Five days after he recklessly donated two brand new Toyota SUVs to newly-wed Nigerian musician, Tuface Idibia and his wife, Akwa Ibom State governor, Godswill Akpabio, has taken his profligacy to a new high, acquiring exotic bullet-proof sprinter luxury vans from US-based Texas Armoring Corporation (TAC).
Mr. Akpabio took delivery of the armoured Mercedes Benz vans recently after they were customized to his specifications by TAC in Texas, website Saharareporters.com quoted a source as saying.
The vans will join a remarkable fleet of top-of-the-line bulletproof luxury Sport Utility Vehicles (SUV) Mr. Akpabio already has in his official convoy, making the latest purchase superfluous and insensitive, insiders in the government reportedly told the website.
PREMIUM TIMES later downloaded the photographs of the tastefully customized vans from the Facebook page of The Texas Armoring Company, which is using the images to promote its products.
The company could not be reached for the actual cost of the vans. Calls to its Texas office were unanswered. But those familiar with automobiles and their costs say Mr. Akpabio could have spent about a million dollar depending on the extent of customisation and the number of units.
The governor too could not be reached for comments Tuesday night.
Mr. Akpabio is one of Nigeria’s most profligate governors, spending his state funds as if they were his personal wealth.
At a forum held in honour of the movie industry in Nigeria on March 3, Mr. Akpabio promised to release an unsolicited N50million for a so-called ‘Goodluck Jonathan Prize’ award for best performers in the film industry.
A few days later, he announced a gift of two brand new Toyota Prado SUVs to Tuface and his wife. He also promised to bankroll an all-expense paid trip for 29 delegates from the state to attend the white wedding of the couple fixed for Dubai, the United Arab Emirate on March 23.
Besides, he also hosted a lavish state dinner in honour of the couples and promised to rehabilitate the Eket-Ibeno Road ahead of the child dedication of Tuface and Annie.
A governor, who seems to have obsession for awards, Mr. Akpabio is known to move around with huge cash taken from the state coffers, recklessly distributing them to whoever captures his fancy.
He is believed to be spending heavily buying good press and awards across the country.
In March last year, three staff of the Nigerian Aviation Handling Company (NAHCo) attached to Arik Airlines were arrested for allegedly stealing N2million from the luggage of a Government House, Uyo protocol staff at Ibom International Airport.
The money was said to have been removed from the about N8million reportedly taken to Lagos by the protocol team for use during Governor Akpabio’s trip for his investiture as the Sun Newspapers Man of the Year award ceremony a few days earlier.
Bundles of the mint-fresh notes reportedly kept in one of the official’s luggage allegedly developed wings in mysterious circumstances when some top government officials on the governor’s entourage were returning to Uyo.
Nothing has been heard of the case for a long time but there were reports at the time that the state government was pressuring the police to drop the case against the airline officials to avoid bad publicity for the state.
Governor Akpabio is widely celebrated in the local media and the Peoples Democratic Party for “governing Akwa Ibom State well”.
But residents say beyond the facade, the poverty and unemployment rate in the state remained among the highest in the country.
Local contractors are routinely ignored for multinationals in the execution of infrastructural projects, and residents complain of huge capital flights from the state.
The largest employer of labour in the state remains the civil service which is already overstaffed.
Most state-owned industries have closed shop and the state is not known to have attracted any substantial investment in spite of Governor Akpabio’s several overseas trip in search of foreign investors.
Worried by the massive poverty in the state, the Anglican Bishop of Uyo Diocese, the Rt. Rev. Isaac Orama, on September 12, 2012, advised Mr. Akpabio to face reality and fight the widespread unemployment and poverty in the state.
Mr. Orama gave the advice while delivering the Bishop’s Charge 2012 at the first session of the sixth Synod of the Anglican faithful drawn from churches in the Uyo Diocese.
But residents say Mr. Akpabio has not hearkened to the call, but has instead been wasting even the limited funds available to the state.