Alleged N108.1b Fraud: How Akpabio Landed In EFCC’s Net

…Released After Being Quizzed For Four Hours

imageSenate Minority Leader and former Governor of Akwa Ibom State, Senator Godswill Akpabio, was yesterday, arrested and quizzed by operatives of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) at about 5.30pm.
Akpabio was allegedly arrested by the nation’s apex anti-graft agency over allegations bothering on corruption and fraud during his time as governor. He is specifically being accused of alleged “ stealing” of N108.1 billion of Akwa Ibom state funds.

The Department of State Security (DSS) recently raided Akpabio’s abode at the government house in Uyo, the capital of Akwa Ibom state where several startling discoveries including stashed monies were recovered from Akpabio. But the invasion by the security agency however attracted stern criticism and outrage by Akpabio’s political party, the PDP and some political elders in the state loyal to the former governor.

Akpabio’s arrest was however confirmed to a LEADERSHIP Weekend correspondent on phone at 7pm on Friday by the EFCC spokesman, Mr Wilson Uwujaren. He was, however, allowed to go home after interrogation by the EFCC at about 11:45pm, yesterday.

Speaking to LEADERSHIP Weekend yesterday evening on this development, a top source at the EFCC however confirmed to us that Akpabio who indeed arrived the EFCC office at about 5.30pm for the interrogation, came in the company of his personal attorney and constitutional lawyer, Rickey Tarfa and a few of his aides.

An Abuja-based lawyer and activist, Leo Ekpenyong, had on June 8 petitioned President Muhammadu Buhari and the EFCC, accusing Senator Akpabio of looting Akwa Ibom state treasury to the tune of ‎N108.1billion and also calling for his immediate probe.

Also, in another new petition to the EFCC dated June 22, Ekpenyong gave details of some of Akpabio’s alleged financial recklessness. He noted that between January and December 2014, while in office, Akpabio allegedly colluded with two of his top aides to “steal “ a whopping N108.1 billion from the state’s treasury.

Ekpenyong had told the EFCC that the former Government House Permanent Secretary, Etekamba Umoren, and the former Accountant General of the state, Udo Isobara, connived with Akpabio to allegedly steal the funds.

Following the petition however, the EFCC began full scale investigation into the alleged theft of N108.1billion. Following the whistle blown by Ekpenyong on Akpabio’s alleged corrupt practices, LEADERSHIP Weekend gathered from sources in Akwa Ibom State and the EFCC, that many politicians and other individuals from the state who claim to be in the know of all the alleged corrupt dealings of the former chairman of PDP Governors’ Forum, have inundated the anti-graft Commission with what as been described as damning petitions against Akpabio.

The EFCC had specifically invited Akpabio’s accuser-in-chief, Ekpenyong, on Wednesday June 17, for the adoption of his petition and possibly offer more insight into some of the allegations he had made against the Senate Minority Leader. However while as governor between May 29, 2007 and May 28, 2015, Akwa Ibom under Akpabio a bumper period in terms of favorable oil revenue funds. The south-south states of Akwa Ibom and Rivers states though top oil producing states in the country, enjoyed relative exotic share of the monthly oil revenue allocation funds from the Federation Accounts Allocation Committee (FAAC).

Reports from Premium Times, an on-line media earlier monitored by LEADERSHIP Weekend, revealed that “ data from the National Bureau of Statistics and the office of the Accountant General of the Federation indicate that under Mr. Akpabio, known for ostentatious spending, Akwa Ibom received a staggering N1. 6 trillion from FAAC between June 2007 and May 2014”.
The on-line portal stated that at the time Akpabio vacated office on May 29 this year, Akwa Ibom state received more funds, excluding other revenues like Ecological Funds, internally generated revenue, etc. Ekpenyong, in his petition to the EFCC dated June 22, and copied to President Buhari and the Inspector General of Police, Solomon Arase, gave details of some of Senator Akpabio’s alleged financial profligacy.

Apart from Ekpenyong’s allegation that between January and December 2014, that the ex-governor colluded with two of his top aides to steal a whopping N108.1 billion from the state’s treasury, The activist lawyer told the EFCC that the “ former Government House Permanent Secretary, Etekamba Umoren, and the former Accountant General of the state, Udo Isobara, colluded with Akpabio to steal the funds.
Ekpenyong sqealed thus: “Between January –December 2014, it is on record that the trio of Godswill Akpabio, Mr. Etekamba Umoren and Mr. Udo Isobara, made illegal but substantial withdrawals of cash from a designated state government-owned account with Zenith Bank with account number: 1010375881 amounting to N22.1 billion,” he stated in the petition.

