Governor Godswill Akpabio of Akwa Ibom State on Friday ordered the immediate firing of three stewards working in the governor's lodge in Asokoro, Abuja after it was discovered that bundles of mint-fresh dollar bills valued at more than $250,000 (N40 million) had gone missing from the governor's bedroom.
A senior bureaucrat in the state told SaharaReporters that the governor personally issued instructions for the firing of the stewards. “His Excellency found out on Wednesday during his visit to Abuja that four bundles of the foreign currency he left in his bedroom had been stolen while he was gone to a dinner with the president [Goodluck Jonathan] at the [Aso Rock] Villa,” said the source.
Saharareporters learnt that the bundles of dollars kept in a drawer in the governor's bedroom were leftovers from a trough of hard currency Mr. Akpabio usually kept in a security safe.
Our sources said the governor was furious to discover such a daring breach on what he thought was near impregnable security in the lodge. “The governor was surprised that somebody could steal the money,” said one of the sources. “This is coupled with the fact that the locks to that section of the lodge, including the governor's bedroom, are routinely changed each time heavy cash is brought in. So he did not understand how the money could still disappear in the manner it did.”
Our sources said the governor and his aides had not established that any or all of the three stewards stole the missing cash. However, the employees were sacked for what was seen as their apparent negligence in allowing whoever the culprits were to gain access to the otherwise restricted area of the lodge.
One source close to the lodge said more staff may lose their jobs, adding that investigations were ongoing to identify others who may have had the opportunity to make away with the cash haul.
The source said some staffers were pointing accusing fingers at one Maria Ekpekong, an employee at the lodge who is the governor's senior special representative. Ms. Ekpekong is in charge of the overall management of the lodge.
Two of our sources disclosed that the pilfering of cash from the lodge has become a recurring issue. A few years ago, the governor removed all the civil servants deployed to work at the lodge and replaced them with political appointees and other private consultants he thought could be trusted.
In one instance last year, the disappearance of a substantial sum of cash led to an order to change the burglary proof and window protectors around the governor's apartment. The perpetrators of the heist had reportedly broken through the ceiling to gain access to the room where cash was stacked in bags known as “Ghana must go.”
Governor Akpabio is notorious in Abuja and his state capital of Uyo for frequently doling out state cash to buy political patronage and favors from various individuals, interests, political groups and agencies. He has made an art of recklessly spending state funds to buy himself bogus awards from Nigerian and foreign groups.