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Akpabio: Beginning Of The End?

Akpabio: Beginning Of The End?

These are trying days for Godswill Obot Akpabio, a former governor of Akwa Ibom State and

currently the senate minority leader. As he joins the APC, the party he has pilloried over the years, there have been shocking revelations on what has compelled him to take the hard decision.

But the events that are playing out had been foretold. In December 2015, Isong had predicted during his annual prophetic declarations, that Akpabio shall overcome his enemies but will lose his friends. The following year, exactly the same period, he predicted again that “senate minority leader, Godswill Akpabio shall be on the news again and will need very serious prayers for victory.”

The most worrisome prediction about him came in December last year, when Emmah Isong predicted prophesied that “pray for senate minority leader, that the dogs sent against him shall not attack him in public or bite him in secret.”

TNN learnt that Akpabio decided to leave the PDP he helped build and nurture since 1998, for the APC because of the fear of APC. His former commissioner for justice and Akwa Ibom State attorney-general, Chief Assam Assam, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria, SAN, told TNN in a telephone interview that he was full of sympathy for the former governor.

He said Akpabio was acting out of fear because of the cases against him before the EFFC.

“Have you ever been in a state of fear? When the door is banged, you jump. You hear noise as if somebody is breaking something, you will go and check. That is the state of fear. You have to be constantly on the alert.

“The issue here is that you really need to understand what Akpabio may be going through now. Buhari government has not been very friendly with the opposition leadership. If you cannot withstand pressure, then you can't cope. I'm using very kind words.

I'm in sympathy with Akpabio. I feel that Godswill is under pressure from the EFCC. It comes a time when the things you did came out in the public. So, we will rather sympathise with him. I'm not disappointed in him. I knew he was going to leave, one year ago, and I said so in writing, two times.”

He added that “as a senior party man, I knew Akpabio will be leaving the PDP. He has made all the necessary contacts with the APC to be received.”

The senior lawyer said despite the differences he had with his former boss, he never wrote a single petition to the EFCC or the police against him.

On the impact of Akpabio's defection, Assam said “for akwa Ibom State, it just means that our leaders are unreliable. For the PDP, it means the party has to work harder in the areas that Akpabio has influence. That's all.

Even though Assam did not petition the EFCC, an Abuja-based lawyer, Leo Ekpenyong, did series of petitions against the former governor, between 2015 and 2016. The EFCC also acted on those petitions and at a point, even invited him for questioning over the allegations of N108 billion fraud against him.

The anti graft commission had also written to banks believed to have been used for the alleged illicit transactions, while some of the properties he was alleged to have acquired illegally were seized by the commission.

In one of the petitions, Ekpenyong had called for the immediate arrest, investigation and prosecution of Akpabio. The EFCC has been on Akpabio's case since then and with the defection of top APC members to the PDP, TNN learnt, Akpabio's attention was drawn to the deluge of allegations against him and was given the option to cause a stir in the south-south in favour of the APC, of be ready for the greatest embarrassment of his life.

In one of Ekpenyong's petition, he had said that “the former Minister of Finance and Coordinating Minister of the Economy, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala had confirmed to the whole world that our state's revenue surpassed the entire yearly budgets of some African nations.

“She went on to confirm that the so much hyped 'uncommon transformation' in the state does not constitute 10 percent of what Akpabio got from the federation account alone.”

Ekpenyong said the former governor deducted millions of naira from salaries of local council staff across the state under an imaginary pension scheme and bribed council chairmen with N100 million when they questioned the fake pension scheme.

He accused Akpabio of using Nestoil as a surrogate firm to acquire 10 percent equity in Julius Berger Nigerian Plc while also building a 25 storey complex in Victoria Island, Lagos, using the oil firm as a front.

According to Ekpenyong, before Akpabio became governor, he only had a three-bedroom bungalow valued at N1.5million in his home town in Ukana, Essien Udim Local Government Area, but during his eight-year reign, he said the governor built a N7.5billion personal estate and acquired properties across the country as well as in Ghana, St. Kitts and Nevis Island, United Kingdom and other parts of the world.

In the course of the investigations, the EFCC had invited various officials of the government for questioning on the allegations. At that time an EFFC official was reported to have said that “we have written to Zenith Bank, Keystone Bank, FCMB, Skye Bank, and UBA demanding information on the state's accounts. We are also inviting the accountant-general, the auditor-general, the Speaker and the clerk of the House of Assembly. We have traced some houses to the former governor in Lagos and Abuja and it is just a matter of time before we seize them.”

Akpabio was first quizzed by the commission's detectives last year following series of petitions written against him.

The former governor, now the Senate Minority Leader, was accused of embezzling public funds while he was governor of the oil-rich state.

In March 2013, he was accused of giving N1m each to six chairmen of the Peoples Democratic Party from the South-South geopolitical zone that had converged on Port Harcourt for a party reconciliation session, telling them to use the money to “buy Mr Biggs.”

