Prof. Chukwuma Soludo
By Dele Ogbodo
Former Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria, Professor Chukwuma Soludo, Friday denied media reports that he was arrested by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, adding that he had gone to the office of the anti-graft agency in Abuja on Thursday "to make clarifications on some issues on a matter under investigation".
A statement from Soludo’s media office in Abuja also said the former CBN governor voluntarily went to the EFCC office to honour the commission’s invitation and that he was neither arrested nor escorted to the office by operatives of the commission as was reported.
"We want to put it on record clearly that the media reports that Professor Chukwuma Soludo was arrested by the operatives of the EFCC in Abuja is totally false or written in error.
"The fact of the matter is that the EFCC wrote a letter to Prof. Soludo inviting him to their Abuja office on the 10th of January 2013. EFCC’s invitation letter to Prof. Soludo was dated 20th December 2012.
"Prof. Soludo was abroad attending to several international engagements when the letter was sent to his aides. As a law abiding citizen of the country, Prof. Soludo returned to Nigeria in the New Year and honoured EFCC invitation on January 10th as requested. He voluntarily went from his home to EFCC office on Thursday. He was neither arrested nor escorted by any operative of the Commission."
However a top official of the anti-graft agency who spoke to THISDAY disagreed with Soludo's spokesman, adding that Soludo was "on Thursday arrested by the commission" and quizzed for several hours over complicity in allegations of underhand dealing in the award of contract for the printing of N20 polymer notes between 2006 and 2008.
The source told our reporter that the erstwhile CBN governor was granted administrative bail at about 10pm on Thursday’s night, adding that part of the freedom deal was that he should produce two sureties who must be either a director, permanent secretary in the Federal Civil Service or its equivalent.
Also, the embattled former CBN chief traded his international passport for his temporary freedom, THISDAY learnt.
Soludo was said to have been arrested at about 2pm on Thursday 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 later that night.
THISDAY learnt that his arrest stemmed from 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 the 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, had confirmed to THISDAY 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.
Fifteen senior members of staff of CBN and the Nigerian Minting Printing and Security Company Plc who served during Soludo's tenure were also detained and interrogated over the allegation.