The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) has arrested and detained a former Speaker of the House of Representatives, Mrs Patricia Olubunmi Etteh.
According to PREMIUM TIMES, Mrs Etteh, who was Speaker between June and October 2007, was arrested in Abuja on Tuesday by operatives of the Special Duty Unit of the anti-graft agency.
The former lawmaker is reportedly being interrogated for allegedly receiving a suspicious N130 million payment from a contractor the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC), who got a solar-powered electrification project in Akwa Ibom State.
The said contract was awarded to a certain Phin Jin Project Limited in 2011 for N240 million. It remains unclear if the company is registered with Corporate Affairs Commission as required. A search of its name on the CAC online directory did not throw up any option.
Investigators alleged that weeks after the contractor was paid the mobilisation fee for the project, N130 million was transferred to Etteh, who is not on record as a director or shareholder of the company.
“The payment of that huge amount to her is suspicious”, one source said. “She is claiming the contractor repaid a debt due to her but that is doubtful. So her claims are being scrutinised.
“They even overpaid for the contract. Instead of N240 million, they paid N287 million. These are knotty issues she and the contractor need to explain and that is why she is being interrogated by the operatives”.
The EFCC is also suspicious that the contractor did not execute the job after payment was received.
“It is uncertain that the contract was delivered”, one source said. “Its exact status has not been determined but we feel that there is no magic that would have made the contract to be delivered or executed to specification after Etteh was given that huge amount from the contract sum”.
EFCC spokesperson, Mr Wilson Uwujaren could not be reached to comment. One of his subordinates said he is travelling in the United Kingdom at this time.
However, a top EFCC official confirmed Etteh’s arrest but asked not to be named because he had no permission to discuss the matter with the media.
Etteh, now 68, represented Ayedade/Isokan/Irewole federal constituency of Osun State, in 1999 under the banner of the now defunct Alliance for Democracy (AD). She switched to the People’s Democratic Party and won re-election twicw in 2003 and 2007.
She was unanimously elected Speaker of the House of Representatives on the commencement of the sixth session of the National Assembly on 6th June 2007, breaking the glass ceiling as the first woman to occupy the exalted position.
But following a scandal four months later, Etteh was removed, and replaced with Hon. Dimeji Bankole, who is now a presidential aspirant. She was later absolved of the allegations of fraud levelled against her by her colleagues.
The lawmakers had accused Etteh of awarding a N628 million contract for the renovation of her official residence and that of her deputy, as well as the purchase of 12 official vehicles.
The legislators insisted that the award of the contract did not follow due process.