ONDO State Oil-Producing Areas Development Commission (OSOPADEC) Chairman Debo Ajimuda, was yesterday arrested by operatives of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) in Akure, the capital.
Ajimuda, who was said to have been on the watch list of the anti-graft body for two weeks, was picked up in a bush by the about 20 operatives near his palatial home at the highbrow Alagbaka quarters of the metropolis at noon yesterday. He was reported wearing only a white singlet and underpants.
When the news of the arrival of the operatives filtered into town, a group of journalists positioned themselves in front of Ajimuda’s house and were privileged to witness the arrest but were prevented by the policemen that accompanied the officials from recording the scene on camera. The camera of a reporter who attempted to snap some shots was seized by the policemen.
The operatives had laid a six-hour siege at the residence located behind the Sunview Hotel where they were told by Ajimuda’s wife that their target was not at home. But the anti-graft agents were said to have been convinced that the man was hiding somewhere when they saw his glasses and phones on a table in his study.
Armed with a search warrant said to have been obtained from a court, the operatives searched the building for documents and had to break the door of Ajimuda’s private study when the wife allegedly refused to hand over the keys.
A mild drama also ensued at the Oba-Ile Office of OSOPADEC where the EFCC had also gone in search of the Chairman when some officials of the commission rounded up the operatives and called the police, alleging that some kidnappers had invaded their office.
The arrival of a detachment of police led by an ACP, M.D. Garba, saved the lives of the five operatives who were said to have been deployed to the Chairman’s Office to retrieve some documents and invite some officials for questioning.
Although it was not clear whether Ajimuda would be taken to the Abuja headquarters of the anti-graft agency where the operatives were said to have come from, or detained in Akure for the period of the expected interrogation; valuable documents, packed in files, were seen being taken away by the operatives.
Apart from the documents, some of which were also taken away from his office, 13 exotic cars were driven from Ajimuda’s home and parked in the safety of the Police Headquarters by the operatives apparently to establish allegations of flamboyant lifestyle against him.
Some of the cars include a Toyota Tundra SUV with Registration number FY 195 ABC; a Mercedes Benz R500 4matic with Registration number DK 777 FST; a Toyota Corolla registered HJ 805 ABC; a two-door Toyota Solara registered EU 777 ABS and a Toyota Venza with Registration number ODGH 2947 in which he was driven away.
The EFCC is believed to be acting on a petition written by a group against the operations of the commission which is saddled with expending 40 per cent of the 13 per cent Oil Mineral Derivation Fund accruable to the state as an oil-producing one from the Federation Accounts for developmental purposes in the oil areas of Ilaje and Ese-Odo councils.
The petitioners were said to have alleged that unlike before, OSOPADEC has become prostrate since Ajimuda became its Chairman and that his alleged indecent flaunting of wealth when billions of the commission’s money cannot be accounted for should be investigated by the anti-graft body.
Established in 2001, the commission as an intervention agency has, in most cases, been responsible for developing the oil-bearing communities from the billions of naira annual budgetary allocations that have to be appropriated by the State House of Assembly in accordance with the law of the agency.
Since the inception of the Dr. Olusegun Mimiko’s Labour Party (LP) administration in Ondo State, a lot of controversies had trailed the operations of the agency which in the last three years had budgeted about N40 billion for its operations.
The state government, speaking through its Commissioner of Information, Kayode Akinmade, however described the mode of the EFCC action against Ajimuda as “oiling suspicions that the exercise may have political undertone.”
Akinmade said, “The EFCC has a right and duty to investigate any petition against any politician and public office holder but it must be done under a due process. We believe that he should have been invited first and if he refused to honour such invitation, arrest should follow.
“But in this instance, he was never invited. They just came for him without any prior notice. This is not good enough. We also know that invitation or arrest by the EFCC does not translate to indictment.”
In his own reaction, the only Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) legislator in the 25-member LP-dominated House of Assembly, Lubi Akpoebi, said the issue is beyond Ajimuda and that the investigations “should be extended to other government agencies working with OSOPADEC.”
According to Lubi, who represent Ese-Odo, one of the two councils in OSOPADEC’s mandate areas, “we know as a matter of fact that Ajimuda has a limit in his spending and contract awards. The Office of the Governor and the Ministry of Finance should be involved in this matter.”
Lubi also urged the EFCC not to sweep the matter under the carpet “as many of other allegations and petitions had been swept under the carpet. They should follow this matter to a logical conclusion because our people are suffering in the oil areas.”