Part of the documents being investigated which was obtained by our reporter is the 2017 account of the state which preliminary scrutiny has already shown traces of calibrated looting of the state funds by the governor using cronies and family members linked to his office.
The 2017 account details showed how a certain Abel P. Ukpe, said to be an in-law to the governor (married to Governor Udom’s sister) made several trips to the bank, sometimes up to seven times in one day, to make cash withdrawals of N10 million on each occasion.
The pattern of the frequent withdrawals was said to have attracted the curiosity of the investigators who wondered why the Governor’s office would be making cash withdrawals above the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) threshold of not more than N3 million for corporate account. Making such cash withdrawals in a cashless era when most transactions are electronically transferred to recipients’ account also got the investigators curious.
For instance, Mr. Ukpe who in 2017 functioned in the Special Services Directorate, SSD, a special purpose office attached to the Governor’s office, on January 11, 2017 made three trips to Ecobank, Uyo and made withdrawals of N10 million on each trip from account number 4473014237 belonging to the state’s Special Services Department. The N30m withdrawals in one day were made on behalf of the Governor’s office, according to the bank statement.
The statement further showed that on February 8, 2017, Ukpe got busier, this time he made five quick trips to the same Ecobank branch and withdrew N10m on each occasion totalling N50m. Two days later, on February 10, he made three trips withdrawing N10m on each trip.
A careful study of the account statement showed that the withdrawals were split, limited to N10m each transaction but spread over multiple transactions per day.
Two days later, on February 10, Ukpe rushed back to the same Ecobank using Cheque numbers 681,682 and 684 to make another withdrawal of N30m split to N10m per transaction/cheque.
On April 13, 2017, Ukpe made a solitary withdrawal of another N10m; but he would later switch to a busy mode on May 23, 2017 when he made three sorties to the same Ecobank and hauled N10m cash money on each trip.
The bank statement also showed that on June 14, 2017, Mr. Ukpe dashed to the same bank to effect four transactions of N10m cash withdrawal per transaction. Less than a month later, on July 11, he made another N40m withdrawal in four transactions of N10m each.
The following month, precisely on August 9, he switched gear, making six withdrawals of N10m each. Barely one week later, he withdrew another N10m. On September 7, 2017, Mr. Ukpe got busier again, making seven withdrawals of N10m each.
Between January and September, 2017, a total of N370 million was withdrawn in cash by Mr Ukpe in 37 transactions. Investigators are wondering why the withdrawals were done frequently and at a fixed rate of N10m cash.
Also under investigation is how the government utilised the billions of naira received as statutory allocations and derivation funds from the Federation Account.
It is not clear how long ago the investigation commenced but our reporter gathered that it was part of the growing searchlight on Nigerian public office holders some of whom have channelled public funds into private pockets.