Former Akwa Ibom State Governor, Godswill Akpabio, has come under fresh fire for allegedly squandering the resources of the state during his eight years rule.
Akpabio who dominated the affairs of the state from 2007-2015 on the platform of Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) is currently Niger Delta Affairs Minister. He defected to President Muhammadu Buhari’s All Progressives Congress (APC) in a desperate bid to protect himself from being messed up the anti-graft agencies.
But, a Faculty member at New York State University Medical School, Professor Offiong Aqua, is grieving over what he described as ‘’massive wastage of state funds’’ that characterised the flamboyant Akpabio administration in Akwa Ibom.
Aqua who is also the Convener of Ibom People’s Republic, equally describes the Akpabio era as a sad one in the history of the 34-year-old state.
The New York varsity don who is leading the struggle for Akwa Ibom ethnic nationalities to seek self-determination from Nigeria in a virtual interview to mark the 34h anniversary of the creation of the state said it was shocking that Akpabio who often refers to himself as the uncommon performer wasted 90 percent of the funds that accrued to the state from the federation account.
Continuing, Aqua said though it could be argued that Akpabio brought in Julius Berger to construct some roads in the state, it was sad that much of the debts was left for his successor, Governor Udom Emmanuel to pay despite the huge funds that accrued to his government as a result of high oil prices.
“ Akapbio constructed whatever roads that he constructed but he didn’t bother to create employment for anybody in Akwa Ibom”, the varsity don said, alleging that the former governor spent most of the state funds in Abuja to get favours from the former President Goodluck Joanthan.
“ I understand Governor Udom Emmanuel is the one that had to pay for some of the roads because he did not pay Julius Berger. I heard that Julius Berger had to shut the stadium down so that the new government could pay”, he adds.
He quoted former Finance Minister, Dr(Mrs) Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala who is currently World Trade Organisation(WTO) chief as saying that only 10 percent of Akwa Ibom money was actually spent in the state.
To give fillip to Aqua’s allegations, Okonjo-Iweala had in a convocation lecture delivered at Babcock University, Ogun State in June 2014 said Akwa Ibom received N260 billion from the federation account in 2013 alone, excluding internally-generated revenue.
According to the ex-finance minister, Akwa Ibom’s revenue surpassed that of Liberia, a country in West Africa, and combined with Rivers State’s N230 billion revenue for the same year, was half of Ghana’s entire $6.4 billion budget.
“Again, it was wasted. I’m going to be very blunt about this”, Aqua sounded more exasperated, and said he looked forward to challenging Akpabio in public one day about his use of state funds. “ It’s very hard to see what he really did apart from the roads he was getting Julius Berger to construct. I feel that was a sad time in Akwa Ibom history. I feel he was not intellectually capable to plan for the building of the state”
He is however, seeing in Governor Udom a better governor who he says has been trying to usher in real development by building small industries to create employment. “He’s doing well. Udom has created 11 industries, although I’m not defending him.”
He said the saving grace probably is the fact that PDP which the current governor belongs to is not controlling the centre. “It’s better to have a governor who’s not part of the party in Abuja because what normally happens is they make you come finance stuff, finance the party”, he explained.
The self-determination activist and academic who did most of his postgraduate studies in Moscow, Russia says the only issue with Udom is that Eket people are complaining bitterly about his administration.
“Eket people feel they’ve been cheated in terms of projects, in terms of infrastructural development, and I think Eket people are very important in the state. I have a feeling that Eket people have been screwed, having listened to both sides-Eket people and those working for Udom”, he said.
Aqua gives credits to former Governor Victor Attah for his fight for resource control, and said some of the visions on how the state is built today in terms of town planning, is a product of his professional touch . But he said he did not know if the governor’s inability to build a road to Ibesikpo during his tenure was a good thing.
He is also crediting Attah for ensuring that power shifted to the Annang ethnic nationality but said Oron is the only one group remaining to attend such power. “ We need to try to equalise political power because in Nigeria, the governor is everything. So if the governor is going to be everything, it’s better to rotate the governorship to reflect the population and different groups”, he said.
Meanwhile, Aqua will love to see the state improve on education by training people in today’s in demand areas in science and technology, and warned that the state does not need those who had already stolen so much money to run for governorship in 2023.
According to him, “ leadership is huge. Two things can happen. We either have an Ayade, Okorocha or Uzodinma and our state will be damaged completely, or we could get a smart guy who loves the state, and who doesn’t need to steal more money.”