Nigeria

Akwa Ibom commissioner Ime Ekpo refutes alleged N4bn fraud in govt house contract

The Akwa Ibom State Commissioner for Housing and Town Planning, Arc. Ime Okon Ekpo, has denied allegation that he embezzled over N4 billion in the N37billion contract awarded for the design and construction of the new Government House, Uyo, by the immediate past administration of Senator Godswill Akpabio.

Ekpo retired from the State civil service, as Director in 2004 and was reappointed by Akpabio to oversee the Government House contract as the Project Manager in 2008.

But the Chairman of Otto Trinity Studios, one of the consultants to the project, Arc. Ubokutom Nyah, has instituted a petition on behalf of four other consultants, alleging that the Commissioner defrauded them to the tune of over N4billion in the construction of phases l, ll, lll, of the project.

The petition dated August 24, 2017, and copies made available to reporters is entitled: “Petition against Architect Ime O. Ekpo, for corrupt enrichment, abuse of office and fraudulent conversion of more than N4 billion consultancy fees during execution of Government House Complex, phase l, ll and lll in Uyo, Akwa Ibom State”.

Arc. Nyah in the petition addressed to the Chairman of the ICPC, Abuja averred that in 2013 the immediate past state administration of Senator Godswill Akpabio awarded a contract for the construction of a new Government House for a contract value at about N37 billion.

The contract, he said was to be executed in three phases namely phase l, ll and lll respectively with four consultants namely Otto Trinity Studios (Architects), Amana Consortium (Structural/Project Manager), Eno Iwoketo and Associate (Mechanical), Dranibs Engineering Nigeria Ltd (Electrical) and Integrated Practice Consultants (Quality Surveyors) appointed for professional service.

The petitioner who was appointed Lead Architectural consultant by the state government on the Government House project, alleged that “the professional fees of those consultants were discussed, agreed and N5.2 billion made available for the payment to the consultants”.

The consultancy fees, according to him, was moved by the state government into the account of Julius Berger Nigeria Plc under the contract agreement for onward disbursement to the beneficiaries.

Nyah explained that the Commissioner failed to administer the funds to commensurate with the contract agreement, adding that Ekpo shortchanged all the consultants and diverted over N4billion into his private account.

“The substantial disparity between what Architect Ime O. Ekpo is now offering us as balance of professional fees payable and over authentic claims is deserving of a dispassionate investigation because we all know that authentic fees were captured in the contract and fully provided for by government.

“We do not know how it suddenly developed wings when Architect Ekpo collected same for payment to us. Please kindly investigate thoroughly to enable us recover our fees and assist us attain justice done”, Nyah stressed and pleaded in the petition.

But Ekpo, who addressed Journalists in his house along Edet Akpan Avenue, at the weekend, dismissed the allegation, as smacking of mischief and blackmail aimed at tarnishing his reputation as a public officer.

He explained that “since the inception of the project in 2008, payments to consultants on the Government House complex phase 1, 11, 111, have always been made directly by the Ministry of Housing and Urban Renewal” headed then by Mr. Emmanuel Enoidem, as Commissioner.

Ekpo, who said he was yet to receive any letter from the ICPC, accused Nyah, of trying to get extra cash through dubious means, adding that other consultants were not part of the petition.

“I can say with all amount of certainty that Arc. Ubokutom Nyah, is representing himself and himself alone. You are free to go to the supervising Ministry of Housing and Special Duties and all the consultants on the projects to confirm. Ubokutom Nyah, is an illegal gold digger, who wants to reap where he did not sow”,

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