Monday, 21 September 2015

Fighting corruption and impunity in Akwa Ibom

Fighting corruption and impunity in Akwa Ibom


“If we don’t kill corruption, corruption will kill us (Nigerians)...”
  - Mohammadu Buhari

To the dismay of few  corrupt political bigwigs in Akwa   Ibom, who are feeding fat from largesse of eight years of misrule, the state is not immune to ongoing war against corruption and bad governance waged by the President Mohammadu Buhari led federal government. On the contrary, it appears our dear land of promise is fast becoming an epicenter of a raging struggle to weed out criminal minded public officers, considering recent developments and  growing impatience among the people with a state  government that appears to condone and defend corruption. 

A government that fails to understand that this battle is not about an individual, political party, ethnic interest or religious affiliation. As a matter of fact, in this fight, all barriers are pulled down as the people are united and resolute, gearing up for a historic march towards reclaiming their commonwealth from brigands and instill the fear of God in future public office holders that Akwa Ibom state has zero tolerance for corruption in public office.
So, as the anti-corruption war at the centre is cascading down to our state everyone, including Akwa Ibom workers and artisans, are already on the move. The workers, under the aegis of Nigerian Labour Congress, NLC, led by Comrade Etim Ukpong and Trade Union Congress, TUC, led by Comrade Akamba Awah are leading in an unprecedented manner this anti-corruption march. Also, elders and leaders of various political and social groups, civil liberty organizations and individuals have stood up to declare enough is enough against corruption, impunity and bad governance. 
They are doing so with growing boldness spurred  by daily appalling disclosures of grotesque rape on their commonwealth by those they entrusted with authority to administer the state. People are just sickened by how a small group of thieves could take advantage of public office to manipulate the system and siphon over N3 trillion to enrich themselves thereby impoverishing present generation and generations yet unborn. They are determined to hold all those found guilty of stealing from public treasury accountable. 

Few days after the last state administration left power, a certain individual, Mr. Leo Ekpenyong, a barrister, blew the whistle on huge fraud and embezzlement allegedly committed by Governor Godswill Akpabio against the people within his eight years in office. Many wished him away as a rabble rouser, but he could not be pushed aside that easily, so he started reeling out facts based on oral statements and documents such as bank statements, account numbers, names of banks and government officials as well as private individuals that were used as conduits to siphon billions of state funds into personal coffers. He went on to list property scattered across choice locations within and outside the country and front companies that were proceeds of stolen state funds 

Eventually, his shocking revelations caught the attention of concerned citizens, but Ekpenyong is not done. He has since written three petitions dated June 8, 22 and August 3, 2015 respectively, against former Governor Godswill Akpabio to the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, demanding investigation into what he terms “uncommon diversion of Akwa Ibom tax payers’ money for the acquiring of massive properties (sic) by the former governor”.  

As if on cue, Labour has since repented from sycophancy and praise singing to join growing discontent against state government’s alleged shady deals, demanding clarification on these claims and other boiling issues especially, monumental debt left behind by Akpabio’s government. 

Recently, during a press briefing held by TUC in Uyo to commemorate the National Day of Action against corruption, Comrade Awah reportedly accused Governor Udom Emmanuel of indifference to fighting corruption and insincerity concerning the state’s true debt profile. He then challenged government to respond to public allegations made by Leo Ekpenyong in his petitions to EFCC.
Similarly, stakeholders and leaders across the state have risen up against attempts by Udom’s government to distort, misinform and mislead the people over recent visit of the Department of State Security, DSS, to the presidential wing of Governor’s Lodge. In their press statement titled “What is Udom Emmanuel and PDP afraid of?”, they declared  support for the ongoing investigation by the federal security agency and charged the agency to make public their findings in order to justify their action. 

Still on these growing agitations, the Premium Times, an online news platform, reported on September 15, 2015 that an Abuja-based lawyer, Okoi Obono-Obla, has written to the Director-General, Debt Management Office, DMO, to demand access to information on Akwa Ibom government external and domestic debt profile. 

According to the report, a similar letter was equally sent to the Accountant General of the Federation to demand details of the revenue allocation from the Federation Accounts Allocation Committee, FAAC to the 31 Local Government Councils in the state between May 2007 and May 2015.

Mr. Obono-Obla said in the two letters that his firm was asking for access to the external and domestic debts of the state received between May 27, 2007 and May 27, 2015, on behalf of his client, Inibehe Effiong, an indigene of the state, hinged on the provisions of Section 5(1) of the Freedom of Information, FOI, Act of 2011. 

What all these probing questions point to is that Akwa Ibom people want to know the truth and are prepared for the task of exposing multilevel fraud against the state, which this administration is  unsuccessfully trying to sweep under the carpet. 

Frankly, no one should expect Udom Emmanuel to fight corruption since his administration is an  offshoot of the one under probe. He has admitted severally that he will continue the ‘uncommon transformation’. Consequently, as a beneficiary of a corrupt, violent and fraudulent electoral process, which is currently being challenged at electoral tribunals, this administration is constrained. Perhaps Udom’s ‘great teacher’ effectively subverted the country’s constitution and electoral law to foist him on the people against their will for this very reason. Herein lies a correlation between corruption and electoral fraud. 

Nevertheless, it is expected of him (as a Deacon in his church) to be honest enough not to interfere with ongoing investigations which may eventually appease the people and ensure enduring reconciliation and peace. He should rather focus on how to meet the people (whom his party reportedly brutalised, maimed and abused while stealing their mandate) should a re-run election hold. 

It is sobering to think that Akwa Ibom people could have suffered the fallout of such civilian ‘bloody’ coup for four years if not for the gallantry of some of their sons and daughters, who dared to challenge an insidious evil, not by matching violence for violence, but by approaching the court. History will speak well of them for their bravery. In the same vein, the Judiciary, deserves commendation for its renewed zeal to fight corruption, uphold the rule of law as well as ensure that justice is done. 

That said, Akwa Ibom people must seize the opportunity of a possible re-run election to salvage our state from a cabal that held it in a vice like grip for eight years by voting out their stooges, who aided, abated and enjoyed ephemeral power bestowed on them through electoral fraud, yet going about with a sense of entitlement. 

The people should know that the war against corruption and impunity can be won by mass action and that real people orientated development can only be assured when leaders emerge through the ballot in a free, fair and credible election.

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