Africa: Nollywood Actress defends arrest of her Tourism Consultants Says “It is not about Orange September”

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Nollywood Actress and Special Assistant to the Akwa Ibom State government on tourism, Ini Edo has defended the arrest of two her consultants recently by the state police, saying the duo were arrested over threat to her safety.

According to a press release by Ini Edo’s Counsel, the arrest of the duo- Joseph Utin and Ubong Ekpe both of Akwa Ibom Tourism Development Company (ATDC), were not related to the just concluded “Orange September” festival held in the state to mark its 30th anniversary as it is been reported in the media.

The release said: “We act as Counsel to Miss Ini Edo (Our Client) on whose behalf and express instruction we release this Statement.

“Our attention has been drawn to the false allegation circulating in the social media about our Client. The said allegation is traceable to a Petition written by our office on behalf of Our Client to the Inspector General of Police complaining of Criminal Conspiracy, Breach of Trust, Extortion of Money, Criminal Defamation of Character and Threat to Life of Our Client by Mr. Ubong Ekpe and Mr. Utin Joseph both of Akwa Tourism Development Company (ATDC) of No. 275 Oron Road Uyo, Akwa Ibom State.

“May we state categorically that our Petition against Mr. Ubong Ekpe and Mr. Utin Joseph was necessitated by the constant extortion of money from Our Client, the repeated defamation of her character and above all the incessant threat to her life and that of her family members by the duo. A matter the Nigerian Police is currently investigating.
“We find a need to state at this point that the arrest of the suspects has nothing to do with Orange September as is speculated in the social media and we know the report of the investigation will confirm this.

“We finally state that Our Client remains committed to the good course of Akwa Ibom State which she by the grace of God has been graciously called to serve
Earlier, the media was awash with reports that Ini Edo, had accused the tourism experts of ‘stealing’ her idea of Ibom Fest, which was cancelled last year.

According to atqnews.com, In a petition to the Police, Edo alleged that Utin and Ekpe sold the idea of Ibom Fest to the State Ministry of Culture and Tourism, and renamed it “Orange September” the official brand of the 30th anniversary of the State.
Instead of petitioning Akwa Ibom State Government or demanding the arrest of the Commissioner for Culture and Tourism, Rt. Hon. Victor Antai for allegedly stealing her initiative, the Governor’s Aide however resorted to sending the Police after the tourism consultants. These are same consultants who have been promoting the cultural heritage of the State both at the national and international scene.

Ini Edo is said to have met with Non governmental organizations, corporate organizations, groups and individuals, who had agreed to sponsor the botched Ibom Fest and collected millions of Naira from the sponsors and disappeared without paying her consultants, Joseph Utin and Ubong Ekpe or accounting for the said money.
Angry over the success of the anniversary celebration, which she was not part of, Ini Edo went to the Police and ordered the arrest of her former consultants on a flimsy excuse that they sold her initiative of Ibom Fest to the State Government.

Ini Edo, a native of ONNA, the same local government with Governor Udom Emmanuel, who she is currently serving as Special Assistant, reported the matter to the Police Force Headquarters in Abuja, which in turn, ordered its officers in Akwa Ibom to arrest the two consultants in Uyo today.

The tourism experts will be flown to Abuja tomorrow for prosecution.
At the State Police Command’s Headquarters, Ikot Akpan Abia, this evening, the consultants debunked the claims by Ini Edo and described the petition as baseless.
Reacting personally to the media reports, Ini Edo said: “I want to state here in a very unambiguous and clear terms that nothing could be further from the truth. I have nothing against the “Orange September” and I join others to applaud the Hon, Commissioner for Culture and Tourism, Mr. Victor Antai for a great job he did in promoting and projecting our State.

The reason why I contacted the police and reported the individuals above is purely for my safety and those of my loved ones. The individuals concerned worked with me on the Ibom Fest that was to have taken place last December, but had to be postponed after the sad and unfortunate tragic incident at the Reigners’ Church.

The individuals had gone to great extent to blackmail and say all manner of negative things about me and actually caused to be published false stories about some amounts of money they claimed I had collected from corporate bodies, which they, in their hearts know is false. They claimed that I owe them 30 million Naira which is manifestly false. I was put through spates of blackmail and negative press by these people, and on many occasions, I had invited them to see things for themselves. At a number of those meetings, I had given them money from my own personal resources and advised them to stop the negative press. Unfortunately, they didn’t. They continued to attempt extorting money from me. I have evidence of these payments.