Some years ago, the Akwa Ibom State government had gone to a state High Court to get an interim order barring the EFCC from investigating Akpabio's administration.

The Justice Ntong Ntong-led court on July 15 granted an interim injunction, restraining the EFCC, the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission, and the Inspector General of Police from investigating the finances of the Akwa Ibom State government.

The suit was filed on behalf of the state government by the state Attorney-General, Uwemedimo Nwoko, who also served under Akpabio.

However, following a motion on notice filed by the EFCC, the court had vacated the order of interim injunction.

In a June 22, 2015 petition to EFCC, an Abuja-based lawyer and activist, Leo Ekpenyong had accused Akpabio of sheer waste in office.

One of the petitions by Ekpenyong which is believed to have played a great role in Akpabio's current travails is reproduced here. The letter was copied to the president, Muhammadu Buhari and other government agencies.

“Sequel to our earlier petition dated June 8th, 2015 on a similar subject matter bordering on graft and money laundering as perpetrated with impunity and utter disregard of laid down financial regulations and due process by the Godswill Akpabio administration, I make bold to aver as follows:

“Between January – December 2014, it is on record that the trio of Godswill Akpabio, Mr Etekamba Umoren, former permanent secretary, Government House and Mr. Udo Isobara, former Accountant-general of the state made illegal cash withdrawals amounting to N22 billion (twenty two billion naira) from an Akwa Ibom State Government Account No. 1010375991 with Zenith Bank, Uyo. To conceal the crime, the cash withdrawals were made in multiple tranches of mostly N10 million. It is worthy of note that reasons for such ungoldly cash withdrawals against due process laws range between sundry personal use and unjustifiable expenditures by Godswill Akpabio and his numerous surrogates and proxies.

“In the execution of these scam withdrawals from the state government account motioned above, funds were fraudulently retired on the basis of fictitious expenditure requests made by Mr. Etekamba, Umoren acting as Permanent Secretary, Government House and approved by Mr. Godswill Akpabio secretary to the state government for his inglorious and nefarious roles in the money laundering rackets.

“Worthy of mention is the fact that another whopping sum of (eighteen billion naira) N18b was also illegally withdrawn during the same period January to December 2014m for fictitious personal expenditures of Chief Godswill Akpabio using the Special Services Department of the Governor's Office as the conduit for Money Laundering. The total sum of N18billion was also siphoned using multiple cash withdrawals of mostly N10m form the Akwa Ibom State Government Main FAAC Account with the United Bank for Africa, Uyo in order not to attract attention to the fraud. In order to conceal the fraud Chief Akpabio approved fictitious expenditure requests submitted by the Permanent Secretary, Special Service Department while diverting the sums illegally withdrawals made through the offices of the Permanent Secretary, Governor's Office and the Permanent Secretary, Special Services Department in Just one year 2014 amounts to N40.1billion. It should be noted that the total sum of N40.1billion fraudulently withdrawn as cash by the two offices in 2014 was not spent on any capital projects. So what was the whopping sum of N40billion spent on? The cumulative aggregate of these monies stolen by Godswill Akpabio from the coffers of government as pocket money in just one year incidentally is the annual budget of some states in Nigeria put together. This is only a tip of the iceberg as this mindless looting of the State's resources was entrenched in the seven other years that Godswill Akpabio served as governor. A forensic examination of the financial records of the two offices will confirm this.

“A bouquet of a few assets acquired by Godswill Obot Akpabio via various surrogates and proxies are itemized as follows:

1)    A multi-billion naira Mansion at plot 5 Ikogosi Spring close off Katsina Ala Crescent Maitama, Abuja

2)  A multi-billion naira Mansionette at plot 28 colorado close, Maitama, Abuja

3)  A multi-billion naira Mansion at 22 probyn road, Ikoyi Lagos

4)  A multi-billion naira mansionette at plot 23 Olusegun Aina Street, Parkview Lagos

5)   A multi-billion naira 25 storey building at Akin Adesola Street, Victoria Island, Lagos.”

Akpabio's media aide, Mr Anietie Ekong would not take our calls in the last one week.

Meanwhile, it is becoming clear that due to the urgency of the need for Akpabio to defect to the APC to save his face, he did not inform key APC leaders from the state about his action.

For example, TNN learnt from sources close to Umana Okon Umana, that Akpabio did not consult the former gubernatorial candidate of the party before deciding to jump ship.

In fact, the source who sounded very bitter about Akpabio said even if the former governor was joining their party, it would be difficult for him to greet or answer his greetings because of what Akpabio did to his boss before now.

One of the founding fathers of the party in Akwa Ibom State, Senator James Akpan Udoedehe told TNN over the telephone that he was not aware tha Akpabio was joining his party. He said he would not ready to discuss an issue that was non existent.

Also, Obong Udo Ekpenyong, Akpabio's former deputy would not want to discuss Akpabio's defection when TNN reached him for comments on Monday.

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