The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) has arrested and detained a former Speaker of the House of Representatives, Patricia Etteh.
Mrs Etteh, who was Speaker between June 6, 2007, and 30 October 30, 2007, was arrested in Abuja on Tuesday by operatives of the Special Duty Unit of the anti-graft agency, those familiar with the matter said.
The former lawmaker is currently being interrogated for allegedly receiving a suspicious N130 million payment from a contractor the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) awarded 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 Nigeria’s Corporate Affairs Commission. A search of its name on the CAC online directory did not throw up any option.
Weeks after the contractor was paid the mobilisation fee for the project, N130 million was transferred to Mrs Etteh who is neither a director nor a shareholder of the company on record.
“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 operatives.”
The EFCC is also suspicious that the contractor did not execute the contract 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.”
The spokesperson for the EFCC, Wilson Uwujaren, could not be reached to comment for this story. One of his subordinates said he is travelling in the United Kingdom at this time.
However, a top EFCC official confirmed Mrs Etteh’s arrest but asked not to be named because he had no permission to discuss the matter with the media.