It is no longer news that Godswill Akpabio will be defecting from the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) to the All Progressives Congress (APC). What has remained unclear, however, is why the former governor of Akwa Ibom state is leaving the PDP – a party he held sway as one of its key figures: a former governor and a senate minority leader.
The opposition party has alleged that the APC used the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) to cow him into joining them. There have also been arguments about politicians being “converted to saints” the moment they join the ruling party.
But the federal government has come out to deny the claim. Lai Mohammed, minister of information, said the APC will not provide cover for anyone involved in any crime.
Beyond the minister’s denial, however, why is Akpabio’s case generating ripples? What crimes is he accused of and why are their concerns he will be “born again” the moment he joins the APC?
AKPABIO’S RUNNING BATTLE WITH THE EFCC
The senator’s battle with the anti-graft agency began on October 16, 2015 when he was first invited for questioning over an alleged N108 billion fraud.
The invitation followed a petition written to the commission by Leo Ekpenyong, a lawyer and activist. Ekpeyong accused the former governor of “devising a means of enriching himself at the expense of the state” while in office.
He alleged that the looting was done in connivance with two top government officials of the state –Etekamba Umoren, former government house permanent secretary, and Udo Isobara, former accountant-general of the state.
Key allegations Ekpenyong raised in the petition were:
- Fraudulent withdrawal of N18 billion from the state’s share of the Federal Accounts Allocation Committee (FAAC) allocation above in a surreptitious manner to conceal their dishonest intention.
- Spending of over N50 billion state funds by the former governor during the 2015 election
- Withdrawal of N18 billion from the state’s coffers “under the guise of special services, reception of very important guests and sundry items.”
- Illegal acquisition of luxury including a multi-billion naira mansion at Plot 5, Ikogosi Spring Close, off Katsina-Ala Crescent, Maitama-Abuja; a multi-billion naira mansion at Plot 28 Colorado Close, Maitama, Abuja; 22 Probyn Road, Ikoyi, Lagos; Plot 23 Olusegun Aina Street, Parkview, Lagos and a multi-billion naira 25-storey building at Akin Adesola Street, Victoria Island, Lagos.
- N1.4 billion as gift to a bank in the sums of N566, 883,728.66; N441,808,081.90; and N392, 631,943.37.
THE STATE GOVERNMENT TO THE RESCUE?
The commission, at the time, said its efforts to interrogate state officials fingered in the alleged fraud were bring frustrated by the state government. Apart from the lack of response to letters seeking information, the state government officials invited for questioning were said to have refused cooperating with the commission.
For instance, it was reported that the EFCC had on one occasion written to the secretary to the state government, asking that some officials of the civil service be released for questioning over the matter.
The state attorney-general, in return, went to court seeking, among other things, the interpretation of the powers of the EFCC regarding the probe “with a view to stalling investigation”.
AKPABIO, HOWEVER, DENIED THE ALLEGATIONS
The senator had accused “disgruntled persons” of being behind his ordeal. According to him, the petitions against him were politically motivated.
He had said: “I just want to urge all my people in Akwa Ibom state who probably were disturbed to know that such monies were not missing from the coffers of the state, that is the simple truth. And if we had such additional sums as he (the petitioner) mentioned it, we would have done more for the state.”
The senator was admitted on bail during his fist time in EFCC custody in 2015 but returned barely 24 hours later and the investigations continued. He was grilled for hours and subsequently released while he insisted he had “nothing to hide.”
Since then, not much has been heard regarding the investigation, except for unconfirmed reports such as the seizure of a school said to be belonging to Unoma, the senator’s wife and linked to the alleged fraud.
TheCable was unable to get the commission to respond to inquiries regarding the current state of investigations as Wilson Uwujaren, EFCC spokesman, neither responded to calls or text message sent to him.