N4.3bn Calabar Channel contract scam: Uzodinma granted ‘bail’

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The chairman of the Special Presidential Investigation Panel for Recovery of Public Property (SPIPRPP), Mr. Okoi Obono-Obla has said that the governorship candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Senator Hope Uzodinma had granted administrative bail for health reason.

NewsGazette had reported that the lawmaker who represents Owerri West was arrested at the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport on Sunday for alleged complicity in the N4.3 billion ($12 million) Calabar Channel contract scam.

Obono-Obla said the lawmaker was let off the hook temporarily when he developed high blood pressure in detention about 12midnight.

“We granted him bail to report back today and this morning he was supposed to return by 10 am but he requested for us to adjourn the matter till tomorrow that his blood pressure went up. We don’t want him to die, so we have granted him an extension till tomorrow (today) to report to us. We will wait for him, if he doesn’t come as we agreed, we will know what to do,” he told Vanguard in an interview.

Reacting to Uzodinma’s alleged denial that he was never arrested by SPIPRPP operatives, Obono-Obla said: “Well, you know that no one will say that his mother’s soup is not sweet. The man was arrested. If not, why is he begging for extension till tomorrow (today)? He was arrested, yesterday, (Sunday) at the airport about 8:30pm by our operatives and he was kept there till about 12 midnight before he pleaded that he should be allowed to go and we conceded because we don’t have detention facility.

“We don’t detain people as a matter of policy in our panel. But we asked him to report back by 10am today (yesterday). When we did not see him by that time, we went to his house and laid siege there. It was then he started pleading that he was not feeling well and that he will report to us tomorrow (today).

“So we granted him that respect. If he fails to report tomorrow (today), then we will take it up. We have already filed charges against him for refusing to declare his assets. This matter has been lingering for the past two years.

“He has tried to play some politics but we are not politicians and we have nothing to do with the politics of Imo State. But this matter has been lingering since 2017 that we started looking for him. He refused to answer our invitation.

“We sent about two invitations to the clerk of the national assembly but he did not come. So we went to his house and pasted our assets declaration form. That is the first step in our investigation. He refused to fill that form within 30 days as prescribed by the law establishing our panel. We now charged him before the Federal High Court. That one is pending. So if he said we didn’t arrest him, then it is up to him. But nobody will say that his mother’s soup is not sweet.”

He said the governorship candidate was facing investigation for allegedly engaging in economic sabotage, due to alleged failure of his company to execute a contract of $12m the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) awarded to him for the dredging of Calabar channel.

Uzodinma is also linked with other cases, including a case over his alleged failure to disclose his assets, as reflected in a two count charge, marked: FHC/ABJ/CR/107/2018, now pending before Justice Babatunde Quadri of the Federal High Court, Abuja.

He and his company are equally involved in a pending criminal case before the Upper Area Court, Arab Road, Kubwa, Abuja.

The case was initiated via a criminal complaint filed by a company, Chimex Ventures Ltd and its promoter, Chima Akuzie, who claimed that the Senator issued them a N200 million UBA dud (bounced cheque).

Akuzie stated that Uzodinma sub-contracted to his company, a shoreline protection project in Koko, Delta State, which he (Uzodinma) allegedly got from the Niger-Delta Development Commission (NDDC) and that the dud cheque was intended as payment their successful execution of the project.

On October 29, Judge Abdulwahab Muhammed referred the case to the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) for further action after Uzodinma (the defendant) failed to attend court to answer to the complaint.

The judge’s referral letter, sighted by The Nation, has as its reference number: FCT/JD/AC/ABJ/CORR/EFCC/VOL1/2018. It was addressed to the Acting Chairman of the EFCC.

Part of it reads: “Re-Criminal complaint against Senator Hope Uzodinma, Smiec Engineering and Chemical Construction Company Limited, and Niger Global Engineering and Technical Company Limited for criminal conspiracy, joint act, criminal misappropriation, criminal breach of trust and cheating.

“The above subject matter, with case number: CR/358/2018 between Chimex Ventures Ltd & 1 other and Senator Hope Uzodinma & 2 others, refers.

“With reference to the above subject matter, I am directed to inform you and refer the above matter to your office for proper, thorough and discreet comprehensive investigation in line with Section 89(5) of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act, 2015.

“Please find attached copy of the complaint for your information and further action.”

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