Despite President Muhammadu Buhari’s effort to ensure that corruption is reduced to the minimum, Akwa Ibom State Ministry of Environment under Dr Iniobong Essien is allegedly hiding under the guise of environmental sanitation to defraud and extort money from innocent and unsuspecting citizens and visitors to the State of their hard earned money.
The ministry’s mode of operation is to move about in buses with men and women adorned in green T-shirt and black trousers with the inscription, Akwa Ibom State ministry of Environment, during sanitation hours to forcefully abduct unsuspecting victims to their office at number 8 Eyo Eduok Street off Nkemba in Uyo, Akwa Ibom State, thereby violating the human rights law which allow every citizen of the federal Republic of Nigeria freedom of movement.
Recounting her ordeal in the hands of the fierce looking abductors of the Ministry, on Saturday, February 24, 2018, Miss Esther Ime, a student told this reporter that she was on her way back from church when men numbering about five accosted her in a white Toyota Hiace bus along ring road, Mbierebe Junction and asked her where she was going to.
According to her, upon telling them that she was coming back from church where she went for sanitation and was on her way back which is a stone throw from the church to Continue the sanitation, the men ordered her to enter the bus for them to take her to the church to confirm if she was actually coming from the church for sanitation, only for them to turn their vehicle and drove straight to the Environmental Sanitation Court at 8 Eyo Eduok Street. On getting there, she said that she and others numbering about one hundred were forcefully pushed into the court room like cows.
Hear her, “when we went inside the court, one of the officials dressed in black and black suit came and addressed us, he told us to pay a fine of five thousand Naira (5000) for bail immediately or risk going to jail for offense we didn’t even know the charges.
“Those who were with money out of fear had to comply with his directives and pay the said amount after which they were given a slip that would allow them access outside the compound. According to her, some of the victims who were not with physical cash were asked to make their transactions through bank transfer to one First City Monument Bank account with account name Matthew D. Odiong and account number 3041408016.
Another victim, an elderly man in his late Seventies, Mr. Thomas Akpan recounting his ordeal, the same Saturday, said he was picked along Atiku Abubakar way while on his way to mortuary to retrieve the body of his only son, a graduate of University of Lagos, who died in a ghastly motor accident along Aba Ikot Ekpene Road on January 4 this year.
The visibly sober man said that he was released after he gave them the sum of three thousand naira, the only money that was left with him after much plea, adding that the money was meant for the mortuary attendants who were dressing his late son.
He said; “it shall never be well with those people for adding more pain to my pains. I lost my only Son two months ago, due to some financial constraints we were unable to buy a coffin to bury him immediately but just three days ago, a good Samaritan offered to get us a coffin that’s why we decided to bury him today to at least reduced the cost of mortuary which has accumulated over the months. The only money I had with me was three thousand naira which was meant for the mortuary attendants who were dressing my late son. I had to trek so as to cut cost. It is not as if I didn’t do the sanitation, I did my sanitation very early in the morning. I’m deeply hurt, does it mean that they don’t have respect for old age”.
One of the ministry’s officials who was not comfortable with what the gang were into, who did not want her name on print, however, told this reporter the same Saturday, that; “it is the Ministry’s way of extorting money from people during sanitation. They always pray for last Saturday’s to come so that they can make money from their illegal business.”
She alleged that the loot is normally shared among officials of the ministry of Environment, alleging further that the Commissioner and other senior officials of the ministry are aware of the fraudulent practices and the act seems to be enjoying the Commissioner’s endorsement, which has become a norm in the ministry since the advent of the Udom Emmanuel’s administration.
A human rights Activist and lawyer, Barr. Inibehe Effiong said that the exercise as carried out by the Ministry’s official is illegal and a way to extort money from individuals who are ignorant of the law. He noted that the act violets a section of the constitution of the federal Republic of Nigeria that allows freedom of movement of citizens.
When Radar Newspapers contacted the Commissioner for Environment, Iniobong Essien, for comment, last Saturday, February 24, 2018, he denied knowledge of the development. He promised to investigate the matter and get back to the paper before press time. He got back to this paper on Sunday after failing to keep his promise, only to request for more details on the matter, which were given to him by this paper. He, again, promised to get back to Radar newspapers on Monday, which made the paper to suspend her Monday’s publication, only for the Commissioner to fail to keep to his promise.
By Ememobong OKON