Senate Minority Leader and former governor of Akwa Ibom state, Chief Godswill Akpabio may be prosecuted by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission for alleged theft and money laundering to the tune of over N108.6 billion. CHIKA NWABUEZE reports
The eight years administration of Senator Godswill Akpabio, former governor of Akwa Ibom state has come under investigations from the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, over allegations of corruption and money laundering. This has put to question the wide claim of infrastructural revolution in the oil rich state under Akpabio’s government.
According to a petition demanding for the probe of Akpabio, now minority leader of the Senate, Akwa Ibom state in his eight years in office received statutory allocations of over N3 trillion which cannot be accounted for, in terms of projects executed during that period. Business Hallmark gathered that the amount is five times more than what the entire states of the South East region received within the same period in review.
The former governor was accused by the petitioners to have diverted over N108.6 billion to his private pocket. But Akpabio has denied the allegation of theft and mismanagement leveled against him, which warranted his arrest by the EFFC on October 16th.
He explained that he was only questioned by the anti-graft agency, but admitted that he was summoned by the EFCC to respond to several allegations of corruption against him. .
Akpabio stressed that “a young lawyer from my state has been petitioning the EFCC accusing me of corruption. So shortly before I got involved in an accident in August, the EFCC summoned me to come and respond to the allegations.
“But following the accident, I wasn’t well enough to honour the EFCC summon. And I let them know. So today, since I’m now well, and the Senate did not sit, I decided to honour the EFCC so as to answer questions concerning the allegations against me. I wasn’t arrested. I walked in there myself and now I’m back at home.
The former governor of Akwa Ibom has been swimming in controversy since the end of his second term despite his widely acclaimed achievements in the state. For sure, Akwa Ibom statutory allocation tripled during his tenure and he also got some oil wells belonging to Cross River state ceded to Akwa Ibom which further enhanced the state’s allocations.
While many indigenes of the state alluded to Akpabio being the father of the modern Akwa Ibom, others disagreed, insisting that what is on ground is not commensurate with the resources available during that time. However, Akpabio was credited to have executed big projects like the Ibom Flyover, the water drainages, the Ibom Meridian Hotel, the completion of the new airport, the building of the international stadium and specialist hospital among others.
In any case, Akpabio came under public attack and criticism when in 2014 he sent a pension bill to the state House of Assembly for passage. In the bill which was later approved despite public outcry, Akpabio will be receiving N200 million annual pay as pension, perhaps the highest and most ludicrous in the country.
The state Assembly also approved the construction of a mansion which would serve as Senator Akpabio’s retirement home; in addition to brand new cars, befitting furniture and other luxuries, for the rest of his life. Akpabio had forwarded the bill known as Akwa Ibom State Governors and Deputy Governors Pension Bill, 2014, to the Assembly through a letter dated May 15, 2014.
Activists in Akwa Ibom had bemoaned the failure of the state Assembly to hold the profligate ex-governor to account while in office. This is why the petition detailing his alleged corrupt dealings was well received in the state. The EFCC arrest or invitation is seen by majority of stakeholders, especially the opposition in the state as a good development towards the recovery of the state’s looted billions.
An Abuja based lawyer, Mr. Leo Ekpenyong, petitioned the EFCC to investigate Akpabio, for allegedly mismanaging N3 trillion belonging to the state.
Ekpenyong, in the 5-page petition dated June 8, 2015 and addressed to EFCC Chairman, Ibrahim Lamorde, also copied President Muhammadu Buhari and the Inspector-General of Police, Mr. Solomon Arase.
The petitioner alleged that Akwa-Ibom received statutory allocations amounting to over three trillion naira during the eight years that Akpabio was in power, but the ex-governor misused the monies. He urged the EFCC to investigate the Akpabio administration, saying that the government’s “so-called uncommon transformation” programme was not commensurate with what was received.
Ekpenyong also alleged that the former governor’s administration had no respect for financial prudence and fiscal responsibility, as all transactions were shrouded in secrecy, which resulted to abuse and mismanagement.
