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Godswill Akpabio, a common thief

The former governor of Akwa Ibom State, Godswill Akpabio, labelled his eight-year rule as an “Uncommon Transformation”.

He has been in the news lately for flying abroad for treatment to injuries he sustained in a car crash in Abuja, despite spending $150.6m on an “international standard” hospital in Uyo, the state capital.

Akpabio, now a senator and Minority Leader in the Senate, is facing allegations that he looted his oil-rich state dry and left them a mountain of debt.

It is mind-boggling that the state is said to owe 600bn naira (about $3bn) when it received the most in terms of allocations from the federal government from oil sales.

In a discussion on a Lagos TV channel, a former commissioner for information in the state, Ita Uwak, and now member of the All Progressives Congress (APC), claimed that from January to June last year, the state received 134bn naira ($672.6m) from the federal allocation.

Mid term federal allocation report last year, showing Akwa Ibom State at the top
Mid term federal allocation report last year, showing Akwa Ibom State at the top

He claimed that then finance minister Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala said, in response to Akpabio’s claim that the state had to borrow to meet shortfalls due to the drop in oil revenues, that only 10% of what the state received in allocations were spent on infrastructural development (the so-called Uncommon Transformation).

As the state received 3tn naira ($15bn) in eight years from the federal allocation, it means about 2.7tn ($13.5bn) is “in somebody’s pocket” – according to Uwak.

Despite Uwak’s partisan leanings, the evidence he presented of Akpabio’s theft and misrule was quite compelling. Uwak said that the only parts of the state that benefited from the “Uncommon Transformation” were the Uyo metropolis and Akpabio’s hometown Ukana, Ikot Ntuen. Uwak claimed that the road to his own hometown saw a contract of billions of naira awarded with not much built.

Akpabio sunk 105bn naira ($527m), the original budget was 32bn naira ($160m), in the Ibom Tropicana Entertainment Centre. It was meant to include, according to the blurb:

• A shopping mall with 59 standard shops, and to Bank service corridors.
• An Ultra modern convention centre with a multi-floor capacity of 5000
• A 14 storey five star hotel with 250 exquisite rooms.
• A Theme Park with various dry and wet rides/attractions covering an area of 3 hectares.

An artist's impression of the Ibom Tropicana Entertainment Centre: pleasing in the eye, burning a hole in the pocket
An artist’s impression of the Ibom Tropicana Entertainment Centre: pleasing to the eye, burning a hole in the pocket

The complex was due for completion in 2010 and despite the money spent on what is turning into a white elephant, it is not yet complete and fully functioning. Uwak questioned the rationale for so much money going into a “glorified cinema” in a state with so much poverty. The most likely explanation is that Akpabio and crew made out like bandits from inflated contracts.

Andem Andem, a member of Akpabio’s Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and Senior Special Assistant on Legal Matters to the current governor of Akwa Ibom State, Udom Emmanuel, tried to explain away the evidence of corruption, without much success. He claimed that “it is a plus to qualify for borrowing”.

Akwa Ibom people need to know what happened to all the revenues that came into the state before anyone starts thinking whether it is a good thing to qualify for borrowing. The state recently had to ask for a bailout to be able to pay the salaries of state employees. Former governor Akpabio is probably sitting on enough fraudulently acquired money to bail out his state.

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