The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission has commenced investigation into an alleged arms deal worth $200m involving a Nigerian businessman and the government of Ukraine.
Investigations on Friday revealed that the $200m had been paid to the Ukrainian authorities for the airlifting of arms to Nigeria.
The businessman handled the deal for the Federal Government a few years ago and that the payment was made through him to Ukraine.
It was alleged that the businessman, who had a memorandum of understanding with the Ukrainian authorities, decided to put the deal on hold because he was being owed some money by the past administration in Nigeria.
A top operative of the commission said on Friday that the businessman whose identity was not disclosed was picked up by operatives of the commission last week and has since been kept in custody.
He was among the 22 high profile personalities being interrogated by a 27-man Task Force set up by the Chairman of the EFCC, Mr. Ibrahim Magus, to look into the $2.1 billion arms procurement under President Goodluck Jonathan.
It was learnt that the suspect admitted before the EFCC operatives that the arms had not been brought into the country from the Eastern European country.
He was also said to have told his investigators that the arms transaction ran into hitches when a top military figure (now retired) came into the scene.
The source said that the suspect mentioned the name of a service chief and a lady secretary in relation with the deal during the interrogation.
It was however not stated whether those mentioned in relation to the $200m Ukrainian Arms deal would be interrogated or not.
The source stated, “A lot of things are happening here. The task force is detaining a businessman who was involved in an arms deal involving $200m million.
“The man had a Memorandum of Understanding with the Ukrainian authorities to supply arms and ammunition of that amount to the Federal Government.
‘The man told our operatives that even though the full money has been paid, the arms are still left in Ukraine.
“He is a civilian, a businessman involved in the deal; he is insisting that Nigeria must pay him a particular amount of money before he would give Ukraine the directive to release the arms. He actually facilitated the deal.
“Upon interrogation, he mentioned a top military officer and his secretary in relation to the deal.
“I cannot tell you whether the commission will invite them or when they would be invited; it is likely that they might be invited since their names have come up during the interrogation of the principal suspect.”
Our correspondent could not get the Head of Media and Publicity of the EFCC, Mr. Wilson Uwujaren, to comment on the story as the calls to his mobile telephone indicated that it was either switched off or in an area outside network coverage.
Also, Uwujaren had not responded to a text message on the issue as of the time of filing this report by 6pm on Saturday.
The Ukrainian embassy in Nigeria could not be reached for comment on Friday. Calls made to the mission’s official line did not elicit any response.
Investigation further revealed that there is a strong likelihood that the EFCC might invite two former service chiefs to face the Arms Probe Task Force.
It was learnt that the names of the two service chiefs have been thrown up repeatedly during the various sessions of interrogation by the Task Force.
“The people being interrogated have been mentioning two service chiefs. We don’t take that as an indictment, we don’t jump to conclusions.
“There is that likelihood that they might be summoned to say what they know about the $2.1bn arms deal,” the source said.