Former governor of Akwa Ibom State, Obong Victor Attah is in fresh trouble.
Investigations revealed that the former governor in connivance with a faceless South African based company allegedly embezzled over N5.6 billion Naira meant for the construction of a Science and Technology Park in the state leaving the project uncompleted.
SecretReporters gathered that the Science Park which was meant to be a centre of research for universities, and an avenue for creating an enabling environment for capacity building in high-tech industries and services located at Afaha Oku, Uyo, was awarded to SBT Juul of 122 Pybus Road, 3rd Floor, Sandton, South Africa and registered with Corporate Affairs Commission with registration number RC 618773 as SBT JUUL Africa Ltd, with an office address at 43 Aka Road, Uyo and 10-03-2005 captured as its registration date. However, it was gathered that the ground floor of the four-storey building address is currently occupied by a beer parlor while the other floors are empty with no occupants. Enquiries made from the owners of the beer parlor and residents around the property reveal that no company with such name (SBT JUUL Africa Ltd) ever occupied the building or operates in the area.
More diggings reveal that the political veteran awarded the contract for the building of the Science Park on 27th September 2005 while in office as governor and immediately paid mobilization fee of over N820 million on 9th November 2005 to the faceless company. The formal agreement for the project was signed on 30th January 2006 with 18 months as the proposed date of completion howbeit 18 years after since the inception of the project; it is still below 5 percent completed.
It was also gathered that ICT components and equipment were imported, cleared and delivered to the site whereas the house to accommodate them was not in any way completed.
SecretReporters further gathered that before the expiration of Attah`s administration, the total cost incurred in the course of executing the project to its present status were as follows: Integrated Cognitive Technology at N196 million, Connect Technology Limited was paid N30 million, Ibom Science Park Account (other Expenditure) received N192, 783,326.00, making a total of N418, 783,326 (Four hundred and Eighteen million, Seven hundred and Eighty Three thousand, Three hundred and Twenty Six Naira) while Total Money Expended on the project was N5, 618, 783,326 (Five billion, Six hundred and Eighteen million, Seven hundred and Eighty-three thousand, three hundred and Twenty Six Naira).
However, in carrying out an in-depth analysis of the total work done, an estate valuer and an engineering consulting firm assessed the actual work done on the site and other components of the job and discovered that the work done does not in any way commensurate with the over N5.6 billion Naira paid to the contractors who are alleged to have bolted after receiving the money.
More appalling is the fact that the project was totally abandoned by the Godswill Akpabio`s led administration on the grounds that it was not feasible as it would collapse in the nearest future due to massive erosion in the area and the work done on the site is estimated to be a little over N400 million naira which does not in any way commensurate with the over N5.6 billion naira expended hence he cannot be part of such a corrupt scheme. This has left the 122 hectares of land meant for the construction of the park 18 years after to become farmland for residents in the area with only a few market-like uncompleted buildings and empty containers as its dividend.
Ironically, when one would have thought that the current administration under the leadership of Mr Udom Emmanuel will launch an in-depth probe on the whereabouts of the over N5.6 billion Naira allegedly embezzled by Obong Victor Attah in connivance with the inexistent SBT Africa Ltd, it was gathered that probably in a show of loyalty to his former boss and trying to atone for his sins of embezzlement, Governor Udom went ahead to recently sign another Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with an Australian-based company with Chinese affiliations, SERGE Capital Investments Company Limited for the completion and management of the Ibom Science and Technology Park with allegedly over N10 billion Naira taxpayers money earmarked to resuscitate the Park.
The move by Gov. Udom Emmanuel may appear innocent and backed by his intention of completing all abandoned projects in the state, but many believe that it is a clearly thought out scheme to cover the corrupt tracks of Attah so as to avoid probe in future.
All efforts to get across to the former Akwa Ibom State number one man for his reaction proved abortive as his mobile lines were not reachable as at press time.