Politics

Discordant tunes over Uzodinma’s purported arrest as presidential panel, senator, APC speak

IMO GUBER: Uzodinma has tough words for Okorocha

The purported arrest and temporary release of the governorship candidate of the All Progressives Congress, APC in Imo State, Senator Hope Uzodinma has been thrown controversy with counters claims from major actors.

The Special Presidential Investigation Panel for Recovery of Public Property, SPIPRPP, which purportedly it arrested the Senator said it has granted him temporary bail while the Senator denied ever being arrested.

Chairman of the panel, Chief Okoi Obono-Obla, who curiously announced Uzodinma’s arrest in a text messages to journalists, confirmed Uzodinma’s release after he developed high blood pressure. According to Okono-Obla, his panel which accused the APC candidate of failure to execute a $12 million contract, said the Senator pleaded to be allowed to return today, Tuesday.

Throwing more light on Uzodinma’s release, Obono-Obla said Uzodinma was released from detention around 12 midnight on Sunday.

He said: “We granted him bail to report back today and this morning he was supposed to return by 10 am but he requested for us to adjourn the matter till tomorrow that his blood pressure went up. We don’t want him to die, so we have granted him an extension till tomorrow (today) to report to us. We will wait for him, if he doesn’t come as we agreed, we will know what to do.

Speaking further on Uzodinma’s denial that he was never arrested by SPIPRPP operatives upon his arrival in Abuja from Lagos, aboard an Air Peace, Obono-Obla said: “Well, you know that no one will say that his mother’s soup is not sweet. The man was arrested. If not, why is he begging for extension till tomorrow (today)? He was arrested, yesterday, (Sunday) at the airport about 8:30pm by our operatives and he was kept there till about 12 midnight before he pleaded that he should be allowed to go and we conceded because we don’t have detention facility.

“We don’t detain people as a matter of policy in our panel. But we asked him to report back by 10am today (yesterday). When we did not see him by that time, we went to his house and laid siege there. It was then he started pleading that he was not feeling well and that he will report to us tomorrow (today).

“So we granted him that respect. If he fails to report tomorrow (today), then we will take it up. We have already filed charges against him for refusing to declare his assets. This matter has been lingering for the past two years.

“He has tried to play some politics but we are not politicians and we have nothing to do with the politics of Imo State. But this matter has been lingering since 2017 that we started looking for him. He refused to answer our invitation.

“We sent about two invitations to the Clerk of the National Assembly but he did not come. So we went to his house and pasted our assets declaration form. That is the first step in our investigation. He refused to fill that form within 30 days as prescribed by the law establishing our panel. We now charged him before the Federal High Court. That one is pending. So if he said we didn’t arrest him, then it is up to him. But nobody will say that his mother’s soup is not sweet.”

It will be recalled that the presidential panel has also filed a two count charge against Senator Uzodinma for failure to disclose his assets before the Federal High Court, Abuja.

Uzodimma, who has fought a bitter battle for the control of the APC in Imo State with Governor Rochas Okorocha, however alleged that the governor is behind the arrest story.

The Senator stated this in a statement by his Director of Media and Special Duties, Declan Emelumba, insisting that the story was false.

The statement reads: “There is absolutely no iota of truth in the story trending online that the APC governorship candidate, Senator Hope Uzodinma was arrested yesterday (Sunday) by the Special Presidential Investigation Panel for Recovery of Public Property.

“The story was planted by Governor Rochas Okorocha and his cohorts out of their dare-devil desperation to damage the image of the distinguished senator before Imo electorate, who are poised to vote for him in 2019.

“The arrest news is fake, baseless, unfounded and absolutely false, without any iota of truth. Okorocha has refused to come to grips with the reality that his son-in-law will not succeed him as governor and is going all out to damage APC and its governorship candidate in next year’s election just to see if he can substantiate his false claim that there can be no APC in Imo State without him.

“We wondered when it became the duty of the chairman of the panel, Chief Obono-Obala, to send messages to correspondents directly. If there was any arrest is it not the press department of the panel that will issue such a statement to the entire media?

“It is very obvious that Okorocha and his people are behind this evil story. They have planned so much against the APC governorship candidate, from the phoney dud-cheque issue to a non-existent non assets declaration charge.

“Their latest plot is this Calabar dredging contract. However, they should know that the company handling the Calabar dredging contract is Calabar Channels Management Company in which Nigerian Ports Authority, NPA, has 60% equity shares.

“So if there is anybody to be arrested for anything, then it is the Managing Director of NPA and not a minority partner, Niger Global, in which Senator Uzodinma is a shareholder.

“There is clear evidence that this is a failed plot by the governor and his men. The fact that simultaneously as they planted the story, their own so called state publicity secretary of APC Imo State, Onwuasonya Jones, issued a press release celebrating the false arrest and even said in the statement that it was from their investigation that they found out about the “arrest” of the senator, shows clearly that they are behind the whole plot.”

To further deepen the controversy, the national secretariat of the APC and its Imo State chapter has also issued conflicting statements on the purported arrest.

While the national secretariat of the party assured the members of the party in Imo State that there’s no cause for alarm, the state chapter loyal to Governor Okorocha, described the arrest as shameful.

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According to the party, it was not deterred by what its governorship standard bearer was going through in the hands of the SPIPRPP.

The National Publicity Secretary of the APC, Mallam Lanre Issa-Onilu, who spoke to journalists, said the party is yet to get details of the incident, it remained unfazed ahead of the general elections.

“I do not have the details yet. I read the report like every other person. It is when we have the details that we can react appropriately. However, we want to assure the peace loving people of Imo State and our supporters there that we are on course. There is no cause for any apprehension. They can trust the party they voted into power to do the right thing at anytime.’’

However the faction of the party UN Imo State loyal to Governor Okorocha, in a more partisan statement, said its investigation showed that Uzodinma failed to execute the $12 million contract.

The faction stated this in a statement by its Publicity Secretary, Onwuasoanya Jones.

Onwuasoanya said: “The Imo State chapter of the All Progressives Congress is aware of reports that Senator Hope Uzodinma, one of the governorship aspirants on our party’s platform has been apprehended by law enforcement agencies at Abuja Airport. Our investigations show that the senator representing Imo West Senatorial District was arrested over his failure to execute a $12 million contract awarded to him by the Federal Government of Nigeria.

“This allegation, if proven true, is weighty enough and embarrassing for an individual purporting to be a chieftain of our party. Our party does not provide any form of shield to any individual who has questions to answer, especially on issues of corruption and economic sabotage.

“We urge the senator to cooperate with law enforcement agents on their investigation, and also take appropriate steps to clean his image of the various scandals, especially as they concern his alleged involvement in bribery, issuance of dud cheques, diversion of funds and sundry embarrassing allegations.

‘’As a party, we are ashamed that an individual with such controversies is associated with us. We put the general public on notice that Senator Hope Uzodimma does not have the support of our party at this time and at any other time, especially when it has to do with issues of corruption.

‘’We consider the senator’s actions a betrayal to our party and an affront on President Muhammadu Buhari.”

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