Apparently scared of being publicly embarrassed like former Aviation Minister, Stella Oduah, who is also a chieftain of All Progressives Congress (APC), Niger Delta Affairs Minister, Godswill Akpabio, has started to beat a retreat from his secret 2023 presidential ambition.
One of the reasons Akpabio dumped Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) to APC more than three years ago was because he got his hands soiled with the finances of Akwa Ibom State while holding sway as governor for eight years.
Some information available to the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) tends to show that Akpabio will answer for a messy N108 billion affair. In a seeming desperate bid to sweep the huge corruption allegation against him under the carpet, it was politically expedient for him to join President Muhammadu Buhari’s party.
As news of his 2023 presidential ambition was making the round, his political antagonists started to drop in guarded whispers the possibility of drafting the EFCC to look into Akpabio’s record since his governorship years in Akwa Ibom and as minister.
Apparently shaken, the Niger Delta Affairs Minister has cautioned media houses against using his name and photographs as one of the purported presidential aspirants in 2023, in any of their discussion platforms.
Akpabio gave the warning as a Federal High Court in Abuja has fixed November 22 for the arraignment of Stella Oduah, over allegations bordering on fraud while she served as aviation minister.
Currently, Oduah is representing Anambra North Senatorial District in the Red Chamber ofthe National Assembly. She was scheduled for arraignment before Justice Inyang Ekwo last Tuesday, but the proceeding could not take place because of the public holiday.
The matter will be coming up on November 22 and 23 for trial. Justice Ekwo had, on July 12, threatened to issue a warrant of arrest against the former minister if she failed to appear in court by the next adjourned date that was October19.
The judge gave the warning after counsel to EFCC, Dr Hassan Liman, in the alleged N5 billion trial against Oduah and eight others told the court that the ex-aviation minister and one other defendant were not in court to take their plea.
While she is facing a fraud charge alongside others in a suit with number: FHC/ABJ/CR/316/20, the anti-corruption agency is alleging that Oduah misappropriated public funds to the tune of N5 billion while serving as aviation minister.
When the matter was called in the last adjourned date, Liman, who informed that the case was scheduled for arraignment, said the anti-corruption agency has carried out the court order made on February. 9.
”On February 22, 2020, my lord made an order of substituted service on the 5th and 6th defendants in the trial. We have carried out the order my lord”, he said
In the meantime, Akpabio’s Chief Press Secretary, Jackson Udom, in a statement quoted his principal as saying, ” It has come to the notice of the Minister, Niger Delta Affairs Ministry, Godswill Akpabio, that despite his calls on 2023 presidential election campaigners, that he be allowed to focus on the national assignment of assisting President Buhari to achieve his set goals for the people of Niger Delta region, they have refused to respect the position of the minister.
“On Sunday, October 17, 2021, Channels Television’s political discussion and interview programme – Politics Today, anchored by Seun Okinbaloye, listed the name of the minister and went ahead to use his photograph as one of those purportedly eyeing the presidential seat in 2023.
“As a politician and a serving Minister of the Federal Republic, who understands the distractions such unsolicited action(s) could cause in the polity, the Hon Minister, has, therefore, for the umpteenth time, called on groups, individuals and media houses, either Newspapers, Television, Radio or Online discussion platforms, to forthwith, stop associating his name and picture whenever 2023 Presidential discussions are being held.
“The minister, for the records, has not consulted any individual or groups nor has he declared interest in contesting the 2023 presidential election as being rumoured. What is topmost in the heart of the Hon Minister is how to assist President Buhari to leave a lasting legacy in the Niger Delta Region and to reposition the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) to deliver on its mandate.
“The minister, therefore, appeals to media houses and 2023 campaigners to let him be because he has a job at hand and will not want to be distracted on an issue he has not contracted, consulted nor discussed with anybody.”