mr. Joseph Nkoro, said he was not invited for the debate and even arrived the venue early to see if they would be accommodated but that his effort also failed.
He accused the organisers of favouritism and charging high fees as a means of excluding them. It was alleged that the organisers charged the participants the sum of N1 million. But this was not confirmed as at the time of filing this report.

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Posted by on Jan 23 2019. Filed under National. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

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