Governor of Ebonyi state, David Umahi has built another governor’s lodge in Abuja worth N1.2 billion despite a debt figure of over N41 billion and unpaid pensions in the state.
Mr Umahi who made this known on Friday after meeting with President Muhammadu Buhari at the presidential villa in Abuja boasted that the lodge is the best in the country.
The governor said he was at the presidential villa to invite Mr Buhari to commission the governor’s lodge and that the president had accepted the invitation.
According to data released by Debt Management Office (DMO), Ebonyi State has a debt profile of N41.6 billion as at 31 March 2022 while according to a report by a civic organisation, BudgIT, Ebonyi State was among eight states yet to pay its pensioners in the last six months as at 28 July.
Mr Umahi said he decided to build the new lodge because the existing one in Maitama, Abuja, was not fit enough for him to discharge his duties.
He said he bought “a 3,000 square meters land in Asokoro, Abuja, in 2016, for the building of the new lodge.”
He said, “Luckily, I got land. Very good price, at N350 million and I paid in 2016 but I didn’t start building until about November 2020. And by June 2022, I had completed it.
“When I say it is the best governor’s lodge anywhere in this country. I mean, it’s the best governor’s lodge anywhere in this country.”
Although he did not give the exact amount used for the project gulped, he is certain that the cost was within N1.2 billion.
“I wouldn’t be able to say how much it took, but I know it should be under… if it’s up to N1 billion, it cannot be more than N1.2 billion. But when you see it, you will think it is something built with N10 billion. Mark my words, you will not find any other lodge not like that (in Nigeria),” he stated.
Asked to comment on the benefits of the lodge to Ebonyi people, Mr Umahi claimed, “the project would help to build the self-confidence of Ebonyi people and overcome the feeling that they are being marginalised.”
“And to some people, we use it to punish those of them that neglect us. They are being punished by this gigantic project. And my projects are projects you can’t find anywhere in the South-east. You can crosscheck that. So, it is punishment,” Mr Umahi said.
According to the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS), in 2020, Ebonyi State is the fourth poorest state in Nigeria and the least in the South-east, regarding economic development.
When the media aide to the governor, Francis Nwaze posted photographs of the lodge on his Facebook page on 3 August, some Facebook users criticised the governor’s decision to build the lodge.
A Facebook user, Steve Emmanuel, said “Ebonyi doesn’t need this. The governor doesn’t live in Abuja. The teeming and unemployed youths in the state need this money invested in their education and empowerment.”
Another Facebook user, Solomon Ukpai, said “What a waste of resources! People are dying of hunger here in Ebonyi, and our money is being used to build house …in the name of Ebonyi Lodge in Abuja.”
Although Mr Umahi denied the report, saying his administration never owed salaries in the state, BudgIT said it conducted the survey “to spotlight and identify state governments that have consistently failed to meet the essential requirements of governance and employee compensation in Nigeria.”