The Federal Government, has failed to make any comment on the alleged $12 million (N4.3 billion) fraud case against the newly inaugurated Governor of Imo State, Senator Hope Uzodinma, as well as the travel ban imposed on the Governor.
When contacted for update on the alleged fraud case against Uzodinma, the Spokesman for the Attorney-General of the Federation, Dr. Umar Gwandu, promised to give an update.
When Sunday PUNCH, (Not Post-Nigeria) called six hours later, Gwandu said that he has 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, EFCC, which is also investigating Uzodinma for allegedly issuing a N200 million dud cheque, however, said that 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 $12 million (N4.3 billion), when he failed to execute a contract worth $12 million, awarded to his company by the Nigerian Ports Authority, NPA, for the dredging of the Calabar Channel.
He had also been arrested by the Panel, but was released due to high blood pressure which 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’s sacking.
Others who were under probe but now enjoy immunity include Governor Bala Mohammed of Bauchi State, Governor Umar Fintiri of Adamawa State, 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 EFCC.
Justice Abdulahab Muhammed of an FCT High Court, had on October 29, 2018, referred the case of criminal complaint of issuing a N200 million 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 to 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.
While speaking, Human Rights Lawyer, Femi Falana, SAN, said that immunity for Governors only relates to prosecution.
“Immunity does not protect one from a travel ban. If the travel ban was backed by a court order, he would need to vacate it before being able to travel”, Falana said.