Despite a debt figure of over N41 billion, the governor of Ebonyi State, Dave Umahi, has built another lodge in Abuja.
Umahi boasted that the lodge, valued at 1.2 billion, is the best in the country.
He made this statement on Friday after meeting with President Muhammadu Buhari at the presidential villa in Abuja.
The governor said he was visiting the presidential villa to extend an invitation to President Buhari to commission the governor’s lodge, and the president accepted the invitation.
As of 31 March 2022, Ebonyi State has a debt profile of N41.6 billion, according to information made public by the Debt Management Office.
Umahi said he made the decision to construct the new lodge because the one in Maitama, Abuja, was not fit for him to carry out his duties.
He said he bought 3,000 square meters of land in Asokoro, Abuja, in 2016, for the building of the new lodge.
“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,” he said.
“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,” Mr Umahi stated.
The governor said although he could not give the exact amount 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 said.
When asked to comment on the benefits of the lodge to Ebonyi people, Umahi claimed the project would help to build the self-confidence of Ebonyi people and overcome the feeling that they are being marginalized.
“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.
Almost all the states in Nigeria have a governor’s lodge in Abuja, which is largely used by state governors and other officials of the state governments for hosting visitors and lodging during meetings in Abuja.
The National Bureau of Statistics, in 2020, ranked Ebonyi State as the fourth poorest state in Nigeria and the least in the South-east regarding economic development.
Apart from the N41 billion debt figure, a report by a civic organization, BudgIT showed that Ebonyi State was among eight states yet to pay its pensioners in the last six months as at 28 July.
Mr Umahi denied the report, claiming 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 Nigeria’s essential requirements of governance and employee compensation.