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Market Digest Nigeria

Politics

Buhari’s Govt. remains silent over Uzodinma’s N4.3bn fraud case, travel ban,

The Federal Government has failed to make any comment on the alleged $12m (N4.3bn) fraud case of newly inaugurated Governor of Imo State, Senator Hope Uzodinma, as well as the travel ban imposed on the governor.

Hope Uzodinma swearing in as the new governor of Imo state by the Chief Judge

When contacted for update on the alleged fraud case of Uzodinma, the Spokesman for the Attorney-General of the Federation, Dr Umar Gwandu, promised to give an update. When called six hours later, Gwandu said he had forwarded the inquiry to the appropriate quarters but there had been no response.

“I have not been able to get a response for now. When there is information, I will forward it to you,” he said. Gwandu, however, could not say when the response would come.

The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, which is also investigating Uzodinma for allegedly issuing a N200m dud cheque, however, said the new governor could not be touched because of his immunity. Recall that the AGF had taken over all cases handled by the Special Presidential Investigation Panel led by Okoi Obono-Obla which was dissolved in September 2019 while Obono-Obla, has since become the subject of investigation.

One of the cases taken over by the AGF was that of Uzodinma. The Obono-Obla panel had in line with Executive Order 6, placed a travel ban on 39 alleged treasury looters one of whom was Uzodinma. Some others on the list included a former Senate President, David Mark; and a former Speaker of the House of Representatives, Dimeji Bankole.

Uzodinma, according to the panel, allegedly perpetrated fraud to the tune of $12m (N4.3bn) when he failed to execute a contract worth $12m awarded to his company by the Nigerian Ports Authority for the dredging of the Calabar Channel.

He had also been arrested by the panel but was released due to high blood pressure he suffered in custody, according to Obono-Obla. The panel had also dragged Uzodinma before Justice Babatunde Quadri of the Federal High Court in Abuja for alleged non-disclosure of assets.

One of the charges read, “That you, Senator Hope Uzodinma (male) on or about March 5, 2018, being a public officer with the National Assembly, Abuja, within the jurisdiction of this honourable court, committed an offence to wit: refused to declare your assets without reasonable excuse upon notice to declare your assets before the Special Presidential Investigation Panel for the Recovery of Public Property, Abuja, contrary to and punishable under Section 3(3)(1)(a) of the Recovery of Public Property (Special Provision) Act 2004.”

Uzodinma now enjoys immunity from prosecution having been sworn-in as governor following a Supreme Court judgment which ordered Governor Emeka Ihedioha sacking. Others who were under probe but now enjoy immunity include Governor Bala Mohammed of Bauchi State, Governor Umar Fintiri of Adamawa and Zamfara State Governor, Bello Matawalle.

It remains unclear, however, if the governor’s travel ban has been lifted. Apart from the case being handled by the office of the AGF, the governor has a case with the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission. Justice Abdulahab Muhammed of an FCT High Court had on October 29, 2018, referred the case of criminal complaint of issuing N200m dud cheque instituted against Uzodinma, to the EFCC for investigation and action.

The court had on September 18, 2018, ordered the arrest of the senator following his refusal to honour the summons to answer to the complaint that he issued the dud cheque. On September 25, 2018, the court granted a request by counsel for the complainants, Tosin Ojaomo, for the publication of a public summons against Uzodinma following the failure of security agencies to produce him despite a pending arrest warrant issued against him.

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