By Soni Daniel, Northern Region Editor
The arrest of former governor of Akwa Ibom State Governor, Chief Godswill Akpabio, by the operatives of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission yesterday might not be unconnected with his refusal to honour an earlier invitation to appear before them on August 27, 2015.
Findings by Saturday Vanguard revealed that Akpabio incurred the wrath of the anti-graft agency for not turning up on the said date after he had been duly served with the summons to appear and answer questions relating to series of petitions written against him on bordering on the abuse of office, diversion of funds and abuse of public office.
The petitions were sent in by an Abuja-based lawyer, Leo Ekpenyong and native of the state and Oro Youth Movement, one of the socio-political groups in the state, aleging massive looting of Akwa Ibom State funds by the Akpabio administration.
As a prelude to bringing the former governor to justice, the EFCC summoned and interrogated top officials of the administration who worked with him, including the former Finance Commissioner, who is now a Senator, like Akpabio.
However, Akpabio, who was summoned by the agency to appear on August 27, 2015, did not do so having moved against the invitation of the EFCC Chairman, Ibrahim Lamorde, by the Senate over unremitted funds.
Akpabio had written a letter to the Senate leadership disassociating himself and other PDP members in the Senate from supporting the probe of Lamorde, claiming that it was ‘inappropriate’ at this time.
Based on that subtle support for the EFCC boss, he jetted out of the country a few days after not responding to the summon by the agency.
However, Saturday Vanguard learnt from competent sources that most of the officials who served under Akpabio who were invited by the EFCC to state what they knew about the diversion of funds of the state, made incriminating remarks against the former governor, who is now the Minority Leader in the Senate.
It was learnt that the EFCC moved against him apparently because of his initial refusal to honour its invitation and the statements made by officials of his administration, claiming that it was the governor who approved whatever expenditure they incurred while in office and that they had no reason to disobey him.
Saturday Vanguard learnt that Mr. Akpabio, accompanied by his lawyer, Mr. Ricky Tarfa, was taken in by EFCC operatives at about 5.20 pm.
He was immediately interrogated by a crack team of EFCC operatives, who did not free him as at the time of filing the report, but there were indications he would be freed before the end of the day.
An EFCC operative said: Akpabio was brought in at about 5.20 pm accompanied by a few aides and Mr. Rickey Tarfa.
“It is not yet known whether he will be allowed to go this night. It depends on how the interrogation goes.”
Mr. Ekpenyong had on June 8 petitioned President Muhammadu Buhari and the EFCC, calling for Mr. Akpabio’s probe and accusing him of looting Akwa Ibom state treasury.
To confirm the genuineness of the petition against Akpabio, the EFCC had summoned the author, Mr. Ekpenyong, on June 17, to adopt his petition and provide more details to some of the allegations he made against Mr. Akpabio.
But the former governor denied all the allegations against him through his former Information Commissioner, Mr. Aniekan Umanah, who is now the current Commissioner for Information in Umana described the contents of the petition by Mr. Ekpenyong as falsehood taken too far.
He said the petition betrayed a lack of understanding of the workings of government.
Umanah said:“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,” he said.
He claimed that 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 Akwa Ibom State never received up to N26 billion in any month throughout the period,” Umanah said.
EFCC Spokesman, Wilson Uwujaren, could not be reached for comments on the story as at the time of going to the press.