MUYIWA OYINLOLA in this piece writes on the series of political travails of former Akwa Ibom State governor, Senator Godwill Akpabio, and how he has been surmounting the onslaughts.
Former Akwa Ibom State governor, Godswill Akpabio is perhaps the only politician that is vigorously challenging his defeat in the last National Assembly election at the Election Petition Tribunal.
But beyond this, he is also fighting scores of political battles both at the local and national levels.
It will be recalled that, when he defected from the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) before 2019 general elections, pundits were of the view that he would not be able to survive without using the ruling party as a shield. The calculation of polical pundits was that his defection to the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) would provide him a shield. Hence, less political problems to contend with.
But there are indications that the senator is facing serious challenges from his opponents, who appear to be ready to rather silent him politically.
Akpabio has been facing series of attacks from his political opponents, just as he has equally been fighting hard to remain relevant in the political cycle, both in his state and at the National level.
Apart from approaching the election tribunal sitting in Uyo, the Akwa Ibom State capital, to challenge his loss in the February 23, 2019 senatorial election, another allegation recently surfaced on the internet that he allegedly diverted dialysis machines and two 15 KVA power generating sets meant for supply to the Cottage Hospital, Ukana, in Essien Udim Local Government Area of Akwa Ibom State, during his tenure as Senator representing Akwa Ibom North West (Ikot Ekpene) Senatorial District in the National Assembly.
According to reports, the items he was alleged to have diverted were meant to be part of his constituency projects. It was however gathered that the contract was awarded to one Beacon Creative Idea Nig Ltd, and not Akpabio that supplied the dialysis machine and the power generating sets as pwas alleged.
Some of his aides who spoke to LEADERSHIP on the allegation said the dialysis machines were not sold in the local markets in Akwa Ibom, noting that if the supplier wanted to divert it as the peddlers of the fake news want the public to believe, he would have done so outside the shores of the state.
The aide who did not want his name mentioned, however urged the public to discountenance the fake news flying around the internet about the former governor.
According to him, “Senator Akpabio is a former governor of Akwa Ibom State and many Nigerians believe his tenure brought massive infrastructural development to the South-South state. During his reign, he built a world-class hospital in Uyo, the state capital, to stem the tide of medical tourism in the state.”
Also, while speaking, on the purported raid of a business mall purportedly owned by the former Senator, by the Independent Corrupt Practices and other related offences Commission (ICPC) over an alleged diversion of generators and hospital equipment, in Ukana, some of his close associates revealed that the report is totally unfounded, fabricated and baseless, as they claimed the senator does not own any business premises in the said vicinity, or anywhere for that matter.
According to the source, “Some operatives of the ICPC led by one Mr. Tiku and the Border Community Development Agency, led by Engr. Susan, have been in communication with the contractor handling the contract for the supply of hospital equipment to Cottage Hospital, Ukana, Essien Udim Local Government Area, a project initiated by Akpabio.
“On July 9, 2019, the said officials of the ICPC and Border Community Development Agency informed an aide of Senator Akpabio that they were tracking constituency projects and would be glad to be shown projects which Senator Akpabio has executed, a request that was received with great enthusiasm by the aide of Senator Akpabio.
“Among the projects visited by the team included a fully built and completed Skills Acquisition Centre in Ikot Ekpene and the Recreation Centre at the Federal Polytechnic, Ukana. They were also shown the medical equipment and generators which were kept in a warehouse which shares the same fence with the hospital. It should, however, interest the public to know that the officials were very impressed with the execution of the projects and praised Senator Akpabio for the faithful execution of the projects, even when the full contract sums were yet to be paid. They promised to make recommendations to the appropriate agency for the payment of the outstanding contract sums.”
He further disclosed to LEADERSHIP that the said ICPC and Border Community Development Agency officials also visited the Cottage Hospital, Ukana, where the Medical Superintendent, Dr. Mary Paulinus Udoh, acknowledged receipt of the medical equipment.
He said the Medical Superintendent, before the officials, praised Senator Akpabio for his interventions in the hospital, including the donation of a dialysis machine, and all the parties agreed that the generators should be formally handed over to the hospital on July 10, 2019 by 10 am.
His words: “Senator Godswill Akpabio can hardly be faulted in the execution of constituency projects. He has initiated and completed 88 constituency projects cutting across Akwa Ibom North West senatorial district and even extending the projects to the other two senatorial districts in Akwa Ibom State with projects in Udung Uko and Ibiono in Eket and Uyo senatorial districts respectively. This is unprecedented. Even though most of the projects have not been fully paid for, a good number of them have been completed and put to use by the benefiting communities.”
“The officials of the Border Community Development Agency created the impression that after the verification and tracking of the projects, they would make recommendations to appropriate agencies for the payment of the outstanding sum of the contract to the contractors. It therefore smacks of mischief taken too far that while the contractor as agreed by the Hospital Management was making arrangements for forklift to carry the heavy duty generators and formally hand them over to the Hospital Management, some political jobbers went to town about a purported raid and diversion of the same equipment duly acknowledged by the Management of the hospital.”
While urging the public and supporters of the former lawmaker to discountenance this report as fictitious, baseless and unfounded, the source said, “Akpabio remains committed to the welfare of the good people of Akwa Ibom North West senatorial district whom he had given effective representation as a senator of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.”
However, some analysts posited that apart from trying to run the senator down, they noted emphatically, that constituency projects are not executed by senators.
Pundits noted that awarding constituency contract go through general bidding processes and most times the senator concerned does not even know the contractor handling any aspect of his constituency project as in the instant case, while payments are also equally staggered.
According to one of his aides, contractor used the warehouse of Senator Akpabio’s relations to store the equipment pending final payment and donation by the appropriate agency.
He further stated that a combined team of Border Commission, ICPC and others tracking constituency projects of Senator Akpabio were shown 15kvA generating sets, one dialysis machine and accessories at the warehouse, untouched and still in crates and yet to be fully paid for.
He said, “With over 60 other completed projects with though huge outstanding payments, the inspectors visited only four sites and proceeded to politicize supplies not installed, but kept within a stone throw of the benefitting Cottage Hospital.”
However, observers opined that moves to bring the senator and former Minority Leader of the Senate down may not be unconnected with political struggle for appointments. Whether they will succeed or not, time will tell.
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