Ebonyi State Police Command yesterday said it has launched investigation into the allegations surrounding a truckload of bags of rice found in the residence of the Lawmaker representing Abakaliki South State Constituency, Hon. Joseph Ununu.
The State Police Public Relations Officer (PPRO), DSP Loveth Odah, who made this known to Journalists in Abakaliki, said the rice laden truck had been impounded by the Command, adding that a thorough investigation would be carried-out to unravel the truth.
“There is this one Irem Obinna who said he is a famous rice buyer and doesn’t just buy from Abakaliki rice mill, but also buys from other rice markets within Ebonyi State. He said he actually had enough rice in Abakaliki due to closure of borders that has made movement difficult.
“He said, one of his customers who happens to be the Lawmaker’s wife agreed to allow him pack his rice in his residence, because his residence is very close to the Abakaliki Rice Mill. Both the ones he bought from Abakaliki Rice Mill and other places were kept in the Lawmaker’s residence.
“They were loading them in a lorry inside the Lawmaker’s residence when the caretaker Chairman of the Abakaliki Rice Millers Association, Mr. Samuel Ogodo, got a tip-off and informed the Police.
“But all these stories are subject to investigations and the Deputy Commissioner of Police in charge of Criminal Investigation Department has directed the officer handling this matter to go ahead and thoroughly investigate it”, the Police spokesperson said.
Speaking with Journalists over the incident, Mr. Samuel Ogodo, alleged that the rice were smuggled out of the Abakaliki Rice Mill premises in the night, by the suspects in order to evade tax, adding that a lot of revenue had been lost in the past through such criminal practices.
“It is unfortunate that some people have decided to sabotage the efforts of the State Government through evasion of tax. Our normal closing time here is 6p.m, but this guys will wait until around 9p.m to 10p.m before they will start to smuggle rice to a nearby residence belonging to the Lawmaker, Hon. Joseph Ununu, where they will load them and move, thereby denying the Abakaliki Rice Mill and the Ebonyi State Government the supposed internally generated revenues”, Mr. Caretaker Chairman said.
Reacting, Hon. Ununu who noted that he was no longer doing rice business since he won an election into the State House of Assembly, denied sabotaging the State’s efforts in revenue generation.
Mr. Ifere Obinna, the purported famous buyer, in an interview with Journalists, also denied evading tax, adding that he had always followed due processes in purchasing rice in Abakaliki Rice Mill.
However, another rice buyer, Ifeanyichukwu Ifere, whose rice was also found in the Lawmaker’s residence, said he was surprised to see his rice there, as he never authorized anybody to do so, on his behalf.