Ofonime Honesty, Uyo
Over N35 billion has been reportedly spent by the Akwa Ibom State Government on pre-election litigations involving the controversial governorship candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Pastor Umo Eno.
This is according to a senior government appointee and member of the PDP governorship campaign council.
The inside source, who said Eno is a hard sale, lamented that the various litigations have gulped funds which should have been used for the mobilization of voters and other pressing exigencies.
So far, Umo Eno, who was handpicked by Governor Udom Emmanuel as his preferred successor, has been involved in long-drawn court battles against Hon. Friday Iwok and others who belong to the political bloc of the Young Progressives Party’s governorship candidate, Senator Bassey Albert; Mr Akan Okon, erstwhile long-serving commissioner in the state executive council; Hon. Michael Enyong, a member of the House of Representatives; Mr Edet Godwin Etim, a former employee of Royalty Hotel which is owned by Umo Eno, and a few others.
The cases bordering on various criminal allegations, have constituted a distraction and burden to the PDP, said the party bigwig who pleaded anonymity.
He disclosed that close to 12 billion Naira (11.8 billion Naira) has so far gone into hiring Senior Advocates of Nigeria, SANs.
His words: “You should know that a SAN charges huge millions for court appearances. I want to let you know that over 30 SANs have represented Umo Eno so far in his various cases.
“As we have been told in the campaign council, each of them should get about 5 million naira per case, and about 2 million for each appearance in court, but since the bankrolling is done by the state government on the instructions of the governor, they hike their fees by charging up to 10 million Naira each
“Each day in court gulps millions of Akwa Ibom’s money. Although the governor had initially expressed resentment over the high charges, he later had to comply in order to avoid possible sabotage of the cases by the senior advocates.”
He further divulged that other lawyers in the team who are not senior advocates receive 3.5 million naira per case, and 1.5 million naira per appearance in court.
“Those charges are only legal fees, and do not include accommodation in luxury hotels, executive flight tickets, feeding, security, fee for filling of cases, and other charges,” our source added.
The SANs had also received a humongous sum running into billions of Naira for the purpose of ‘lobbying the courts.’
He added: “Outside lawyers, top members of the campaign council (myself inclusive) have been attending court sittings to witness these cases in Uyo and other parts of the country.
Bills for executive flight tickets, feeding and hotel accommodations are always on the state government. Some of Governor Udom Emmanuel’s media aides are always part of the travelling delegation.”
He also told our correspondent that the governor’s release of about 10 billion Naira in various tranches to traditional rulers, business executives and political leaders within and outside the state to hold talks with the various political chieftains to withdraw their cases in court has gone down the drain because it has failed to reap desired results.
“It is only Onofiok Luke whom they succeeded to talk into withdrawing his case which was secretly filed in Abuja
“Just like Michael Enyong, who is my preferred aspirant, Onofiok never drew public attention to his case against Umo Eno. He was however prevailed upon by political leaders and traditional rulers to withdraw his case. All these added to monies directly spent on lawyers is over 35 billion Naira,” he explained.
Our source maintained that although Eno has recorded victories, especially at the Appeal Court and Supreme Court stages, the cases have weakened the PDP because of the lack of acceptability of Umo Eno, the suspicion that he (Umo Eno) could be disqualified just before the governorship election and the growing acceptability of the opposition parties ahead of the March 11 governorship election.