Governor Hope Uzodinma of Imo State has spoken on the disagreement between the state government and Innoson Vehicle Manufacturing Company (IVM) over a N2.5 billion debt.
The company, last week, said it has sued the state government for a 2021 deal, in which it got some vehicles and their parts, on credit.
It said the worth of the debt with a dollar value of $3.8 million, has now risen to about $6.3 million, pointing out that the value of the money depreciated by over 40 per cent.
The Commissioner for Information in the state, Declan Emelumba, would later fault the claim, saying that the company was covering some facts and attempting to blackmail the state government.
He accused the company of intentionally refusing to admit that the government had made some payments and that the amount being claimed by the company was just a balance of the total cost of the vehicles purchased by the government.
“The truth is that the total value of the contract we had with them came to over N5 billion out of which we have paid N3.5 billion. So, they are talking about the balance,” Mr Emelumba had said.
In their reaction on Monday, Cornel Osigwe, the company’s spokesperson, insisted that the state government was yet to pay the N2.5 billion debt for the purchase of its vehicles and their parts.
He accused the government of attempting to “water down the facts and substance” of the allegation, saying the current debt is being owed after the company supplied another set of vehicles in 2021, one year after the first transaction.
Mr Osigwe also denied that there was an agreement with the state government that the company would set up a service centre in the state.
The spokesperson explained that although the company was servicing and maintaining the vehicles supplied to the state before, they decided to withdraw the services due to the state government’s failure to pay for “servicing parts used, which have risen to above N7 million.”
But speaking on the allegation, Mr Uzodinma, in a Facebook post on Friday, insisted that there was an agreement that the company would set up a mobile technical workshop for servicing the supplied vehicles.
The governor said the vehicles were purchased for the purpose of combating rising insecurity in the state and that the government decided to patronise Innoson Motors to promote local products.
He said the state government had remitted over N3 billion to the company and waited for the company to comply with the agreement of setting up a servicing centre for the vehicles, but they failed.
“Rather than fulfilling its obligations to the Imo State Government and complying with the conditions of the said agreement, the management of IVM embarked on an unfortunate public outcry to whip up sentiments to mislead unsuspecting Nigerians and rip off the taxpayers of Imo State,” Mr Uzodinma said.
The governor said over 70 per cent of the supplied vehicles have broken down and that others are in various stages of disrepair due to failure of the company to set up a service centre for the vehicles.
“I am saying, as promised, come and do the (servicing) workshop so that we can repair the vehicles and at least regain money from them before we can pay more money,” the governor said in a video clip which accompanied his Facebook post.
“I also came from the private sector. We don’t throw away money. We have to get value for money,” he added.
He, however, expressed optimism that the issue would be “resolved amicably.”
Mr Uzodinma, who said he was awaiting the court action, added that the government was also open for out-of-court settlement with the company.
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