“It is worthy of note that reasons for such ungodly cash withdrawals against financial regulations and due process laws range between sundry use and unjustifiable expenditures by Godswill Akpabio and his numerous surrogates and proxies. For example, a whopping N18 billion was withdrawn fraudulently from the state FAAC account with the United Bank for Africa in trenches of N10 million and above by Mr. Isobara in a surreptitious manner to conceal their dishonest intention.”

Ekpenyong claimed that for “ assisting Mr. Akpabio retire billions of the stolen funds, Mr. Umoren was rewarded with an appointment as Government House chief of staff and now secretary to the state government under Udom Emmanuel’s administration”. He allegedly stated that “ over N50 billion of Akwa Ibom funds were spent by the former governor during the last general elections “, maintaining that “ during the period under review, Akpabio also withdrew a whopping N18 billion from the state coffers under the guise of special services, reception of very important guests and sundry items.

Ekpenyong revealed in his petition: “The cumulative aggregate of these monies stolen by Godswill Akpabio from the coffers of government as pocket money is the annual budget of some states in Nigeria put together “. He listed Senator Akpabio’s many assets acquired through alleged surrogates to include : a multi-billion naira mansion at Plot 5 Okogosi Spring Close, off Katsina-Ala Crescent, Maitama-Abuja, a multi-billion naira mansionette at Plot 28 Colorado Close, Maitama, Abuja and another multi-billion naira mansion at 22 Probyn Road, Ikoyi, Lagos.

Others allegedly include: a multi-billion naira mansionette at Plot 23 Olusegun Aina Street, Parkview, Lagos and a multi-billion naira 25 storey building at Akin Adesola Street, Victoria Island, Lagos. “As earlier promised, more details of assets and graft-related funds illegally and fraudulently siphoned from Akwa Ibom State treasury and laundered to foreign destinations are in the offing. As usual, we will do the needful.

According to on-line report, an EFCC source said senior officials of the commission held discussions with Mr. Ekpenyong on the petition on Tuesday.
“He also adopted the petition he forwarded to the commission and provided additional details about the alleged stealing of funds by the former governor,” the source said. It also noted that many of those who have sent petitions to the commission against the former governor have already been invited to adopt their documents.He confirmed that very soon the commission would invite the former governor for questioning.

Although Senator Akpabio could not be reached for his side of the story and his aides, Messrs Umoren and Isobara could not also be reached for comments. But the commissioner of information during the administration of Akpabio, Mr Aniekan Umana, described the contents of the petition by Mr. Ekpenyong as absolute falsehood taken too far. He said the petition betrayed a lack of understanding of the workings of government.

“Every sum withdrawn from a government account is tied to a subhead and there must be a budgetary provision. To attribute fraud to withdrawals which had the full sanction of Government and was accommodated in the budget is strange, mischievous and untenable. More so, when one understands that there are checks and balances which guide all aspects of government financial administration,” Umana said.
Umana who is also a current serving Commissioner in governor Emmanuel Udom’s administration, also said the allegation that the State Government spent N50 billion on the March General Elections falls flat on its face based on his explanations of the workings of government as regards financial transactions, according to the on-line medium.

“There was no such provision in the budget of this year and such an amount could not have been paid as an extra-budgetary expenditure and yet salaries and other commitments were met. We challenge the petitioners to provide proof to support this wild allegation. Who was it paid to? How was it paid? Where was it paid? And when was it paid?

“Senator Akpabio does not own a 25-storey building in Victoria Island or in any part of the world, as alleged by the petitioner. It is also a patent falsehood that the house at 22 Probyn Road, Ikoyi belongs to Senator Akpabio.
It is a rented building which ownership can be verified from Lagos State Lands Registry.

“Senator Akpabio does not own the properties mentioned in the petition to belong to him. You can verify the ownership of the properties (5 Okokosi Close, Maitama and Plot 28 Colorado Close, Maitama) from the land registry in Abuja,” Umana stated. He also denied the state received over N2 trillion as oil allocation.
“Please do note that the idea that the Akwa Ibom State Government received over N2.5 trillion in the eight years of the Akpabio administration is an outrageous lie. What this suggests is that the State Government received an average of N26 billion monthly for the period. What a lie! “.

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