Former Akwa Ibom State Governor and Senate Minority Leader, Godswill Akpabio is back home after undergoing hours of interrogation at the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), the Morning Mail can authoritatively report.
The interrogation is believed to be in connection with a June 8 petition to the EFCC by an Abuja-based legal practitioner, Leo Ekpeyong, who accused Akpabio of large-scale theft of the state’s funds through two proxies.
However, the media aide of the former Governor, Jackson Udom, on Friday insisted that Senator Akpabio was not arrested by the anti-graft agency. Rather, he added, “Senator Akpabio went to EFCC this evening (Friday) on his own volition.”
Premium Times reported that the Senator arrived at the anti-graft agency’s Abuja office at 5.20pm. He was accompanied by his lawyer, Mr. Ricky Tarfa (SAN), and a few aides.
Late of Friday night, a photograph of Akpabio, wearing a blue kaftan and a cap arriving in his residence, was posted on Facebook by Udom to show that the Senator had left the EFCC.
The Morning Mail could not independently confirm if the EFCC merely granted the Senator an administrative bail for him to return for further interrogation later.
A press statement by Udom read: “This evening, senator Akpabio left his Abuja residence to honour an invitation by the EFCC. So the issue of being arrested is certainly out of it. Media practitioners should be able to differentiate between an arrest and an invitation so that the reading public would not be misled.”
Quoting a source at the anti-graft agency, TheCable reported that Akpabio was undergoing interrogation for alleged fraud and looting of Akwa Ibom funds when he was governor.”
Ekpenyong gave the names of two aides of the former governor through whom the alleged large-scale looting was effected as Etekamba Umoren and Udo Isobara.
Ekpenyong had on June 8 petitioned President Muhammadu Buhari and the EFCC, calling for the probe of Akpabio.
PREMIUM TIMES reported that several other indigenes of the state who are demanding the investigation of the former governor, have been invited by the EFCC to adopt their petitions.
It added that Ekpenyong was summoned on Wednesday, June 17, to adopt his petition and provide more details to some of the allegations he made against the senator.
Data from the National Bureau of Statistics and the office of the Accountant General of the Federation indicate that under Akpabio, Akwa Ibom received a staggering N1. 6 trillion from FAAC between June 2007 and May 2014, according to Premium Times.
In a new petition to the EFCC dated June 22, and copied to Buhari and the Inspector General of Police, Solomon Arase, Ekpenyong gave details of allegations against Akpabio.
He alleged that between January and December 2014, the ex-governor colluded with two of his top aides to steal a whopping N108.1 billion from the state’s treasury.
Ekpenyong 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.
“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.”
For assisting Mr. Akpabio retire billions of the stolen funds, Ekpenyong said Umoren was rewarded with an appointment as Government House chief of staff and now secretary to the state government under Udom Emmanuel’s administration.
The legal practitioner went on to state that over N50 billion of Akwa Ibom funds were spent by the former governor during the last general elections.
During the period under review, he said 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.
“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,” the petition reads.
He listed the bouquet of assets acquired by the former governor through 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 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.
Premium Times quoted the commissioner of information during Akpabio’s administration, Aniekan Umana, as describing the petition as 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 was quoted as saying.
He 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.
“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,” he said.
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! From published accounts of disbursement from the Federation Accounts, Akwa Ibom State never received up to N26 billion in any month throughout the period.
Note that in some months like the April and May, 2015, Akwa Ibom State received about N8 billion, Umana added.