On the day Governor Udom Emmanuel described him as the ‘only senator speaking for Akwa Ibom’, the anti-graft agency, EFCC, filed corruption charges against Bassey Albert.
Mr Albert is the only senator from Akwa Ibom who is still in the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) following the recent defection of Godswill Akpabio to the All Progressives Congress (APC).
The EFCC on Monday filed charges at an Ikeja High Court against Mr Albert for allegedly receiving 12 cars worth N254 million as bribes.
Mr Albert, 45, representing Akwa-Ibom North-East, received the vehicles between 2010 and 2014 from Olajide Omokore, a businessman, when he (Albert) served as the Akwa-Ibom Commissioner for Finance under Mr Akpabio as governor, the EFCC said.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that the EFCC has slammed a 14-count charge bordering on corruption on Messrs Omokore and Albert.
Mr Albert is to face a seven-count charge of bordering on corruption as a public officer and for inviting bribes as a result of his own action.
On his part, Mr Omokore is also facing a seven-count charge bordering on offering gratification to a public officer and giving bribe on account of the action of a public officer.
The duo as well as their counsel were, however, absent in court on Monday when the case was announced for mention at 4.05 p.m. on Monday, according to NAN.
Zainab Ettu, the prosecuting counsel for the EFCC, requested a new court date to enable the anti-graft commission arraign the senator and the businessman.
“We do not have the defendants in court today, though we had earlier anticipated that we would have them in court at a later date.
“We will be asking for a further date, most preferably, after vacation,” she said.
Responding, the vacation judge, Obafemi Adamson noted that the case had not been assigned to a judge, making it difficult to adjourn the case after vacation.
The judge ordered that the case file should be sent to the Registry of the High Court for assignment to a judge, who will hear it.
According to the charge sheet, Mr Albert received the vehicles from Mr Omokore over a five-year period (2010-2014) in Lagos.
Mr Albert allegedly received the bribes while serving as the Akwa-Ibom Commissioner for Finance and Chairman of the Akwa-Ibom State Inter-Ministerial Direct Labour Coordinating Committee (IMDLCC).
On May 10, 2010, Mr Albert allegedly corruptly received a BMW X5 BP worth N50 million from Omokore and another Infinity QX 56 BP worth N45 million from him in December 2012.
On November 2013, the serving senator allegedly received a Toyota Landcruiser V8 BP valued at N40 million. And in March 2014, he allegedly received a Range Rover, also valued at N40 million from the businessman. Also in September 2014, he allegedly received another Toyota Hiace High Roof car valued at N27 million.
Others are Toyota Hiace High Roof car valued at N16 million and six units of Toyota Hilux vehicles valued at N36 million.
The anti-graft commission claimed that the car gifts were given to Mr Albert by Mr Omokore in exchange for contracts from the Akwa-Ibom Government.
The offences, according to the EFCC, contravene Sections 63 (1)(a), 64 (1)(a) and 98(1), (a), (i) of the Criminal Law of Lagos 2011.
Mr Omokore, a controversial businessman, enjoyed a lot of business deals during the tenure of President Goodluck Jonathan. He was also a major financier of the PDP then.
‘THE ONLY SENATOR’
On Monday, the Akwa Ibom Governor, Udom Emmanuel, said Mr Albert was the only senator from the state “speaking for the whole of,Akwa Ibom State.”
Mr Emmanuel said this on Monday while addressing a large crowd of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) members and supporters who turned out at the Onna township stadium for a rally organised by the people of Akwa Ibom South Senatorial District to show solidarity with the governor.
“The only man standing! The only man standing! The only man standing!” Mr Emmanuel repeatedly shouted to the crowd as he acknowledged the senator’s presence at the rally.
The crowd responded with the shout of “Oba! Oba! Oba!” which is the acronym for “Obong Bassey Albert”.
“He is the only senator speaking for the whole of Akwa Ibom State in the Senate,” the governor told the crowd.
The governor shouted, “One with God….”
And the ecstatic crowd responded, “….is with the majority!”
Mr Albert, the only senator still remaining in the PDP in the state, has vowed not to leave the party and has also pledged political support for Mr Emmanuel.
Governor Emmanuel’s remarks appear to be a veiled attack on the other two Akwa Ibom senators, Godswill Akpabio and Nelson Effiong, who defected from the PDP to the APC.
There was no indication the crowd at the event on Monday were aware of the corruption charges the senator is now facing, for which he could be jailed for years if found guilty.