He said throughout Akpabio’s eight years in office, “all matters pertaining to how much the state receives, how much is spent, how much is being owed, have remained a crudely guided secret.” The legal practitioner also accused Akpabio of running the financial affairs of the state without constitutional approval.
He also alleged that the Akpabio’s administration engaged in budgetary indiscipline, as it refused to make known the budget’s actual performance. “In 8 years, there has been no open presentation of budget breakdowns and when they pretend to do that, they did withhold the necessary documentations to ensure that no independent assessment of government and budget performance was done by citizens,” Ekpenyong alleged.
The petitioner further accused Akpabio of diversion of local government funds, especially the pension funds. He alleged that the former governor diverted the funds to the building of the Specialist Hospital at Itam. Quite interesting, when the senator had an accident he was flown abroad for treatment while the world class hospital he built remains unutilized.
Not only that, the petitioner accused the ex-governor of using state funds to acquire personal assets for himself and his family members. Take for instance; he alleged that Akpabio used a company, NESTOIL, as a front for money laundering activities, and also using same to acquire 10 per cent equity in Julius Berger Plc and a 25-storey building in Victoria Island, Lagos.
Other assets of the ex-governor, he said, include a N1.4 billion mansion at Ewet Housing Estate; a N3 billion residential apartment at No. 22, Probyn Road, Ikoyi; and over N6 billion new houses under construction at Shelter Afrique Estate in Uyo. Other assets acquired by Akpabio are foreign assets located in Ghana, St Kitts and Nevis Island, United Kingdom, among many others.
There is also a school owned by the Akpabio family worth N3.4 billion. It is run by Mrs. Nneoma Akabio, his wife, located at Shelter Afrique in Uyo; and a N4 billion country home owned by her located in her village, the petitioner alleged.
The petitioner also alleged that Akpabio used large sums of money belonging to the state government to fight political battles outside the state. He accused Akpabio of funding Rivers Governor, Nyesom Wike’s campaign. According to him Akpabio also funded the impeachment moves against ex-Adamawa governor, Murtala Nyako, and Governor Tanko Almakura of Nassarawa state.
Business Hallmark reports that the National Publicity Secretary of PDP, Chief Olisa Metuh, had addressed a press conference in Abuja describing the interrogation of Akpabio as a selective and dictatorial action. He said the APC-led government is out to deplete the strength of his party ahead of the 2019 election.
However, Ekpenyong the man who petitioned Akpabio is unhappy with the EFCC Chairman’s handling of the interrogation of the former governor. In a new petition President Buhari, he accused Lamorde of mentoring Akpabio on how to write statements that would enable him escape justice in the corruption case. He asked that the EFCC chairman should hands off the matter until a new helmsman is appointed for the agency.
Ekpenyong said that given the evidence already in public domain, there was no need for EFCC to be shopping for evidence to prosecute the former governor and retrieve the state’s funds from him and his associates.
“Lamorde should resign because he is working in league with Akpabio to stall his prosecution. What he is doing now is mere window dressing in the media to give the impression that he is serious about trying the former governor.
“That is why I have sent a new petition to the Presidency to remove Lamorde from the case and appoint a man with integrity to handle the case.”
A human rights activist and chairman Centre for Human Rights and Social Justice, Comrade Adeniyi, Alimi Sulaiman, said “it is an eye opener and on record that only members of the opposition political parties and political opponents are being invited since June 1st, 2015 to October 20th, 2015 by the anti-graft agencies in the country. President Buhari should know that Nigeria is not going to eat integrity but they need good governance with good economic direction that would make live bearable for them.
He queried why the anti-graft agencies, particularly, the EFCC refused to investigate the petition forwarded to it by some Civil Society Organizations where they raised corrupt allegations against Mr. Babatunde Fashola of Lagos State, Mr Rotimi Amaechi of River State and host of others? Is it because they were members of ruling party in the land? He asked.