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EFCC probe- Cemetery listed as my property

Posted by By CHRISTIAN ITA on 2006/04/26 | Views: 2536 |

EFCC probe- Cemetery listed as my property

Akwa Ibom State Governor, Obong Victor Attah has offered explanation over his recent invitation to the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) to probe his administration.

Akwa Ibom State Governor, Obong Victor Attah has offered explanation over his recent invitation to the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) to probe his administration.

Attahís invitation contained in a letter to the anti-corruption agency came in the wake of sundry allegations of financial impropriety leveled against him by some prominent indigenes of the state led by a Senior Advocate of Nigeria, Chief Assam Assam.
Speaking with newsmen in Uyo recently, Attah explained that his invitation to the EFCC was borne out of his genuine desire to clear his name, stating that by involving the EFCC, the truth would be established without anybody imputing a cover-up.

According to him, "Assam Assam wrote that I claimed to have put $67.5m in Vmobile while I put only half of it. If you read the following day a statement from me saying it is not true, that I actually put in $67.5m, what would be your reaction? There would be that doubt if indeed I am telling the truth. You would be wondering whom to believe. He also claimed that I paid $50 million to a company which he said had not yet completed feasibility studies and that they were to find tenants for the airport and I donít know how you find tenants for an airport. But here is a company that said it will not partner with us, will not come and start this airport unless we show evidence that we have at least $50m with which to start the project so that there will be no stoppage when they start.

"Assam Assam takes a little bit of information and twist it around. If you heard me say I didnít pay $50m to this people, that I only put it into a bank to demonstrate that I can do an airport, would you honestly believe me? So, the only thing I felt I could do was to invite the EFCC. If EFCC comes in and establishes that the allegations are not true, then I have an independent opinion that is not my word against his. People who know him say that my word against his is not something to make a big issue of but since he is a SAN, why should we not believe him? So, it is good for somebody else to come in and say we have been investigated and this is what they found. When that is done, I will then know how to use the information.

"I told Mr. President that I was writing the letter on the understanding that EFCCís findings would be made public because if it is kept in a close file in Mr. Presidentís office, of what use would that be to me?"

Attah also told how the "same group went and got an American phone book and copied out every property under the name of Attah and sent it to Mr. President that all these belong to me. That one, even the President was amused. He wrote a very funny note on it because one of those is a public Cemetery."

Alleged inflated contracts
"I think he (Assam Assam) also said we are not doing anything, that everything was a muddle of feasibility studies on my table. He went on to make statements that are so ridiculous because they are easily verifiable. He said I claim to have put in $67.5m in Vmobile while he has since discovered that what I put is less than half and that I should tell where the other half is.

On the issue of inflated contracts, in my brief to EFCC, I attached an article that I read only last week carried by a number of newspapers. The article is that the Federal Government has just awarded road contracts to the value of N11.4b. I was interested because we have been asking the Federal Government to award one or two road projects in Akwa Ibom. So, I went through the whole article to see if any road in Akwa Ibom was awarded. I ask you to go and read it. There are variations, extensions and additions to existing three road contracts. These contracts went through the due process and amounted to N11.4 billion in variations, additions and extension. So, I attached this to my brief to EFCC stating that these things are in the normal process of contract arrangements.

"Also, the minister of works was here recently to inspect federal roads. We got a report from his controller of works here reporting on the Ibawa Bridge. Ibawa Bridge is under construction and already, there is a substantial variation to the cost.

This happens because you either meet a condition that you did not anticipate in the drawing and you have to change certain specifications or as frequently happens in this town, you want to put a road from A-B and then everybody body that leaves short distance away from the road would say "please, put a spur to my place." By the time you add all the spurs, because the original contract did not envisage that, you donít treat them as separate contracts but as additions to the original contract. But all these, I hope will be fully addressed by the response from my ministry of works because all of these contracts go through the formal processes of advertisement, tender, tender evaluation and award. If there is a variation, we get their rates. Of course, you know how much earth road cost, how much asphalting cost, you know how much the stone base cost. If you add another 1 kilometre, you know exactly how much you are adding to the contract. You donít re-advertise this. You just use the rates to extend the contract. People who read through Assam Assamís petition said in some instances, he just repeated original figure, final figure exactly the same. I think he just wants to prove to the world that we have done a lot of contracts and for that I thank him."

Attah, who said he was not losing sleep to the activities of the likes of Assam Assam, claimed the allegations were either borne out of ignorance or mischief. "There is only one or two possible answers. Either they have not been home and as such do not know what is happening or just a case of mischief, mischief borne out of whatever. I cannot see any other reason why these people would be criticizing me. There was a time this business of singing ones praises or talking about everything you do never really occurred to me. But recently, people have written a lot about Akwa Ibom, maybe because of the sort of criticism that has been made. I donít know why anybody that would read of all that and at least would not want to go and inform himself but would continue to say the same thing over and over again. So, it is mischief."

