Former Senate Minority Leader, Senator Godswill Akpabio has landed in a seeming petty constituency equipment looting in spite of his intimidating status as a financial giant after dominating the affairs of Akwa Ibom State as governor for eight years (2007-2015).
Like the worrisome allegation of his looting the treasury of the state, the latest messy looting of some sensitive equipment in his constituency could have been avoided in a bid to salvage his dented integrity.
With the confirmation of the Independent Corrupt Practices Commission (ICPC) that the former governor and a chieftain of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) is linked to the constituency equipment looting, his obviously embarrassed admirers say the sad development is another avoidable integrity mess.
ICPC Commissioner in the state, Olusola Shodipo, confirmed that one Dialysis machine, two 15kva generating sets and several constituency project items meant for supply and installation for use at a cottage hospital in Ukana, Akpabio’s home town in Essien Udim Local Government Area, were diverted by the embattled senator.
The ICPC boss who spoke on Inspiration 105.9FM, however, pointed out, ‘’we cannot engineer petitions against anyone by ourselves, the chairman and members of the board has come up with a new strategy in the fight against corruption. We are investigating constituency projects embarked upon by members of the National Assembly to determine whether such projects were implemented as captured or not, and this took us to the cottage hospital, Ukana where we discovered that one Dialysis machine, out of three, two 15Kva generating sets and several other constituency project items meant for supply and installation at the hospital were not fully implemented.’’
The drama is playing out after Akpabio recently held a Thank You ceremony in his constituency- Ikot Ekpene Senatorial District- where various items and cash were doled out to his followers.
The ex-governor who is currently at the Elections Petition Tribunal sitting in Uyo, the state capital, challenging the election of Senator Christopher Ekpeyong as his replacement, late last year dumped the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), the party that made him, to the APC, in a bid to get the menacing Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) off his back on the unsettled N108 billion corruption allegation.
Akpabio had reportedly told some of his political associates that he left the PDP to APC because he could not withstand the ‘’federal might’’. With the messy constituency equipment looting, concerned citizens are currently wondering if Akpabio could stoop so low to pinch from his constituents whom he claimed to love and represented.
Akpabio’s Special Assistant on Media, Anietie Ekong, had earlier denied the development, claiming that it is totally unfounded because his principal does not own any business premises.
Ekong tried to persuade the general public to discountenance the report since according to him, ‘’it is malicious, fictitious, baseless and unfounded’’.
Adding, he said, ‘’Akpabio remains committed to the welfare of the good people of Akwa Ibom North West Senatorial District whom he had given effective representation as a senator of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.’’
But the previous Wednesday, the media was awashed with reports that ICPC operatives, acting on a tip off, raided a company belonging to the senator’s younger brother, Nsentip.
Reports said some hospital equipment allegedly meant for Akpabio’s constituents were discovered at the premises of Nsemek Industries Limited, a private company located in Ukana and managed by Nsentip. Some of the items allegedly recovered were hospital equipment meant for Ukana Cottage Hospital, including Dialysis machine, computers, Anaesthetic machine, ECG Monitor, Oxygen regulator, two 15 KVA generators, among others.
The equipment are part of items purchased through Constituency Fund. The recovered equipment are said to have been handed over to the management of the Ukana Cottage Hospital, the original beneficiary.
Continuing with his testimony, Ekong said, ‘’some operatives of the ICPC led by one Mr Tiku and the Border Community Development Agency led by Engr. Susan have been in communication with the contractor handling the contract for the supply of hospital equipment to Cottage Hospital, Ukana, a project initiated by Senator Godswill Akpabio.
‘’On July 9, 2019 the said officials of the ICPC and Border Community Development Agency informed an aide of Senator Akpabio that they were tracking constituency projects and would be glad to be shown to projects which Senator Akpabio has executed, a request that was received with great enthusiasm by the aide of Senator Akpabio.
‘’Among the projects visited by the team included a fully built and completed Skills Acquisition Centre in Ikot Ekpene and the Recreation Centre at the Federal Polytechnic, Ukana. They were also shown the medical equipment and generators which were kept in a warehouse which shares the same fence with the hospital.
‘’The officials were very impressed with the execution of the projects and praised Senator Akpabio for the faithful execution of the projects even when the full contract sums were yet to be paid. They promised to make recommendations to appropriate agency for the payment of the outstanding contract sums.
‘’ICPC and Border Community Development Agency officials also visited the Cottage Hospital, Ukana where the Medical Superintendent, Dr Mary Paulinus Udoh acknowledged receipt of the medical equipment. The Medical Superintendent before the officials praised Senator Akpabio for his interventions in the hospital including the donation of a dialysis machine and all the parties agreed that the generators should be formally handed over to the hospital on July 10, 2019 by 10 am.
‘’Senator Akpabio can hardly be faulted in the execution of constituency projects. He has initiated and completed 88 constituency projects cutting across Akwa Ibom North West Senatorial District and even extending the projects to the other two senatorial districts in Akwa Ibom with projects in Udung Uko and Ibiono in Eket and Uyo Senatorial Districts respectively. This is unprecedented. Even though most of the projects have not been fully paid for, most of them have been completed and put to use by benefiting communities.
‘’The officials of the Border Community Development Agency created the impression that after the verification and tracking of the projects, they would make recommendations to appropriate agencies for the payment of outstanding balance of the contract sums to the contractors.
‘’It therefore smacks of mischief taken too far that while the contractor as agreed by the Hospital Management was making arrangements for forklift to carry the heavy duty generators and formally hand them over to the Hospital Management, some political jobbers went to town about a purported raid and diversion of the same equipment duly acknowledged by the Management of the hospital.’’