The ongoing probe of the governorship candidate of the All Progressives Congress in Imo State, Hope Uzodinma, by the Special Presidential Investigation Panel for Recovery of Public Property began in August 2017 by the Office of Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo, who was then Acting President, The PUNCH learnt on Sunday.
The SPIPRPP was said to have on November 12, 2018 briefly arrested Uzodinma, over the allegation that his company failed to execute a contract of $12m for the dredging of the Calabar channel after the firm had been allegedly paid.
The chairman of the panel, Okoi Obon-Obla, said the serving senator representing Imo West was released shortly after his arrest at the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, Abuja.
Obono-Obla said the senator promised to return for interrogation the following day but failed to do so. It was learnt that the panel’s probe into the contract fraud allegation was originally uncovered by a whistleblower who reported the case to then Acting President’s office.
According to reports, the office subsequently directed the Obono-Obla panel to act on the information via a memo dated August 18, 2017 “for further investigation”.
Uzodinma, who in April 2018, defected to the APC, was as of the time his case, referred to the SPIPRPP as a member of the Peoples Democratic Party.
The terse memo by the VP’s office with reference number SH/OVP/DOCS/Misc./00146 was signed by Osinbajo’s Chief of Staff, Ade Ipaye.
Other allegations contained in the document, which our correspondent obtained from a presidential source on Sunday, included an alleged conflict of interest.
According to the letter, Uzodinma and his company, Niger Global Engineering and Technical Company Limited, are involved in “multiple contracts on the dredging of the Calabar channel”.
The PUNCH is also in the possession of various documents accompanying the charges of the failure to declare assets instituted by the SPIPRPP against Uzodinma on July 4, 2018.
The defendant has yet to be arraigned for the charges.
Accompanying the charges filed before the Federal High Court in Abuja were an interim investigative report of the panel dated April 11, 2018.
According to the report, Uzodinma is being investigated for “a case of criminal conspiracy, criminal diversion of public funds and official corruption in the dredging of the Calabar Access Channel, which caused wrongful loss to the Federal Government to the tune of N12,500, 000”.
The report signed by the leader of the investigative team of the SPIPRPP, Ime Udofia, stated that the Federal Government approved the dredging of the Calabar Access Channel “to boost economic activities in Calabar port.”
It added, “Sequel to the approval, a joint venture was entered into between the Nigerian Ports Authority, on the one hand, and a consortium of firms led by Niger Global Engineering and Technical Limited on the other, culminating in the incorporation of Calabar Management, the special purpose vehicle for undertaking the intended purpose on February 21, 2013.
“Of the nominal 300,000,000 shares of CCM, the NPA was allotted 60 per cent stake of about 160,000,000 shares, while the consortium of firms were allotted 40 per cent stake of 140,000,000 shares.
“The Calabar Channel Management was therefore set up for managing the channel for an initial period of 15 years.”
But Uzodinma has repeatedly denied the allegations, saying the probe was connected with his emergence as the governorship candidate of the APC in Imo State.
He said his company was only a part of the consortium formed to manage the Calabar channels.
He said the consortium formed a joint venture with the NPA. According to him, the NPA with 60 per cent shareholding was operating the joint venture, named Calabar Chanels Management Company.
He said before he came to the Senate, the dredging had been done.