The wife of Akwa Ibom State Governor, Mrs. Ekaete Unoma Akpabio is said to have defrauded a US missionary group to the tune of $2.7m. The missionaries who visited the state to help vulnerable children mostly those dubbed witches and wizards in different locations, we learnt, were diverted and duped of their hard earned money. The missionaries said they saw documentaries and news reports in the international media about the plight of the children and decided to visit Akwa Ibom State to donate funds for the support and upkeep of the needy children. “We were touched by the documentaries we saw in somehow children were tortured by parents and some pastors on account being possessed by demons. We said okay, we have to visit and give support as a missionary group, and talk to the people about their misconception of the scripture. We were taken to different to different centres by Mrs. Unoma Akpaobio, the state Governor’s wife. She claimed the places were owned by her in March 2011, but when we visited in 2012, we were taken to a different place entirely,”
Ms. Marina Gonzales, the secretary of the group explained. The missionaries said they were twice brought to the state by a charity organisation, the Africa Children foundation (ACF), run by an indigene of Akwa Ibom based in Atlanta, Georgia and governor Akpaobio’s first cousin, Mr. Victory Mbaha. They further said that in early 2011, they had given the sum of $2 million to the Governor’s wife, who took them to the shelter where rescued and trafficked children were kept before reuniting with their parents. One of the centres is, however, managed by the National Agency for the prohibition of Trafficking in persons and other Related Matters, (NAPTIP), a Nigerian federal government agency in Uyo. When the missionaries revisited the state, they said, Mrs. Akpabio took them to a newly established shelter for witchcraft branded children, which she now named Divine Children Home located along Babangida Avenue, Uyo, and said that they were children she collected from different centres to camp in a single place an she told them she would use their money to support the children.
A source said Mrs. Akpabio had never run a children home, and that it was when the missionaries were becoming apprehensive of being scammed that she abruptly arranged with some government owned thugs to seize children from privately owned children centres in different locations in the state. “The truth is that the Governor’s wife, Mrs. Unoma Akpabio had never run a children centre nor had anything to do with children. She was only busy mobilizing women for her husband’s campaign. The idea of running a children centre only came as a result of concerns raised by the missionaries who felt they were duped by Her Excellency; that was the reason she rushed to put that centre with children forcefully seized from privately centres,” the ministry source informed under the condition of anonymity.
However, when the missionaries who were keen on meeting the Governor to discuss issues relating to child witchcraft and how to tackle the menace, (even as they spotted some abandoned kids on the streets of Uyo) which remains the key factor go child trafficking and abandonment in Akwa Ibom State. Mrs. Akpabio accepted it, but not without a condition. She was alleged to have asked the missionaries to pay her $700,000 before she would allow them to see the Governor. Apparently stunned by this development, the missionaries questioned the rationale behind paying such staggering amount of money before seeing the governor, as they were charity workers. She told the missionaries that seeing the Governor was a business which they equally stand to benefit.