•Petitioner is blackmailer, gold-digger, says Ekpo
From Joe Effiong, Uyo
Akwa Ibom State Commissioner for Lands and Town Planning, Mr Ime Ekpo has been dragged to the Independent and Corrupt Practices and other related offence Commission (ICPC) over alleged over N4 billion fraud.
Ekpo, an architect, was until 2011, a director in the state’s civil service but was upon retirement, appointed by the immediate past administration as project manager for the execution of the Government House project which reportedly gulped a N37 billion.
But, one of the consultants to the project, Mr Ubokutom Nya of Otto Trinity Studios, a fellow architect, who claimed he acted on behalf of four other consultants engaged in the construction of phases l, ll, lll, has petitioned the ICPC and alleged that Ekpo defrauded them.
In the August 24, 2017 petition, a copy of which was made available to Daily Sun, at the weekend, Nya averred that in 2013, then governor, Godswill Akpabio, appointed him and three other consultants, to the N37 billion Government House project, with his firm as the lead architectural consultant and that N5.2 billion was paid as consultant fees.
Nya added that the consultancy fee was reportedly moved by the state government to the account of Julius Berger Nigeria Plc, under the contract agreement, for onward disbursement to the beneficiaries. He, however, alleged that Ekpo short-changed the consultants after he drew the funds.
“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…” he wrote.
But, Ekpo has described Nya as a blackmailer, who is out to “tarnish my hard-earned reputation” and a gold digger, “who wants to reap where he did not sow.” The commissioner also said he has not received any invitation from either the ICPC or any other agency based on Nyah’s petition as at Saturday, October 28, 2017.
He told Daily Sun that Nyah does not represent other consultants, who, he said, had filed various claims with the state government, pending final approval for payment.
“Since the inception of the project in 2008, payment to consultants on the Government House Complex Uyo, phases I, II, and III have always been made directly by the Ministry of Housing and Urban Renewal and not through any other channel.
“Why Ubokutom Nyah has resorted to this blackmail is that he is aggrieved that I have deposed to an affidavit in a case involving his architectural firm and the government of Akwa Ibom State. He sent a text message to me on August 23, 2017, to say he had seen an affidavit I deposed to and that he did not expect me to have brought my reputation to the matter.
“The big question Nyah should be asked to answer is: ‘Is it the same money he is claiming the government of Akwa Ibom state is owing his firm, Otto trinity Studios, which matter is already in court, that he now says that I short-changed him?”