We wish to refer David Augustine to a rebuttal by the Chief Press Secretary to Governor Udom Emmanuel, Mr. Ekerete Udoh on the lies peddled by Dr. Emeyak Ukpong and Barrister Imoh Akpan concerning a fictitious advertorial they maliciously published in The Nation newspaper on December 4, 2017. It is sad that a journalist of David Augustine’s pedigree will regurgitate the same lies and put them out knowing full well that the words attributed to the Governor never came from him. Below we reproduce the advertorial as published in The Nation newspaper.
RE: OPEN LETTER TO THE BOARD CHAIRMAN AND SHAREHOLDERS OF JULIUS BERGER PLC By Concerned Akwa Ibom Elders Forum: How Much Does Akwa Ibom State Government Owe Julius Berger?
Our attention has been drawn to an advertorial that was published in The Nation of December 4th, 2017 (page12) and signed by Barrister Imoh Akpan and Dr. Emeyak Ukpong respectively on behalf of a group that called itself Concerned Akwa Ibom Elders Forum. The said group had, in the referenced advertorial which was an open letter to the Board Chairman of Julius Berger Plc., Mr. Mutiu Sunmonu, asked: How much does Akwa Ibom State Government Owe Juliis Berger?
The writers of the advertorial went ahead to make wild, insufferable, unsubstantiated and outright untrue assertions about what they claimed had happened on Saturday, October 28. 2017 during the Monthly Prayer Meeting at Government House Chapel “In the early morning hours of Saturday October 28, 2017, governor Udom Emmanuel of Akwa Ibom State attended the monthly prayer meeting at Government House Chapel in Uyo and spoke extensively on the “crushing debts” the state government owes to Julius Berger PLC. It was clear” the writers went on “that the governor was at pains, helpless and frustrated in explaining his challenges in meeting the obligations of the company”.
The writers went on to add that “the debt obligations to Julius Berger are huge (he did not mention the exact figure) and was incurred during the administration of Godswill Akpabio his predecessor.
2. As soon as he was inaugurated governor on May 29, 2015, he was under intense pressure from his predecessor to pay down on the debts owed Julius Berger by the state government.
3. The governor then ‘looked for money everywhere’ and paid N6 billion (six billion) in a lump sum to Julius Berger.
4. Since then he has been paying N 1 billion (one billion Naira) every month to Julius Berger.
5. The initial obligation and subsequent monthly payments to Julius Berger are a major drain on the resources of the state and is the reason why his administration is not doing much in terms of road construction and infrastructural development in the state
6. The governor suggested that these debts were incurred in very dishonest transactions in which the projects costs were highly inflated, which can only mean that top officials of the former administration are beneficiaries of these payments to your company”.
We could have dismissed the above fabrications as representing the modus operandi of the opposition elements in the State which is to boldly manufacture a lie and then give the lies wings to fly and attempt to convince the unsuspecting members of the public that those lies are the conventional wisdom, but given the weighty nature of these lies, we are constrained to state as follows:
1. Governor Udom Emmanuel during the October 21 Prayer meeting, ( not October 28) NEVER, EVER, discussed or mentioned Julius Berger; neither did he make reference or comment on any of the lies that have been maliciously attributed to him by the so-called concerned elders. The transcript of what the Governor had said at the Payer Meeting bears the truth. We challenge the so-called elders to produce a transcript or audio or visual representation of what they have maliciously claimed the Governor had said on the day and date in question.
2. For the avoidance of doubt, the Governor at the Prayer Meeting of October 21, 2017 (no prayer meeting took place on October 28, 2017) had said the following: that he appreciated the support of the Akwa Ibom People, the State EXCO and others during the State’s 30th Anniversary celebrations. He spoke at length on the circumstances that led to the suspension of service at the Ibom Specialist Hospital and the State Government’s commitment to getting the hospital back up and running soon; he also reiterated the State Government’s resolve to provide free, affordable and qualitative education and added that he had released grants to schools. The Governor also announced that the State Government will sponsor 100 pilgrims to the Holy Land for pilgrimage. That was the all the Governor had said during the October 21, 2017 Monthly Prayer meeting.
We are therefore, at a loss to fathom what may have led the so-called concerned elders to tell the world such lies and maliciously attribute them to the Governor. What is it that could drive a man who once was a member of the Federal House of Representatives –Dr. Emeyak Ukpong or Barrister Imoh Akpan, a man who belongs to the noble legal profession to conjure and manufacture such lies and attribute it to the Governor? As a lawyer, he should know the implications of slanderous assertions.
We know that the opposition elements in the State have been seized by a spell that is beyond rational comprehension; they have been so over-awed by the spectacular achievements of Governor Udom Emmanuel, his rising national and international profile, and how he has become the reference point in managing the lean resources to achieve optimum result and they will stop at nothing to attempt to take the sheen and the shine away from him, even if doing so, meant employing morally objectionable means. It is sad how politics has descended to such crass and ignoble level.
We know the opposition has been busy at work, trying to throw banana peels on the path of mutual love and respect that exists between Governor Udom Emmanuel and his worthy predecessor, Distinguished Senator Godswill Obot Akpabio (CON), but we wish to state that the two political allies will never step on that peel. They know and understand acutely the machinations, the subterfuge and layers of blackmail that little men, men of low or no character usually employ in their day –to day human engagements and will not deign them a wink or a nod in their ignoble pursuits.
In conclusion, we again challenge the so-called elders to produce an audio or visual to back up their malicious assertions. Failure to do so, they should be shamed and condemned in the court of public opinion.
Chief Press Secretary to Governor Udom Emmanuel/ Senior Special Assistant, Media
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