The Senator representing Akwa Ibom North-West in the National Assembly, Godswill Akpabio, who officially defected from the Peoples Democratic Party to the All Progressives Congress on Wednesday, said his defection was done to link Akwa Ibom State to the centre.
Four lawmakers consisting two from the House of Representatives and two from the Akwa Ibom State House of Assembly also defected to the All Progressives Congress from the People’s Democratic Party.
The legislators include a member from Abak Federal Constituency, Mr Emmanuel Ikon; a member from Ikot Ekpene Federal Constituency,
Emmanuel Akpan; a member from the Essien Udim State Constituency, Mr Nse Ntuen; and a member representing Etim Ekpo State Constituency, Mr Gabriel Toby.
The two commissioners, who also defected from the PDP, included the Commissioner for Culture and Tourism, Mr Victor Antai and Commissioner for Labour, Productivity and Manpower Planning, Mr Ibanga Akpabio.
Deputy Inspector-General of Police, Udom Ekpo-Udom (retd.), among others, also defected.
Commenting on his defection, Akpabio said, “People are saying why the APC, you need to know I am a nationalist. In troubled times like this when the country is at war, all hands must be on deck to salvage the situation. This is a difficult moment for Nigeria. In a period of national emergency, everybody should put hands together to support this government to bring peace to the people.
“I will like to be a conspirator, who joins hands to conspire to put food on the table of Nigerians, to bring peace to Benue State, to stop the killings in our country, to ensure employment for our children, who bring about uncommon transformation for Nigerians.
“This is the moment of uncommon change, uncommon change has come to Akwa Ibom, South-South, uncommon change has come to the Niger Delta.
The National Chairman of the APC, Mr Adams Oshiomhole, who received Akpabio into the party, eulogised him (Akpabio) for the courage he had shown by leaving the PDP.
He said, “When I was Governor of Edo State and even now, my successor, Godwin Obaseki, we have always treaded quite lonely that in the whole of the South-South, it is only in Edo State that we have a state governor.
“We have been anxious to find another state to join forces with us in our determination to sustain the changes that Nigeria badly requires.”
Speaking, Secretary to the Federal Government, Boss Mustapha, who represented President Muhammadu Buhari at the occasion, said despite the difficulties experienced in the country, the President had been able to provide jobs for teeming Nigerians in the last three years.
Mustapha who handed over the leadership of the party in the state to Akpabio on behalf of the President called on the people of the state to have faith in the Federal Government as things would improve.
“I came to thank the Akwa Ibom people for the show of remarkable support. I want to put on record that the entire South-South has been taken over by the APC. I can assure you that the heart of the President and Acting President are solidly behind you,” he said.
However, the National Chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party, Prince Uche Secondus, has described the defection of Akpabio to the APC as unfortunate.
A statement from the National Chairman’s Media Office, which was signed by his Media Adviser, Mr Ike Abonyi, said, “I cannot fathom any reason why on earth, Senator Akpabio should work against the tide, moving at the opposite direction to a place every reasonable person is escaping from.
“He deserves our pity because whatever would make somebody to choose bad for good is clearly one that he should be prayed for, for salvation especially given the fact that wolves are waiting for his arrival to devour him.
“How on earth can anybody who has his eyes wide open be seen walking into danger knowingly?”
Secondus lashed out at the APC, for allegedly intimidating people into their alleged drowning boat ostensibly to ruin and disintegrate the person involved.
He called on the people of Akwa Ibom to be wise and know when to turn their back from a leader directing them to danger.
“I urge you (people of Akwa Ibom) to remain focused and continue to give support to your hard-working governor, Emmanuel Udom, as he remains unrelenting in the delivering of democracy dividends to the people,” he added.
Meanwhile, the case of alleged fraud involving Akpabio is not over, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission has said.
Akpabio had said that he was a man of peace that had no case to answer with the EFCC, adding that the young man who petitioned him before the commission could not prove his case.
“Those petitions to the EFCC have been sorted out. As I stand today, I have not been charged to court because nothing was found against me,” Akpabio said.
However, the spokesman for the EFCC, Mr Wilson Uwujaren, in a text message while responding to an inquiry made by The PUNCH, insisted that Akpabio’s case was still ongoing.
When asked if Akpabio was still under probe, the EFCC spokesman said, “EFCC does not close cases or give clearance to anybody.”
Akpabio first came under investigation in late 2015 following accusations that he diverted over N100bn from the oil-rich state between 2007 and 2015, an allegation which he has denied.
The EFCC wrote letters to Zenith Bank, Keystone Bank, First City Monument Bank, Skye Bank, and United Bank for Africa demanding information on the state’s accounts.
The anti-graft agency also extended its investigation to the accountant-general, the auditor-general, the Speaker and the clerk of the House of Assembly.
Describing it as a witch-hunt, the Akwa Ibom State Government refused to cooperate with the EFCC and even dragged the commission to court and obtained an interim injunction, restraining the EFCC and other Federal Government agencies from probing the finances of the Akwa Ibom State Government but this was temporary as the judge lifted the injunction months later paving way for full investigations.
The matter was taken to the Appeal Court where it has remained for over a year.
According to an interim report by the EFCC, the former governor allegedly gave a bank N1.4bn for unknown reasons.