When in February 2016, Chisom Amanda Eze, the Managing Director of Torchblaze Media Concepts (a Public Relations- managing company) had approached Senator Godswill Akpabio in his residence in Uyo, to pitch her public relations services to him; she had looked forward to a bright future of collaboration. It was indeed agreed upon that very day that Eze was to oversee the launch of his Facebook page and manage its activities.
Sen. Akpabio called out his special assistant on media, Anniete Ekong to work in collaboration with Eze and oversee “other transactions” between the two parties.
As a conscious businesswoman, Eze had even gone ahead to present her proposal to the lawmaker on the said day and had promised to send the legal paperwork of their new agreement later.
“I went to his house with Chief Olisah Metuh. I spoke to him and told him how his past social media account was being run. He kept saying he was not satisfied. I opened and managed his Facebook account for him in his presence at his own prompting and consent on February 2016 and before I left his house, he called in his media aide –Anietie Ekong was informed that I would be running that page. We agreed that I would send them a legal agreement to sign and my payment facilitated immediately after the legal agreement.
“Meanwhile, I came with a proposal that night and showed. He asked me to wait for his media aide, that the media aide would take over there and handle every other transaction. He asked for the proposal; I gave it to him. The proposal was the first thing I gave to him at his house before I sent the legal agreement document later,” says Eze.
The Unsigned Agreement document
As agreed upon by the two parties, Eze contacted her lawyer to get a legal agreement document which she mailed Ekong immediately.
According to the legal agreement document made available to POLITICSNGR, the agreement was to take effect as of February 15th, 2016 for a term of 12 months from signing. Akpabio was charged ₦3,000,000.00 per annum for public relations consulting services: consultancy, content creation (writing press releases and other communication pieces) and maintenance of the Facebook page, media contact. The payment was to commence on an agreement as subsequent payment would be negotiated on the 12 months anniversary date of agreement.
“This agreement may be terminated without cause by either party upon 30-day written notice. If this agreement is terminated prior to the end of that period, the Client agrees to pay all obligations then due and payable made by Consultant on Client’s behalf. No rights or liabilities shall arise with relationship to unfinished work, regardless of any plans that may have been made for future services.
“The agreement will be governed by the laws of the federal republic of Nigeria. Any litigation between the two parties related to this agreement shall be exclusively determined by the high court or magistrate courts with jurisdiction in Nigeria and TorchBlaze Media Consults irrevocably consents to the jurisdiction of such courts. The prevailing party in any such litigation shall be entitled to an award of reasonable attorney’s fees and costs.
“This agreement supersedes any agreements, either oral or written, between the parties hereto, and contains all the covenants and agreements between the parties hereto. Any modification of this agreement will be effective only if it is in writing by the parties to be charged. This agreement is executed in Abuja, Nigeria, on the day and year mentioned above,” the document reads.
Expecting a return mail containing the signed agreement document, she was distraught Ekong could not keep to his promise of sending the signed copy of the agreement document.
Asked if she contacted the lawmaker on getting the agreement document signed, she said: “I couldn’t get the Senator again na. You know how they are. They keep changing numbers. So by the time I called him later and told him I had not been paid for my service, he kept saying he couldn’t understand what I was saying. I called Anniete back that “your oga keeps saying he doesn’t understand what I’m saying; help me to remind who I am.” Let it not be that they thinking that they would think ‘I am begging for money.’”
Yet, she went on with her service in the hope that she would be treated with the same deference she had shown the lawmaker and the belief she had in him.
Disappointment leads to frustration
Eze’s travails of getting the payment for her service would begin afterwards, following a twist in the plot she had not envisaged. She ran the page for a year without pay and was subsequently removed from admin status on the Facebook page.
“I sent the legal agreement and his aide kept saying, he has given it to him and awaiting the next instruction, I ran that page for one year. All attempts to get my money back met a dead end. They went ahead and got that page verified and Anietie Ekong removed me as admin from a page I created to show you how wicked he is. I have asked them for just two things, give me the money as stated in the legal agreement or give me back my page since it is my intellectual property and they have no right to use it without paying for it,” Eze lamented.
Frustration had overtaken disappointment in the long wait for the payment of the service rendered and was being fuelled by the Senator’s long silence despite efforts to bring him to come into terms with fulfilling his promise.
When she couldn’t surmount the quagmire she was in, she resorted to making a case at the law court herself. She called out on her lawyer, Jimmy Abia for help to settle the pending issues once and for all.
“Each time I called Senator Akpabio, he would feign ignorance of what I was saying. I had my lawyer write him officially to remind him of the debts and he told my lover explicitly that he did not know about it. He later confirmed my business with him was a real one; he informed my lawyer that he had spoken to his media aide and that he would do something about it and get back to me,” she expressed in a distraught tone.
Corroborating Eze’s statements, her lawyer said: “The first step I took was writing Akpabio officially about the non-payment of the service last year. None was acknowledged until one I sent on January 9, this year (2019) when he acknowledged it a few days later with a call, saying he was not in the know but he would rectify the issue on January 9, 2019.
“Since then, no payment has been made despite his assurance to correct the situation,” he added.
Akpabio’s aide refuses to make comments
When our reporter reached out to Mr Anietie Ekong, Sen. Akpabio’s special media assistant to clear the air on the issue, he refused to comment.
“You said it was alleged that Senator Akpabio breached an agreement, have you sighted the said agreement? An agreement signed by Senator Akpabio?” he queried.
This reporter reminded him of the agreement paper sent to him to return signed but not eventually signed.
“So which one was breached?” he asked again.
When he was asked to say something about the allegation, he replied: “I have nothing to say about it.”
Further efforts to get the attention of Mr Ekong had been futile as messages and calls placed to him were not answered at the time of this report.
Chisom Eze’s lawyer, Mr Jimmy Abia who wrote the letters has maintained that “agreement is either oral or written. If they claim the agreement document which was supposed to have been signed by Akpabio, holds no water. We’ll see in court.”
Asked what evidence he has against them, he replied: “I’m sorry. I am in no position to reveal that to you.”