If corruption in public procurement is not curbed in our society, the dream of many states especially one dubbed to be the ‘Land of promise’ may not see the light of the day if its resources are continuously defalcated in the guise of the erection of monumental structures aimed at elevating its industrial and structural status by those saddled with the responsibility of ensuring appropriate management of tax-payers money.
This is evident in the Governor Udom’s led administration in Akwa Ibom State and the construction of a 21 Storey Office Building at Banking Layout off Udo Udoma Avenue Uyo which has recently come under scrutiny over the tremendous amount of money earmarked for its execution.
A look into the 2020 budget under the ministry of special duties for the building revealed that N2.6 billion was set aside for perimeter fence/gate even though the fencing of the project had been carried out since 2019 with only plastering left while the intended mansion-like Gate House is secured at N221,197,360 (Two Hundred and Twenty-One Million, One hundred and Ninety-Seven Thousand, Three Hundred and Sixty Naira).
Interestingly, the office Building which last year under the description ‘superstructure’ got N8 billion from the budget, will also see another N6 billion pumped into it. Internal roads and pavement within the sizable piece of land on which the gigantic building stands will also gulp a jaw-dropping sum of N3.55 billion according to the budget while N220 million will be dumped for the parking lot.
A swimming pool seemingly intended for corporate workers who might decide to take off their suits and unwind from the scorching heat ravaging the country was also penned down to swallow N372 million.
The project SecretReporters further learned is contracted to VKS Engineering Company, a construction firm with its headquarters at Plot 63, B-Line, Ewet Housing Estate Uyo, Akwa Ibom State and owned by Mr Onur Kumral, a Turkish national who several sources confirmed aided former governor Godswill Akpabio in siphoning public funds.
Investigations uncovered that it was also the same company that executed the construction of a multi-billion-naira mansion allegedly built by the Governor in his hometown of Awa community in Onna Local Government Area of Akwa Ibom State.
With the controversy that surrounded the completion of the Four Point Sheraton Hotel in Ikot Ekpene, which coincidentally involves Onur Kumrai as the then project manager for its construction, there are mutterings especially from Akwaibomites as regards the total sum of N21billion approved in the 2019 and 2020 State budgets for the possible completion of the project aimed at providing an enabling environment for multinational and International Oil Companies (IOCs) to move their administrative base to the State, as critiques opine that most figures for the execution of the project were inflated.
When contacted for the government’s reaction, the commissioner of Information in the state, Mr Charles Udoh, stated that the budget was only a financial plan subject to changes which may arise from inflation, exchange rate parameters and otherwise as anyone challenging or accusing the government of inflating the figures should be more concerned with the actual expenditure on the project.
“When you run a budget you anticipate that there may be some inflationary trends…When you are done, what matters is how much have you spent when you factor in all these things”
Mr Charles further added that Akwa Ibom state is one of the most transparent governments in Nigeria from 2015 till date, as its annual financial reports always pass through a rigorous audit before being published to the public domain.