Third term
The governor also spoke on raging national issues such as the alleged third term ambition of President Olusegun Obasanjo.
He said having listened to arguments on both sides of the divide, he arrived at the conclusion that "the important thing is that the reforms started by President Olusegun Obasanjo must be guaranteed because what we have got today is as a result of those reforms and improved financial circumstances of Nigeria.
"When the President was beginning to accumulate a lot of money, this excess crude money which we are now using to the benefit of this country by building power stations and paying off the debt, some of us governors went to him and said "You did exactly this same thing when you were Head of State. You started accumulating money but no sooner you handed over to civilians than your military people came back and scattered this money. This thing you are accumulating, we hope the military wonít come back and scatter it again." It became very attractive. Sorry to say but it is true. These soldiers were like hungry after this money and before you knew it, there was a coup, they drove out the civilians he had installed and scattered the money. That is why I am saying that whatever else we may not do, whether it is him staying there or somebody else, what he has started must be guaranteed because the circumstances of this country have changed tremendously. The respect they have for Nigeria outside the country now is something you cannot measure. We are out of the Paris Club debt situation, our foreign reserve is sufficiently healthy and anybody can give us credit for anything we want to buy now. It is convenient for people to come in and invest, stability within the country in spite of what is going on in the Niger Delta is guaranteed and people are sure that their money is safe here. Then the fight against corruption, 419 makes people begin to develop confidence and of course, the establishment of more certain financial institutions likes the banks. At one time, you were not sure of your money in the bank. So much has happened that really need to be guaranteed. Whether it is guaranteed by third term or a good successor is a matter that Nigerians would decide because extension would be done by Nigerians."

Good successor
On the argument that whether there is no single Nigerian capable enough to succeed Obasanjo and continue with his reforms, Attah said: "There probably are more than one. That is why I said Nigerians would be the ones to decide whether it is he (Obasanjo) that stays on and do it or bring in somebody as good as him to do it. What is critical is that we must make sure the reforms continue."

PDP crisis
"Define that crisis for me before I define my worry because you may be seeing it differently from me. In any case, let me tell you something. All the projects you saw in the state were not borne out of the crisis in the PDP. All these projects were done not because I am anticipating a third term."

He also offered his opinion on the debate over whether immunity for governors in the constitution should be retained or removed.
"Nobody wants to conceal wrong doing. But if you have the likes of Assam Assam writing 19 pages on issues that are clearly fabrication, due you know how much time and effort you would spend answering all these false allegations?"

Projects completion
"I believe we are going to complete all that we have embarked upon so far and to be very specific, the hotel is a matter of next two to three months an it would be completed. The power plant, we are looking at February next year. The airport, I hope there wonít be any delay. What is left is creating a detour on the way to Oron. If there is no delay because of that, we are looking at February next year for a plane to land there. The Science Park is estimated to be completed by March next year. The roads, definitely by the time we get to dry season again this year, any one that perhaps havenít been finished would be finished. The University is not finite; it has to continue growing and that would continue to grow. We are not thinking of adding anything more. When we came into office, we had the ambition of providing hospitals to all the local governments that do not have hospitals. But we have done it in three. That maybe where we will stop. We may not start another hospital project. Akwa Ibom is compact, but there are 31 local government areas. So, when you do one thing in a local government area, you are talking about doing it 31 times unlike most other states where local governments are 10, 12. That is part of the problem we face here. We donít think we want to embark on anything new outside what we are carrying now because the carrying charges on these current projects are quite high. But we have done our budgeting well, we believe we have the money to finish them and we also believe we have the contractors that can finish them."

"When we started these projects, I did not anticipate third term because I believe firmly that I am working because Akwa Ibom people have a defined agenda and I know that definition would continue to be made through a particular venue, The Economic Summit. When we had our last Economic Summit, I was really impressed with the way the people turned out to say what they think of the performance of government, the areas they thought we have kept faith with the original vision, the additions we have made to that vision, some changes we have made to the vision and it became clear to me that by the time we have the next summit, anybody campaigning to be governor of Akwa Ibom would not need to say what he is coming to do. He would only need to demonstrate to the people whether he has the ability to do what the people want to have done which they would have defined at the end of that Economic Summit. My conviction is that whoever comes next would have had his job cut out for him and he would have to convince the people he could do it. They will test him and if he cannot, he wonít last more than one tenure even if the extension is for four tenures."

Angst against government
On why there seem to be so much anger towards his government despite embarking on so many projects, he said: "The issue of anger should not surprise you. I am sure this is true of some other states. Perhaps, we are even lucky in this state. In other states, what I am going to describe to you manifest itself in this phenomenon called godfatherism. Somebody feels he put somebody there and as such he is the one to dictate to the person what he should do. He wants to call all the shots, administer while the other person is just a figurehead. I came here, thank God; by and large it was Akwa Ibom people and not any particular person or class of people that put me here. Akwa Ibom people put me here and I try to serve them and there are some in this society that are angered by that because what they wanted was not a leader but a mere figure head that they would direct. When they came and tried to order me about, I said, "I am sorry, that is not why I am here. I will do what Akwa Ibom people want me to do rather what you want me to do." This angered them and you see that that group has not grown.

It is a small group and they were there from the beginning, they didnít want to have me as governor but didnít have the ability to stop me and they never reconciled themselves to the fact that there can be a governor that can be independent of what they want and that is the group from where the anger is coming from."

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