Former Governor of Akwa Ibom State, Victor Attah, has challenged the incumbent, Governor Godswill Akpabio, to publish how much he has paid him (Mr. Attah) and past leaders of the state as pension.
This followed claims by Mr. Akpabio that the government had been spending huge resources in taking care of former governors as well as deputy governors and their spouses.
Mr. Attah, who spoke in a telephone interview with PREMIUM TIMES on Friday, also berated journalists, especially those who recently interviewed the Akwa Ibom state governor, for not asking Mr. Akpabio pertinent questions about his management of the state resources.
He said, “If Godswill Akpabio says he conceived the new law to put a ceiling to the expenses made on previous leaders of the state, somebody should have had the guts to ask him how much he has been paying to the past leaders.
“You journalists are afraid of Godswill Akpabio and that is why you have always shied away from asking some pertinent questions.”
Governor Akpabio, who appeared on a breakfast show on Channels Television earlier in the day had described as laughable, the criticisms that have trailed the new law that would enable him earn over N200 million as pension annually.
Mr. Akpabio said, “It’s a laughable situation that people generate controversy over the pension law. The law has been in existence in Akwa Ibom State. I am the one implementing it.
“I know what I am talking about and because I wear the shoe, I know where it pinches. All the former elected governors and their deputies have been enjoying the pension. The pension was first established in 2000 and was further amended with certain provisions added in 2006.”
While explaining the general principles of the new law, he said, “It’s really not a retroactive law, neither is it a new law. It is an existing law that went through amendment.
He noted that the old law was open-ended in terms of benefits payable to past governors, deputies and their spouses.
He said, “We had a situation where bills from former deputies and their spouses worth N29 million were brought from several hospitals they claimed they went for treatment abroad.
“Because the bill did not specify whether the hospital should be in Nigeria or not, most of what I have seen in the past seven years has been bills from hospitals abroad.”
In the course of implementing the existing law, Mr. Akpabio said some former governors and their deputies have brought bills ranging from $50,000, $70,000, and sometimes $112,000.
He argued that it was against decorum to question the medical bills of past leaders on grounds that there are high, and mentioned an instance where a former leader requested for funds to hire an airline to take his spouse for treatment abroad.
But Mr. Attah, who sounded angry said, “Why don’t you people ask him how much the state has paid to its past leaders? Why don’t you people ask him how much has been paying to Obong Attah and others?
“I don’t like it when journalists always come to ask me about what is wrong in Akwa Ibom State instead of asking Godswill Akpabio.
“He is the one who said he has been paying so much to past governors and wanted to put ceiling on what is paid out to check wastage of public funds. Those who interviewed him should have asked him to mention just how much he has paid so far.
“They didn’t ask him such questions; they didn’t ask him to clarify on the projects he said he has been carrying out in the state.
“I don’t have anything to tell you since you do not have the guts to ask Governor Akpabio to present proofs of what he has been paying to past leaders of the state.
“You journalists should go and look at the law critically and ask him whether Obong Attah has been enjoying any of the benefits provided for in the law.
“You should also ask him whether he built a retirement home for me either in Uyo or Abuja. Ask him to tell you how much he has been paying to Obong Attah as retirement package after I left office.
“These are questions Akpabio should answer and should provide verifiable records to Akwa Ibom people and Nigerians. Journalists should stop asking me questions they should ordinarily ask Governor Godswill Akpabio. I want to enjoy my retirement in peace.”
Mr. Attah said journalists should stop using him as a shield against their inability to confront Governor Akpabio to tell them the truth about what is happening in Akwa Ibom State.
This post is supported by the Nigeria Stability and Reconciliation Programme, funded by DFID and managed by a consortium led by the British Council
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