By Chika Amanze-Nwachuku
Police detectives from the Special Fraud Unit, Ikoyi, Lagos, on Wednesday swooped on the Omole Phase 2 residence of detained managing director of Capital Oil and Gas Industries Ltd, Mr. Ifeanyi Uba and carted away some documents.
The team led by a police superintendent was said to have also driven away with three posh cars, belonging to the oil magnate, after ransacking the Ubas home.
It was not immediately clear, on whose order the team acted, as sources familiar with the investigation wondered what could have led to the invasion and confiscation of the property of the detainee, who has been in the custody of the SFU since October 9. The sources also noted that all documents relating to those transactions under scrutiny had since been submitted to the police.
Uba and some senior employees of the company were detained by the police SFU as they went to honour an invitation from the unit. Their continued detention and denial of bail prompted his counsel, Joseph Nwobike (SAN), to file a suit at a Federal High Court in Lagos to enforce their fundamental right.
The trial judge, Justice Okon Abang, after hearing arguments of both Uba’s lawyer, Nwobike and the lawyer to the SFU, Godwin Obla, had fixed ruling on the application for Monday, October 22.
Uba was arrested for allegedly perpetrating fraud in the fuel subsidy scheme running into N22.4 billion. He had earlier on been indicted by the Presidential Committee on Verification and Reconciliation of Fuel Subsidy Payments led by Access Bank Plc Managing Director, Mr Aigboje Aig-Imoukhuede.
His company is on the list of 25 companies indicted by the committee and recommended for criminal investigation for their alleged involvement in the N62,501,511,789.24 fraudulently obtained through the subsidy scheme.
Few days after Uba’s arrest and subsequent remand, the owners of Coscharis Motors Ltd, accused him of breaching a $289,517 deal.
Coscharis in the petition signed by its President/CEO, Dr. Cosmas Maduka, and addressed to the Commissioner of Police, SFU, accused Capital Oil of reneging on an agreement between the two companies in which the auto firm would finance the importation and sale of petrol.
But the invasion of his residence has drawn the ire of some groups. A lawyer, Soro Nwoke, described it as highly “unprofessional, illegal and uncalled for”. He said given that the accused persons have been in police custody for about 11 days, and a suit challenging their continued detention is currently before a competent court of law, invading his house and confiscating his property when the court has not given an order to that effect “amounts to an affront on the judiciary and a further violation of the fundamental rights of the detainees, who are still innocent, having not been pronounced guilty by any court of law”.
He said: “On whose order did the police confiscate his cars? Is it on the orders of the inspector-general or the commissioner in charge of the SFU. This is uncalled for because the value of those cars is nothing to compare with the amount they allegedly stole. I can tell you there is more to that and Police authorities should call the officers to order because this is becoming humiliation.
“If the reports we read in the papers that the travails of Uba and his team are mainly because the powers that be are interested in the matter, then the less privileged members of the society are in trouble. But if it is based on the subsidy probe or his reported soured business relationship with the Managing Director of Coscharis Motors, I will advise the police to exercise caution in the handling of the matter. You will be surprised at the end of the day, that innocent people had been punished for nothing.”
Also reacting to the development, a Non Governmental Organisation (NGO), Centre for Truth, Justice and Fair Play (CTJFP) described it as yet another act of “illegality by the Nigerian police”.
The group in a statement signed by its President, Mr. Nathan Ochuko, noted that the act constitutes a clear violation of the rights of the detained persons, who he described as very reputable Nigerians.
“It is important to note at this point that Aig committee recommended 25 firms for further investigations over the subsidy issue. Uba, as we have come to realize, was invited with chieftains of three other oil firms, who refused to show up.
We also know that representatives of two of the oil firms were asked to write their statements, after which the SFU police allowed them to go. But Uba, as a law-abiding citizen and his team decided to honour the invitation and are still being held till date. We are demanding an immediate release of Uba and his workers on bail because the alleged offence is not a capital offence or treasonable felony but a bailable one,” CTJFP said.
The group stated further: “It is worthy of note that Capital Oil and Gas, one of the major players in the downstream petroleum sector, has very huge investments in the sector and providing direct and indirect jobs for over 5,000 Nigerians.
It added that while it was not against the probe of alleged infractions in the subsidy management, it insisted that such a process should be done in a lawful manner. loading products at the company’s depot.”