•We are not deterred – APC assures Imo people
•Okorocha out to destroy APC – Senator Uzodinma
•He failed to execute contract – Imo APC
By Ikechukwu Nnochiri, Omeiza Ajayi & Chinonso Alozie
ABUJA —The Special Presidential Investigation Panel for Recovery of Public Property, SPIPRPP, yesterday, said it granted administrative bail to the governorship candidate of the All Progressives Congress, APC, in Imo State, Senator Hope Uzodinma, after he developed high blood pressure in detention.
In a chat with Vanguard, Chairman of the SPIPRPP, Chief Okoi Obono-Obla, who confirmed Uzodinma’s temporary release on bail, said the lawmaker, who was accused of complicity in alleged $12 million contract fraud, pleaded to be allowed to return for questioning today.
However, the senator, yesterday, denied that he was arrested and accused Governor Rochas Okorocha of planting the story as one of his attempts to destroy him and Imo APC, having lost the APC governorship ticket to the senator.
The Okorocha faction of Imo APC countered immediately, saying that its investigations showed that Uzodinma did not execute the $12 million contract.
Meanwhile, the APC, yesterday, assured Imo people that it was not deterred by what its governorship standard bearer was going through in the hands of the SPIPRPP. The party said, though it was yet to get details of the incident, it however remained unfazed ahead of the general elections.
National Publicity Secretary of the party, Mallam Lanre Issa-Onilu in a chat with Vanguard said: “I do not have the details yet. I read the report like every other person. It is when we have the details that we can react appropriately. However, we want to assure the peace loving people of Imo State and our supporters there that we are on course. There is no cause for any apprehension. They can trust the party they voted into power to do the right thing at anytime.’’
Why we released Uzodinma – Obono—Obla
Obono-Obla said Uzodinma was released from detention around 12 midnight on Sunday.
He said: “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.”
On Uzodinma’s alleged denial that he was never arrested by SPIPRPP operatives upon his arrival in Abuja from Lagos, aboard an Air Peace, 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.”
The Presidential Panel chairman also said that Uzodinma 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.
It will be recalled that the SPIPRPP had earlier preferred two-count criminal charge of non-disclosure of assets against Uzodinma before the Abuja Division of the Federal High Court.
The charge, which had been assigned to trial Justice Babatunde Quadri, 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 and 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.
“That you Senator Hope Uzodinma (Male) on or about March 5, 2018, being a public officer at the National Assembly Abuja, within the jurisdiction of this honourable court, committed an offence to wit: neglected to declare your assets without reasonable excuse and 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.”
Okorocha out to destroy APC —Uzodimma
Reacting to his reported arrest over alleged breach of contract, Uzodinma, in a statement by his Director of Media and Special Duties, Declan Emelumba, said the story was false.
The statement read: “There is absolutely no iota of truth in the story trending online that the APC governorship candidate, Senator Hope Uzodinma was arrested yesterday (Sunday) by the Special Presidential Investigation Panel for Recovery of Public Property.
“The story was planted by Governor Rochas Okorocha and his cohorts out of their dare-devil desperation to damage the image of the distinguished senator before Imo electorate, who are poised to vote for him in 2019.
“The arrest news is fake, baseless, unfounded and absolutely false, without any iota of truth. Okorocha has refused to come to grips with the reality that his son-in-law will not succeed him as governor and is going all out to damage APC and its governorship candidate in next year’s election just to see if he can substantiate his false claim that there can be no APC in Imo State without him.
“We wondered when it became the duty of the chairman of the panel, Chief Obono-Obala, to send messages to correspondents directly. If there was any arrest is it not the press department of the panel that will issue such a statement to the entire media?
“It is very obvious that Okorocha and his people are behind this evil story. They have planned so much against the APC governorship candidate, from the phoney dud-cheque issue to a non-existent non assets declaration charge.
“Their latest plot is this Calabar dredging contract. However, they should know that the company handling the Calabar dredging contract is Calabar Channels Management Company in which Nigerian Ports Authority, NPA, has 60% equity shares.
“So if there is anybody to be arrested for anything, then it is the Managing Director of NPA and not a minority partner, Niger Global, in which Senator Uzodinma is a shareholder.
“There is clear evidence that this is a failed plot by the governor and his men. The fact that simultaneously as they planted the story, their own so called state publicity secretary of APC Imo State, Onwuasonya Jones, issued a press release celebrating the false arrest and even said in the statement that it was from their investigation that they found out about the “arrest” of the senator, shows clearly that they are behind the whole plot.”
Uzodinma did not execute contract —Imo APC
Countering, the Publicity Secretary of Imo State chapter of APC, Onwuasoanya Jones, insisted that its investigation revealed that Senator Uzodimma did not execute the contract for which he was allegedly arrested.
Onwuasoanya said: “The Imo State chapter of the All Progressives Congress is aware of reports that Senator Hope Uzodinma, one of the governorship aspirants on our party’s platform has been apprehended by law enforcement agencies at Abuja Airport. Our investigations show that the senator representing Imo West Senatorial District was arrested over his failure to execute a $12 million contract awarded to him by the Federal Government of Nigeria.
“This allegation, if proven true, is weighty enough and embarrassing for an individual purporting to be a chieftain of our party. Our party does not provide any form of shield to any individual who has questions to answer, especially on issues of corruption and economic sabotage.
“We urge the senator to cooperate with law enforcement agents on their investigation, and also take appropriate steps to clean his image of the various scandals, especially as they concern his alleged involvement in bribery, issuance of dud cheques, diversion of funds and sundry embarrassing allegations.
‘’As a party, we are ashamed that an individual with such controversies is associated with us. We put the general public on notice that Senator Hope Uzodimma does not have the support of our party at this time and at any other time, especially when it has to do with issues of corruption.
‘’We consider the senator’s actions a betrayal to our party and an affront on President Muhammadu Buhari.”