The Enwang – etebi Road: A Signpost Of Ethnic Hatred And Conduit For Stealing From Akwa Ibom State Treasury By Ita Awak
As I write this, Mr. Godswill Obot Akpabio Is going through the ritual of transferring political power, no matter how short lived, to Mr. Udom Gabriel Emmanuel. But two Saturdays ago, I understand Godswill Akpabio used the occasion of his valedictory State Executive Monthly Prayer meeting at St. John’s Chaplaincy, Government House, Uyo, to flatly categorise the Science Park project initiated by the Obong Victor Attah’s government as a “failed project.” According to him, a failed project is “a project that money has been paid for and the person [contractor?] neglected to do it.”
As it has been his wont in the last eight years to use his public outings to ingratuitously insult the person of and try to unnecessarily diminish the iconic figure of Obong Victor Attah, Mr. Akpabio went further to declare that “the Science Park was contracted at about N5.6 billion and from the records, about N5.3 billion had been paid upfront to the contractor, a South African company and nothing was done.” A very interesting revelation!
Anybody who has a passing acquaintance with Mr. Godswill Akpabio knows he was dishing out half-truths. We know that the contractors who handled the Ibom Airport and the Independent Power Plant projects were paid substantial chunk of their contract sum by Obong Victor Attah before the expiration of his tenure in 2007; and this was done because the visionary leader was anxious to see his dream come alive. It is a fact that Mr. Godswill Akpabio did jet out to America in the early days of his administration to the engage and renegotiate with the contractors handling the airport project, in spite that Attah’s government paid a large portion of their contract sum before Akpabio came on board. Why didn’t he do same to the Science Park contractors??? Can it be that they refused “to play ball???”
Besides immediate pecuniary benefits, it appears to me that Mr. Godswill Obot Akpabio’s unceremonious and malicious abandonment of the Science Park project was because he did not grasp the underlying philosophy back of the project. Indeed, the largely concealed truth may simply be that the chap was not properly equipped to discern the pivotal role the project was envisioned to play as the nursery that will incubate and culture, by working in tandem with the Akwa Ibom State University of Science and Technology, the requisite technological ideas and inculcate the basic know-how that would catalyse and jump start the radical industrialisation of Akwa Ibom State that Obong Attah and his team desired for our state.
However, my chief interest here is not the Science Park project. Rather, I am particularly concerned about Mr. Godswill Obot Akpabio’s definition of what a “failed project” is. Because of the benchmark he has flippantly established, we shall endeavour in this series to use it to measure some of the projects he embarked on throughout his 8-year tenure. In our evaluation, we shall also be interested in knowing what name we should give to or how we ought to categorise a state contract(s) that was awarded with the sole aim of using such contract(s) to unconscionably loot from the state treasury hundreds of millions, and sometimes, tens of billions of Naira?
The first project we shall consider is the 23km Enwang-Etebi road, with a 1.1km bridge across a shallow river between Uko-Nteghe and Affi-Uda in Mbo LGA. This road contract was in the first batch of road contracts awarded in 2007. The other two contracts awarded same day were the dualisation of the federal government road from Ikot Ekpene to Abak and the dualisation of the federal road from the Calabar-Itu junction to Ekom-Iman junction. Whereas the latter two federal roads were awarded by Akwa Ibom State government to Julius Berger, Godswill Obot Akpabio originally gave the contract for the Enwang-Etebi road to one “Sino-Eng Construction Company.” We note, in parenthesis, that while Mr. Akpabio gleefully announced to us how much was paid to the Science Park contractors, he has resolutely refused to disclose how much of Akwa Ibom taxpayers money he is giving to his roads and other contractors.
Before the end of Akpabio’s first term in office in 2011, Julius Berger had delivered on the Ikot Ekpene-Abak road and the Calabar-Itu to Ekom-Iman dualisation; but the contractor handling the only road in Oro Nation had disappeared from site. When Oro people asked why there wasn’t any encouraging action in the case of the Enwang-Etebi road, all we got from Godswill Obot Akpabio and agents of his government were shameless 419-nish baloney and an endless series of translucent and insulting lies.
As I write this on the terminal day of Godswill Akpabio’s two terms of eight years, the work done on the Enwang-Etebi road project is less than 40 percent, even after more than twice the sum of the contract has been purportedly paid to the “contractor.”. When Godswill Obot Akpabio addressed Oro people at the Oron Civic Centre in March 2014 and he was asked why he has so wickedly refused to finish the only meaningful road construction his government was executing in the Oro ethnic enclave, he boldly told the world that the project was suffering because of the “dwindling” revenue to the state from the Federation Account. Of course, everyone knew this was a blatant lie. Oro people and the whole of Akwa Ibom are aware that while work had practically stopped on the Enwang-Etebi road project that was awarded in 2007, Mr. Akpabio curiously found the needed resources to finish the Ekom-Iman to Abak road dualisation, with an unnecessary hanging bridge in Abak that leads to a cul-de-sac, that was awarded in 2013. It wasn’t lost on us that crass and ethnic parochialism was at play.
It is crystal clear to everyone that the Enwang-Etebi road contract was programmed from the outset as a veritable conduit to steal hundreds of millions of the Akwa Ibom commonwealth. And I have no doubt in my mind that the Enwang-Etebi road project was used for this slimy larceny because of the pathological hatred that Godswill Obot Akpabio has for the Oro natives in Akwa Ibom.
Below are pictures of the condition of the Enwang-Etebi road project as at May 29, 2015. In view that hundreds of millions of Naira have been siphoned from the Akwa Ibom State treasury in the name of this contract, I will leave it to the reader to judge if the Enwang-Etebi road project is a “failed project” as defined by Akpabio or it is a conduit for “uncommon” larceny.
[Written by Chief Ita Awak, a former Commissioner for Information in Akwa Ibom State and a native of Enwang town in Mbo LGA. ]