I Was Not Arrested By EFCC, Says Soludo

soludo_soberFormer Governor of the Central Bank (CBN), Prof. Chukwuma Soludo, has denied reports that he was arrested by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) on Thursday, insisting that rather, he was invited by the agency to make clarifications on some issues on a matter under investigation.

However, a source at the commission said Soludo was granted administrative bail and was allowed to go home, having been grilled for several hours by the commission’s team of investigators.

The source said his international and diplomatic passports were seized after he had produced two sureties at the level of Permanent Secretaries or Directors.

The source added: “But that is not the end because he is also expected back for further interrogation.

“I don’t have much details on the other 12 ex-staff of CBN and the Nigerian Security Printing and Minting Company who were linked with the scam; it is not as if the suspects are here.

“But a number of them have been questioned over time and they are both from NSPMC and CBN, it is not as if they are in our station at the moment.”

But a close aide of Soludo denied that his passports were seized or that he was granted any administrative bail, or that he provided any sureties.

A statement by his media office Friday said the former CBN Governor voluntarily went to the EFCC office to honour the commission’s invitation.

The statement signed by Bonaventure Melah said Soludo was neither arrested nor escorted to EFCC 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 to say the least 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.

“Soludo was abroad attending to several international engagements when the letter was sent to his aides. As a law-abiding citizen of the country, 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.

“The EFCC letter of invitation to Soludo states that: ‘This Commission is investigating a case in which the need to obtain certain clarifications from you has become imperative.’

“It was a two-paragraph letter which also indicated date and time for the meeting between Prof. Soludo and officials of the Commission,” the statement added.

The Guardian yesterday learnt that Soludo alongside others were quizzed by the anti-graft agency on the processes adopted in handling the contract and not on any alleged bribery.

A top official of the anti-graft agency, who pleaded anonymity, disclosed that the issues of alleged contract bribery did not come up during the interrogations, rather the agency was looking at the processes adopted in awarding the contract.

According to the official, Soludo made some clarifications on the issue on Thursday and was allowed to go home.

On how contract for currency adoption or printing is being awarded, a top official of the apex bank said that the first step is for the President to give approval, after which CBN gives the job to the Nigerian Minting and Printing Company or any other printing company. The minting and printing company will now source for polymer from Securency.

“CBN does not award contract for such job nor has any direct contractual arrangement with Securency. So there should be no link between CBN and the Australian polymer company’, the official said.

The decision to look into the polymer deal was triggered by a petition by Human and Environmental Development Agenda, headed by Olanrewaju Suraju, demanding the investigation and possible prosecution of those involved in the alleged contract scam.

Sources also indicated that other top management staff of the CBN who had worked during Soludo’s tenure were also picked and are currently being held alongside other ex-staff of the Nigerian Security Printing and Minting Company.

However, all efforts to get the identity of other detained suspects proved abortive, as no one was willing to volunteer information. Sources also stated that the commission had been conducting discreet investigations on the contract scam before Soludo’s eventual invitation, adding that as a prelude, several officials of the NSMPC and the CBN had been quizzed.

Ahead of the 2010 Anambra governorship election in which Soludo contested as the governorship candidate of the PDP after a protracted legal battle that terminated at the apex court three day to the election, the issue of the alleged polymer note bribery allegation was levelled against Soludo by some of his political opponents. This followed a report by an Australian newspaper that there was a global investigation on Securency and its agents all over the world which revealed that the agents must have bribed public officials of countries that adopted polymer.

In an exclusive interview with The Guardian, Soludo said: “CBN under my leadership never awarded any contract to Securency. I was not aware and did not know of anybody who may have been given money for anything. I would be surprised if any such thing happened.”

Soludo emerged the PDP candidate for the election amidst opposition from some aspirants, but the Presidency, under the late President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua, backed his candidature.

Due to his ill-health, Yar’Adua left the country and president Jonathan took over as acting president and supervised the election where Soludo lost to Governor Peter Obi.