Facts are beginning to emerge on the real reasons that led to the arrest of Akwa Ibom State Environmental Protection and Waste Management Agency, AKSEPWMA, Prince Akpan Ikim, the press has earlier reported on February 8 that the Waste Management Agency Boss was arrested on the orders of the Hon. Commissioner for Environment and Mineral Resources, Barr, Ekong Sampson, an allegation the two term lawmaker has since denied through his Media Consultant, Paulinus Nnah.
AF News reporter went to town to unravel circumstances surrounding the purported arrest of Prince Ikim. It was discovered that Prince Ikim and four others were arrested on the orders of Justice Ntong F. Ntong presiding Judge of the High Court, Itu Judicial Division. The order was issued at the instance of Nusun Unique Investment, a revenue consultant with the Akwa Ibom State Environment Ministry.
The Secretary of Nusun Unique Investment, who spoke on condition of anonymity said his Company sought an interlocutory injunction to retrain Prince Ikim and the AKSEPWMA Board from issuing motor vehicle emblems, stickers, tickets, certificates and demand notices to vehicles and tricycle (keke) operators within Akwa Ibom State pending the determination of a suit instituted by the claimant (Nusun Unique Investment). The Secretary further told our reporter that the order also retrained defendant (Prince Ikim and AKSEPWMA Board) either acting by itself, agents, officers, or representatives, from interfering in any way with any vehicle or tricycle operator operating within the state from using motor vehicle emblem, stickers and sanitation tickets and certificates obtained from the Claimant.
When asked if the defendant was served the notice, the secretary answered in the affirmative. The refusal of the defendant to obey the order issued by Justice Ntong on June 5, 2019 led to his arrest.
Our findings further reveal that Nusun Investment has revenue collection contractual agreement with the Environment Ministry that predates the AKSEPWMA Board. Perhaps the AKSEPWMA Board soon after being sworn in sought ways of carrying it its functions contracted out to a revenue contractor. This must have been the reason for the crisis between Prince Ikim led Board and Nusun Unique investment.
a close acolyte of Prince Ikim informed our source off camera that the meat of the matter has to do with who has the right to collect revenue for sanitation and other emblems. The source said AKSEPWMA has legal backings to collect revenue and not the Ministry of Environment stating that the Agency in question has a direct link with the Environment Commissioner. AF News could not immediately confirm the veracity of such claims.
There have been arguments back and forth as to whether AKSEPWMA has the legal right to collect sanitation revenue and other fees. While some say AKSEPWMA is empowered by the enabling law that created it in 2000 to collect vehicle emblems, stickers, tickets, certificates and demand notices to vehicles and tricycle (keke) operators within Akwa Ibom State, others add that the Environment Ministry has supervisory and oversight function over AKSEPWMA hence has right to enter into contractual agreement with any firm.
A legal luminary who spoke to our reporter off camera absolves the Hon. Commissioner of any wrong doing stating that youthful exuberance of Prince Ikim may be responsible for his recent misdemeanor. He said Prince Ikim is doing a fantastic job in desilting gutters in the state but wondered why he will disobey a court order and resort to intimidating a revenue agent appointed by the Ministry of Environment. He said the act of Prince Ikim is not healthy for the image of Governor Udom Emmanuel’s Government as it will be described as infighting.
Another legal luminary who also spoke off camera said since the matter was already in court, it was preemptive and unacceptable for Prince Ikim to take laws into his hands by resorting to self-help to claim a legally assigned function. All he would have done according to the Legal expert would have been to wait for the determination of the said suit before taking any further action. The lawyer further added, “The court order restrained AKSEPWMA Board from interfering in the revenue function carried out the Agent of the Ministry. It would be incomprehensible and shameful for Ikim or his agents to go about threatening the consultant as alleged”
The question in the minds of many begging for answers is why an Agency under a Ministry will operate independent of the Ministry. Others are asking if it is the Ministry or AKSEPWMA that has the sole right to appoint revenue consultant?
Many see this as clash of interest which may affect the smooth running of the Agency if not properly handled. Others are advising the duo of Barr. Sampson and Prince Ikim to have a round table and resolve the imbroglio rather than washing their dirty linings outside. Others are asking Governor Udom Emmanuel to intervene and resolve the matter in the interest of the State.
It remains to be seen if the matter has been settled. The comings days will tell.