Prof Chukwuma Soludo
James Emejo and
The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) Thursday grilled former Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) Governor, Prof. Chukwuma Charles Soludo, for hours over the award of contracts for the printing of N20 polymer notes during his tenure.
The commission, it was gathered, is investigating allegations of underhand dealing in the award of the contract for the printing of the polymer notes between 2006 and 2008.
Fifteen others, it was also learnt, are being detained in connection with the transaction.
THISDAY checks revealed that Soludo was arrested at about 2pm at his Abuja residence and taken to the EFCC office where he was interrogated by a team of EFCC investigators, led by the commission’s Head of Advance Fee Fraud, Mr. Ezema Akinyemene.
The former CBN governor was, however, released at about 8pm on administrative bail.
His arrest, THISDAY gathered, followed a complaint by a non-governmental organisation, Human and Environmental Development Agenda (HEDA), which in a petition dated May 23, 2012, demanded a probe into a report by an Australian newspaper, The Age, that Securency International bribed some Nigerian officials to the tune of about N750 million to be awarded polymer banknote printing contracts.
Securency is world’s leading producer of the polymer substrate used in the production of plastic banknotes.
The report alleged that the money was passed to Nigerian officials through two British businessmen, Benoy Berry and Michael Harvey.
The petition recalled that the Australian Federal Police Authority had sent a top confidential memo to the presidency through the Office of the National Security Adviser.
The petition gave an account of the investigations into the allegations that Securency funnelled several million of dollars in bribe into the offshore bank accounts of the two British businessmen for payment to Nigerian officials to facilitate the award of the contract to the company.
“Prominent amongst the names featured in the secret memo were that of the then CBN governor, Charles Chukwuma Soludo, senior officials of the finance ministry and a former president,” the petition read.
EFCC’s Acting Head of Media and Publicity, Mr. Wilson Uwujaren, responding to THISDAY enquiries, confirmed yesterday that Soludo was in the custody of the commission.
“We have Soludo in our custody, among several other suspects, and it is part of an ongoing investigation over his involvement in the award of contract and printing of polymer banknotes when he was the governor of the CBN," he said.
Also, sources said about 15 senior members of staff of CBN and the Nigerian Minting Printing and Security Company Plc who served during Soludo's tenure were detained and interrogated over the allegation.
However, another source close to the former CBN governor said Soludo was invited by the EFCC to come and clarify some issues relating to the transition to the polymer banknote regime during his tenure.
He dismissed the petition on which the EFCC is basing its investigation, which he described as “phantom allegation and without basis”.
Soludo, he said, was asked to make a statement detailing all he knew regarding the transaction after which he was given what the EFCC officials called “standard bail conditions”.
Part of the bail conditions was that he should produce two directors in the federal public service who have landed property in Abuja, in addition to handing over his passport to the commission.
The source, who identified Akinyemene as the officer in charge of the case, said politics could not be ruled out of the travail, which Soludo was going through.
When contacted, the CBN said it was unaware of Soludo’s interrogation by the EFCC on the polymer banknotes bribery scandal.
Speaking in a telephone interview with THISDAY yesterday, CBN Director, Corporate Communication, Mr. Ugochukwu Okoroafor, said that he was not yet aware of the development.