Uyo: The wife of Akwa Ibom State Governor, Mrs. Ekaete Unoma Akpabio is said to have defrauded a US missionary group to the tune of $2.7m. The missionaries who visited the Akwa Ibom to help vulnerable children mostly those dubbed witches and wizards in different locations were diverted and duped of their hard earned currency. The missionaries said they saw documentaries and news reports in the international media about the plight of the children and decided to visit Akwa Ibom state to donate funds for the support and upkeep the needy children.
“We were touched by the documentaries we saw in some international media which show how children are tortured by parents and some pastors on account being possessed by demons. We said okay, we have to visit and give support as missionary a group, and talk to the people about their misconception of the scripture. We were taken to different to different centres by Mrs. Akpabio, which she claimed were owned by her in March 2011; but when we visited in 2012, we were taken to a different place entirely.” Ms. Marina Gonzales, the secretary of the group explained.
The missionaries said they were twice brought to Akwa Ibom state by a charity, the Africa Children Foundation (AFC) run by an indigene of Akwa Ibom based in Atlanta, Georgia who is Akpbio’s first cousin Mr. Victory Mbaha, in early 2011, had given the sum of $2 million to the governor’s wife, who took them to the shelters where rescued and trafficking children were kept before reunited with their parents. One of the centres is, however, managed by the National Agency for the Prohibition of Trafficking in persons and other related matters (NAPTIP), a Nigerian federal government agency in Uyo. When the missionaries revisited the state, Mrs. Akpabio took them to a newly established shelter of witchcraft branded children, which she now named Divine Children Home located along Babangida Avenue Uyo, and lied that they were children she collated from her different centres to camp in a single place; which she told them she would use their money to support.
A source from the Akwa Ibom State Ministry of Women Affairs and Child Development, said Mrs. Akpabio had never run a children home, it was when the missionaries were becoming apprehensive of being scammed by the governor’s wife that she abruptly arranged with some government owned thugs to seize children from privately owned children centres in different locations in the state
“The truth is that the governor’s wife, Mrs. Unoma Akpabio had never run a children centre nor had anything to do with children. She was only busy mobilizing women for her husband campaign. The idea of running a children centre only came as result of concerns raised by the missionaries who felt they were duped by Her Excellency, that’s why you see her rushing to put up that centre with children forcefully seized from privately centres.”
However, when the missionaries who were keen on meeting the governor to discuss issues relating to child witchcraft and how to tackle the menace, (even as they spotted some abandoned kids on the streets of Uyo) which remains the key factor to child trafficking and abandonment in Akwa Ibom state, Mrs. Akpabio accepted it; but not without a condition. She asked the missionaries to pay her seven hundred thousand dollars ($700,000) before she could allow them to see the governor. Apparently stunned by this development, the missionaries questioned the rationale behind paying such staggering amount of money before seeing the governor, even when they were charity workers. She told the missionaries that seeing the governor was a business which they equally stand to benefit.
This development did not go down well with the missionaries. So they opted to leave Akwa Ibom State immediately, even before their return date.
“The missionaries hurriedly left the state before their main return date; because they were scared in of insecurity. I understand that the reason for their fear was as a result of their refusal to pay a ‘ toll’ before they were allowed to see the governor.” The source from the Ministry of Women and Child Welfare said.
On whether they will go back to Akwa Ibom State to do the charity work, the secretary of the group Ms Gonzales, said they have not yet decided on that. She added that they have other African countries which they have been supporting and would like to go back there first before thinking of such move
‘Truly I regretted because we saw her as a role model but she was really not showing a responsible trait especially of a woman in her class. Even the way she was talking to us, only shows she was only interested in making money than building a good working relationship. These are the kind of people that gave Nigeria the bad name and dirty image. I don’t think we would go there again, at least for now. We will work to support other African countries. It is truly a shame, indeed a big shame for that matter for a woman of that caliber to engage in such a risky game that will bring her reputation to question. I’m really heart-broken.”
She did not hesitate in calling for the investigation of Mrs. Akpabio for what she called sham charity work, by groups such as Economic and Financial Crime Commission (EFCC) and Independent Corrupt Practices Commission ( ICPC)
‘Truly, if Nigeria has any crime or corrupt practice outfit, it should not fail to investigate Mrs. Akpabio for her sham charity work. Nobody should believe or ever think she is doing any charity work with children. I read in the news how people called her ‘Mother Theresa’. Did Mother Theresa at any time engaged in fraudulent practice?” the missionary queried.
Perhaps, this could be a reference to how Governor Akpabio himself has been calling his wife ‘Mother Theresa’. When the Nigeria Good Governance Tour (NGGT), a committee inaugurated by President Goodluck Jonathan to assess performance in all the states, which recently visited Akwa Ibom State, Akpabio told the committee that his wife runs a children centre with 680 trafficked Akwa Ibom children she rescued from Gabon.
Akpabio said, “Even some of our children that were taken to Gabon to go and work as child prostitutes… my wife is taking care of them; more than 680 of them” But investigation reveals that Akpabio, as usual, was lying. Mrs. Akpabio does not have time to go and rescue children. Let alone having time to go to Gabon for such. Those children were forcefully seized from private homes to avoid media reportage of children who were dubbed witches and tortured to dead.
Akpabio also told the NGGT that the centre is run privately by his wife; and it’s not supported by government, but by foreign charities and individuals alone. Investigation equally reveals the on the contrary. Mrs. Akpabio signs $200,000 (N35, 000,000) every month claiming it is for feeding of the children alone. That means, annually, Mrs. Ekaete Akpabio is signing a staggering amount of $2,400,000. This is approximately N400m for the feeding of about 200 children alone in the said Divine Children Home, since education is said to be ‘free and compulsory’.
However, and more startling is the claim by Akpabio and his wife, Unoma that all the children in the said Divine Children home attend free and compulsory education. This also, is a miscarriage of truth. An impeccable source disclosed that only 12 children out of the 58 children of secondary age attend secondary school, and they are doing very good. Some of them were forced to withdraw from secondary school and taken to local trade learning centres, to wit: shoe mending, mechanic, seamstress and hairdressing; trekking as long 9-10 km while some merely sit at the centre with heavy heart and depression due to further torture and stigmatization as witches by the fear-stricken staff of the centre. In fact one the children became completely inane and wanted to stab herself to dead. She was hurriedly reconciled with her parents in Esit Eket, instead of giving her a psychiatric treatment. She now roams the street without care of Esit Eket without care.
Every effort geared towards getting response from Mrs. Akpabio did not yield any dividends as she kept on cancelling our calls the topic to was introduced to her. But the sister to Governor Akpabio, who is the General Supervisor and Officer-in-Charge of the Divine Children Centre, Mrs. Asuama Sydney, did not waste time to lash at this reporter before hanging the phone.
“You have started again! God will not allow you this time around. That is what the opponents are telling you to do. Let them go ahead to give you wrong advice….” Mrs. Sydney fumed.
The wife of Akwa Ibom State Governor, Mrs. Ekaete Unoma Akpabio