Tuesday, April 22, 2014

EDITORIAL: Governor Akpabio must end abuse of Akwa Ibom state funds

Published:

Godswill Akpabio

Godswill Akpabio of Akwa Ibom state holds the irritating record of being Nigeria’s most openly profligate governor. He is a father christmas — throwing outlandish cash gifts at politicians, activists, musicians, journalists and whoever captures his fancy. He moves around with bales of mint-fresh cash, spending extravagantly and making reckless donations at public events.

Yet the funds he is wasting does not belong to him. They belong to tax payers in Akwa Ibom State who have continued to wallow in poverty, disease and insecurity despite the huge oil revenue the oil-rich state receives every month. Rather than pull majority of his people out of poverty, Mr. Akpabio has become a waste pipe, frittering away the collective wealth of his people while managing to beautify the state capital to create the impression he is developing the state.

Mr. Akpabio’s incautious spending escalated months after he took office in 2007, when he became a near constant guest at child naming ceremonies, marriages, funerals and sundry events. And he never failed to give zing to such events with multimillion naira donations, Toyota cars and SUVs for whoever caught his fancy.

These are not subjective reports, they are facts well known in that state.

Nothing speaks to the impoverishment of a state, whose leader brandishes so much wealth, than the celebrations that often erupt in praise of the donations. Many hail the governor’s gifts as generosity of spirit, and only a few dare complain.

Mr. Akpabio’s recent controversial donations and dealings, only replicate a trend well established in Akwa Ibom for six years.

His donation of a N50 million award for Nollywood, two SUVs to Tuface Idibia, and wife, Annie, and the acquisition of an exotic multimillion dollar bullet-proof sprinter luxury vans from US-based Texas Armoring Corporation (TAC), have sparked outrage.

On Saturday, the governor, ever money and power drunk, unilaterally donated N230 million on behalf of the newly-formed PDP Governors Forum to President Goodluck Jonathan’s hometown church. There are indications many of the governors did not give him their nods to make any donation on their behalf.

Shamefully, many of Mr. Akpabio’s multimillion donations go to journalists and unscrupulous party and government officials who should help check the spendthrift governor.

In all, what is clear is that the funds Mr. Akpabio so injudiciously deploys are part of the monthly oil receipts of a state with one of Nigeria’s highest rate of unemployment. Despite his much-hyped claims of investments in education and health, Akwa Ibom state’s records in those sectors remain miserable. Millions of the state’s population can hardly afford daily meals, and many settle for debasing jobs around the country.

As of Tuesday, retirees in Akwa Ibom state were yet to receive their February pensions. Salaries are often owed, and when they are paid, they come some two or three weeks into new months.

These problems are by no means peculiar to Akwa Ibom. But the failings are amplified when funds that should alleviate them are squandered in the most outlandish of ways.

At an average N15 million a unit, the two Prado SUVs given to Tuface, can reward 100 unsalaried Akwa Ibom graduates N80, 000 for four months. That would be something to those families! The N50million he threw at Nollywood can do even more.

Mr. Akpabio must be ashamed of his conduct, and halt the folly. He must recognize that Akwa Ibom people deserve his respect, and that preserving their commonwealth is one way to ensure that.

The spate of profligacy he has consistently demonstrated falls amongst reasons some have opposed an increase in oil revenue share for oil producing states in the Petroleum Industry Bill. While we do not see how withholding such funds will cure governors such as Mr. Akpabio of spending proclivities, we also do fully understand the concern of those agitating for accountability before any increase in derivation formula.

The anti-corruption agencies and civil society organizations must note the governor’s spending, and the Akwa Ibom people should recognize they have a common evil they must rally against. They must rise and seek answers, and insist Mr. Akpabio channel their wealth into creating jobs for the unemployed, food for the starving, health for the sick and education for all.

Most importantly, they must insist Mr. Akpabio be made to face sanctions whenever the scope of his financial abuses, is fully established.

Akwa Ibomites should not throw their hands up in helplessness. They should note that except he becomes president or vice-president in 2015, Mr. Akpabio would be eligible for prosecution after losing the immunity that seems to have made him money and power drunk. Citizens should keep documenting his indiscretions, as his days of reckoning are coming close.

GTBank SME MarketHub campaign