A Nigerian senator and governorship candidate of the All Progressives Congress has been arrested at the Abuja airport over allegations of contract fraud to the tune of $12.5 million.
Hope Uzodinma was taken into custody on Sunday shortly after arriving at the nation’s capital aboard an Air Peace flight, according to the Special Presidential Investigation Panel for the Recovery of Public Property.
“We have arrested him and he is in our custody in Asokoro,” the panel’s lead Okoi Obono-Obla told PREMIUM TIMES Monday morning. “He has been evading our arrest since last year.”
Mr Obono-Obla said his committee launched a manhunt for Mr Uzodinma shortly after PREMIUM TIMES exposed how the senator landed a contract of about N26 billion from the Goodluck Jonathan administration. He received $12.5 million of the contract sum for the dredging of Calabar channel from the Nigerian Ports Authority, but failed to execute the contract.
PREMIUM TIMES also found that Mr Jonathan’s government did not comply with extant contracting regulations, and ignored administrative warnings about the potential consequences of the illegality.
“We have been looking for him since we saw the wonderful investigation that PREMIUM TIMES carried out on the matter, and then we were also helped by a petition which a citizen took time to forward to our panel,” Mr Obono-Obla said.
“The petition went to the presidency, and then it was forwarded to us for action,” Mr Obno-Obla said. “We have made all efforts to get him, including writing to him and the Senate on several occasions, but he ignored our invitation and evaded our attempts to get him to come and explain what he did.”
Mr Obono-Obla described Mr Uzodinma’s action as “economic sabotage” and said it was an actionable intelligence that led to his arrest at the airport last night.
“He got a contract to dredge Calabar Ports, which we all know can help this country’s economy significantly, but refused to do it,” he said.
Mr Obono-Obla said his committee does not hold suspects for extended period, and Mr Uzodinma would be released after writing a statement. “We would then charge him to court after that,” he added.
PREMIUM TIMES could not immediately confirm whether the senator has contacted his lawyers as of Monday morning.