Bode George Arrested

  • Thursday, August 07, 2008 - By Nnamdi Felix /Abuja, Moyo Fabiyi & Biodun Onafuye
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Erstwhile National Vice Chairman (South) of the ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and former chairman of the Board of the Nigeria Ports Authority (NPA), Chief Olabode George, was picked up from his Asokoro, Abuja, home, in the early hours of today, by operatives of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).

Reports of his arrest spread to the court during the hearing of former Adamawa Governor, Boni Haruna’s, bail application.

When our reporter contacted the spokesman of the EFCC, Mr. Femi Babafemi, he confirmed the arrest. According to Babafemi, “Bode George was arrested this morning, following his return from an overseas trip in connection with the investigation by the anti-graft body of his tenure as chairman of the NPA board.

“He will be arraigned in the appropriate court within a constitutionally specified period,” he disclosed.

George had boasted last weekend upon his return from overseas trip that nobody could arrest him and that he was not wanted by any anti-corruption agency.

He had actually gone to UK to baby-sit. P.M.News authoritatively gathered that the new wife of the retired naval officer, Roli Adeniyi, gave birth in the first week of July, and George went to the UK to help nurse the baby.

George, while denying, last week, that he was on the run from the EFCC which had revisited the alleged fraud allegations levelled against him, claimed he had nothing to hide.

Just before his arrival, in a statement signed by his personal aide, Muyiwa Collins, the Lagos PDP leader said he was not on the run and that he was enjoying his deserved vacation. He boasted that he would return to the country at the end of his vacation.

Roli Adeniyi, a former member of Pastor Kris Okotie’s Household of God church in Oregun, quit the church in controversial circumstances after her romance with Okotie turned sour. Her romance with Okotie subsequently broke up and was well reported by soft sell magazines. This led to her packing out of the house rented for her by Okotie. She also accused Okotie of seizing her jewellery and other properties which Okotie has not denied.

Roli found succour in the arms of Bode George after the split. He brought her into PDP politics and she was regularly seen at PDP rallies and meetings held nationwide with George in attendance. She also ran for the House of Representatives seat in the Ikeja Constituency under the platform of PDP, but lost to the Action Congress (AC) candidate.

Bode George, it would be recalled, dragged TheNEWS magazine to court for its publication in April, 2005, alleging fraud and irregularities in the award of contracts under his watch as Chairman of the NPA board.

During one of the proceedings of the N500 million libel suit filed against Independent Communications Network Limited (ICNL), publishers of TheNEWS/P.M.News, at an Ikeja High Court, an operative of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) testified against him (George), making startling revelations on how, as chairman of the Nigeria Ports Authority (NPA), George awarded 24,252 contracts in breach of Federal Government rules.

The investigating officer, Mr. Bamanga Bello, revealed these facts in a written statement on oath, which he adopted in the court during the hearing of the suit on 6 December, 2007.

George claimed that TheNEWS damaged his reputation in one of its cover stories detailing fraud in the NPA amounting to N85bn.

He joined as co-defendants in the suit, the Editor-In-Chief of the TheNEWS, Mr. Bayo Onanuga, and Mr. Ademola Adegbamigbe.

But, while testifying in the suit, Bello who was in court to represent the then chairman of EFCC, Mallam Nuhu Ribadu, told the judge that George acted illegally in approving the said contracts.

The Federal Government had set up a committee to verify NPA’s contracts between 2001 and 2003, when George was the chairman of the NPA. Bello represented Ribadu in the committee.

Led in evidence by defence counsel, Mr. Femi Falana, Bello told the presiding Justice, Akeem Oshodi, that the 24,252 contracts awarded during George’s tenure as NPA Chairman were worth N100bn.

He averred that only the Ministerial Tenders Board or the Federal Executive Council had powers to approve the contracts which George unilaterally awarded.

Bello added that contracts awarded during George’s tenure were inflated. Such act, Bello said, ran contrary to sections 516 and 390 of the Criminal Code and Section 22(3) of the ICPC Act of 2000.

George, he also disclosed, went away with four vehicles belonging to the NPA when he left office. He said this prompted the EFCC to write him (George) and that it was after he received the letter that he returned the vehicles.

The EFCC investigating officer told the court that the contracts awarded by George were not budgeted for, contrary to Section 22(4) of the ICPC Act.

The special committee set up by former President Obasanjo was chaired by Ribadu who handed a report to the former leader in February, 2006. While handing over the report, Ribadu noted with disdain discoveries by the committee, including financial recklessness, violation of existing regulations in the award of contracts and excessive contracts spinning, all during the tenure of George as chairman of the NPA Board.

The committee made strong recommendations to the government to recover the misappropriated funds, make structural and administrative changes in the NPA to forestall a future colossal mismanagement and fraud.

Obasanjo, while receiving the report commended members of the committee and promised to look into its recommendations with a view to making it a guide in taking future decisions. He promised to also look into the cases of NPA creditors. The committee’s report was tendered in court by Bello, and the judge admitted it as evidence.

However, on Wednesday 30 January, this year, when the matter again came up for hearing, thugs and supporters of the former Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) National Chairman (South) went wild in the High Court premises and attacked the Managing Director/Editor-In-Chief of TheNEWS, Mr. Bayo Onanuga, who was about leaving the court premises in his car.

His attempt to draw the attention of security personnel to the action of the thugs led to his being slapped by one of the thugs, while others poured sand on him. It is believed that the thugs acted this way because the libel case appeared to be slipping out of George’s hands.

It would be recalled that George, at a press conference, denied that he acted like an executive chairman of the NPA, claiming that he never awarded contracts. He even claimed he blew the whistle on the monstrous fraud at the authority. But the minutes of a meeting chaired by George, which the EFCC presented in court, indicated he presided over the award of contracts.

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