A former governor of Akwa Ibom State, Godswill Akpabio has denied that there were state-sponsored killings and kidnappings in the state during his administration
Mr Akpabio was reacting to remarks made by an estate surveyor and politician, James Iniama, who said agents of the state, during Mr Akpabio’s administration, were after his life immediately after the 2007 governorship election which he (Iniama) contested as a candidate of the defunct Action Congress of Nigeria.
Although he did not mention Mr Akpabio’s name during an interview with PREMIUM TIMES, Mr Iniama said Akpabio’s era as governor was the most unsafe in the history of the oil-rich state.
Mr Akpabio succeeded Victor Attah as governor in 2007.
He left office in 2015 after completing his two terms and was succeeded by Udom Emmanuel.
“From 2007, there is no street in Akwa Ibom State that was safe anymore for residents. There was no business place that was safe for business, the thing that became popular was kidnapping, assassinations, rape. So, that wasn’t anymore a society to live in, and for a wise person the best thing to do is get out of that environment.
“We have to stay alive. If I didn’t stay alive you wouldn’t be talking with me today. I can tell you I knew I was branded the first target for whatever evil that was in their mind,” he said.
Mr Iniama also said, “You know the number of people who were kidnapped, you know how many of our mothers were murdered and stripped on the streets of Akwa Ibom State? It is something of which this state should be ashamed, we should go to God in repentance.
“How could you possibly strip my mother? Murder my mother, strip her and leave her on the street? My mother? Don’t forget, God had to tell Cain the blood of your brother is crying from the earth for vengeance. We are a Christian people, there are things that should not be heard of us.”
Mr Iniama said he had filed a suit against the Akwa Ibom State Government which was finally settled out of court ”because of the intervention of Mr Akpabio’s successor”.
Mr Iniama has indicated interest to run for the 2023 governorship election in Akwa Ibom under the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).
Akwa Ibom was very safe under my watch – Akpabio
But Mr Akpabio, who is now the Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, said Akwa Ibom was a safe place to live and do business when he was the governor.
“In those years what Akwa Ibom State was known for was uncommon transformation that was unleashed by Governor Akpabio to turn a once civil service State to a destination of choice in Nigeria as individuals, government organisations and corporate bodies fell over themselves to hold their events in the State,” the minister said on Saturday in a statement from his media office.
He said Mr Iniama’s claim is “political shenanigans taken too far”.
“It is a known fact that Chief Akpabio as a governorship candidate in 2007, did not enjoy the support of the incumbent Governor at the time whose preference was for somebody else. It was alleged that Mr Iniama was supported and funded by the incumbent Governor at the time.
“Mr Iniama’s claim that ‘I had to relocate my family before the election because it wasn’t safe at all’ at a time he was supported by the State, exposes his political mischief,” Mr Akpabio said.
The minister, who defected from the PDP to the All Progressives Congress in 2018, said Mr Iniama “should leave him alone and focus on his governorship ambition”.
There are records on killings, I can unearth them – Journalist
A journalist in Uyo, the Akwa Ibom State capital, has, however, faulted Mr Akpabio’s claims that there were no state-sponsored killings when he was governor.
The journalist, Ofonime Honesty told PREMIUM TIMES, Monday “the records are there, I can unearth them”.
Mr Honesty mentioned the killing of a governorship aspirant, Iniekong Udonwa’s mother, the killing of a PDP chieftain, Paul Inyang and the killing of the paramount traditional ruler of the Ibibio, the Oku Ibom Ibibio, James Obot, as some of the unresolved killings that took place during Akpabio’s era.
“When the mother of a governorship aspirant, Iniekong Udonwa was kidnapped, I was with my boss back then, John Elijah who is now a barrister. We were heading to his (Udonwa) residence to interview him, when we received a call from one of Iniekong Udonwa’s personal assistants that the man was shot and the mother kidnapped.
“A couple of days later we heard the man survived and that the mother was taken to an unknown location, she was murdered and abandoned on the street,” the journalist said.
Mr Honesty said he attended a press conference where Mr Akpabio, after he left office as governor, was confronted by reporters on the killings that took place under his watch.
Mr Akpabio, according to the journalist, said the killings were carried out by Niger Delta militants.
The journalist said he too almost became a victim when people he said were agents of the state government came after him because of a critical article he wrote about Mr Akpabio’s wife, Uloama.
“I had to flee Akwa Ibom for a month or so,” he said. “It was even people inside the Government House who told me I should run for my life.”
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