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#Nigeria Police detain journalists to prevent access to Saraki

May 4, 2012 by Eniola Akinkuotu
Commissioner of Police, Lagos State Command, Mr. Umaru Manko

No fewer than six journalists were locked up in the office of the Police Public Relations Officer of the Special Fraud Unit in Lagos on Thursday when former Kwara State Governor Bukola Saraki visited the unit to respond to allegations of a N9bn loan scam levelled against him.

Saraki, who  was  supposed to be at the command at 10am on Thursday, arrived an hour later.

He drove into the SFU premises in black Mercedes Benz Sports Utility Vehicle with Abuja number plate CH 165 RBC amid tight security.

His aides shielded him from journalists, who had stormed the premises before he alighted, to meet with the Commissioner of Police, Mr. Tunde Ogunsakin

The governor’s aides appealed to journalists not to take photographs of the member of the Senate but the pleas fell on deaf ears.

Journalists then gathered at the office of the PPRO, Mrs. Ngozi Isintume, but two hours later, as Saraki exited the building, the journalists were locked inside the office of the PPRO to prevent them from taking pictures of Saraki.

“I have been given orders that no journalist must come out. Stay in there until Saraki leaves,” a policeman said as journalists attempted to force the door open.

Sources said Saraki was given preferential treatment by the police as opposed to other persons who had been invited to the SFU over the same allegations.

The senator was supposed to have reported to the SFU on April 20 but pleaded for an extension by three days. But on April 24, he obtained an injunction at an Abuja High Court to restrain the police from arresting him.

On April 28, the SFU declared the lawmaker wanted but he responded by saying he would be at the SFU at 9am on Monday.

On Monday however, Saraki refused to go to the SFU, instead went to the Force Headquarters, Abuja, where he was quizzed by Ogunsakin after being ordered by the Acting Inspector-General of Police, Mr. Mohammed Abubakar to come to Abuja.

Our correspondent learnt that Mohammed had served as CP of the Kwara State command when Saraki was governor.

The SFU had alleged that a group of companies — Joy Petroleum Limited, Skyview Properties Ltd, Dicetrade, and Limkers Nigeria Ltd — were given loans by the bank under the management of former Managing Director of Intercontinental Bank, Mr. Erastus Akingbola.

The loans were allegedly promoted by Saraki between 2004 and 2009 when he was the Governor of Kwara State.

The SFU noted that the loans/facilities worth billions of naira were used to purchase shares in blue chip companies and choice landed properties in Lagos and Abuja, some of which were used to secure the loans.

However, Akingbola’s successor following the shake up by the Central Bank of Nigeria, Mr. Mahmood Alabi, granted a waiver of N9,97bn, representing about 82 per cent of N11.97bn indebtedness.

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