They went further to threaten my life and those of my family members (evidence of which I have). I told them they had crossed the line by openly threatening my life, yet they didn’t stop, Afraid for my life and those of my family members, I had no choice but to explore the logical option available which was to report the incident to the police and they were invited for questioning. This is the standard operational procedure and it has nothing to do with the “Orange September” campaign.

No one should take threats to one’s safety lightly and I don’t think any member of the public would stay back and continue to suffer the emotional stress of having your phone lines bombarded with text messages threatening your safety without taking action.

Commenting on the issue, Anny Micheal, media consultant to the Senator representing, Uyo Senatorial district, urged the Nollywood actress to reconcile with the consultants in order to move the state’s tourism sector forward.

He said: “Going by my findings, Joseph Utin and Ubong Ekpe both of Akwa Ibom Tourism Development Company practically wrote the proposal for the Ibom Fest which couldn’t hold sequel to the collapse of Reigners Bible Church at the time it was planned. Being a tourism event it naturally will attract a lot of sponsorship which according to them Edo used effectively her vast connection to attract a lot of resources in from the corporate world, blue Chip outlets and individuals. This had absolutely nothing to do with Orange September event.

The beef is sequel to the tourism consultants insisting that they be properly paid for their consultancy rather than look the other way by the Actress. Ini Edo got a Senior Advocate of Nigeria, SAN to pen down a petition to the IG of Police to get those Tourism consultants arrested according to my findings.

The story is that they were paid N1m each which was grossly inadequate to the terms of engagement even though the Gov’s Aide is of the view that she placed them on a monthly take home of N50,000 .

More revealing is the fact that lni Edo was informed about Orange September plannings by the organisers in her capacity as SA to the Gov on Tourism and she requested that one of the events in the Orange September be given to her to run but the organisers had insisted she comes take up one of the sub committees and head rather than run a component of the Orange September herself for effective supervision she translated her non-acceptance to being absent herself from the entire event. The question is why didn’t she raise the alarm at the time if her claim holds water of owning the idea of Orange September? One thing that should be paramount from the foregoing is that people should always learn to keep to their business terms rather than use their privileged positions to scuttle such terms.

The Actress cannot in her good conscience lay claim to the boat regatta, food festival and other content of the successful Orange September.

The Ndoko event for instance was successful because the organisers, Akwa Ibom Ministry of Culture and Tourism had insisted that they supervise all sides of the Orange September to ensure success.

Honestly, l strongly l believe that there was no need for this public attention by the Actress as all she needed to do was to sit the consultants down and explain to them the funding status of the failed Ibom Fest as was the case while the Tourism Consultants drafted the proposal for Ibom Fest and see what could be added to the consultants by way of pecuniary benefits . l understand that in an attempt to carry her along during the Orange September given her office, she will always be on the move, Port Harcourt, Lagos, Abuja etc .

In case the Nollywood Actress didn’t know this action of hers has given her a low PR before her fans and the question is, how did she get here ?

What is even more worrisome is the fact that, most likely her employer, Akwa Ibom Governor may not have known before she involved the police. The other revelation in the saga is that while the ibomfest planning lasted, Edo used the Tourism consultants office along Oron road, Uyo without paying for the work space.

On a close look at the two proposals, that is Ibom Fest and Orange September, the content and more are not the same Let it not be seen that she is asking for public sympathy for not performing in office coupled with the frustration of Glo, the compelling telecommunications giant having called off her Ambassadorial status.

Can’t she reason like Rt. Hon Victor Antai who got three of the consultants cars after a rigorous planning and execution of the Orange September in appreciation. Let her understand that it is not the Tourism consultants making that the Ibom Fest couldn’t hold. Both Ini Edo and Rt Hon Victor Antai are to my mind assets to Akwa Ibom, the thinking should be more on moving our State forward and not this pettiness.

There is no need to get this whole issue twisted and be in the news for the wrong reasons . The successful orange September is NOT the brainchild of Ini Edo as it now being alluded to by her Lawyers but what needs to be addressed is that she needs to reconcile with the Tourism consultants and not intimidate them with police arrest and subsequent prosecution having in mind that, it is amazing what she could have achieved if she was not insisting on who takes the glory ”.

 

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