The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) yesterday questioned former Central Bank governor Charles Soludo over allegations of corruption in the award of contract for the production of polymer naira notes in 2005-2006.
Sources at the commission told Daily Trust last night that Soludo was being quizzed at the EFCC head office in Abuja. It could not be confirmed by the time of going to press if he was released.
The polymer banknotes were minted by an Australian company, Securency International. A scandal erupted in Australia in 2009 when reports emerged of bribery in the contract for the currency notes, but no conclusive evidence of Soludo's involvement was reported.
A source at EFCC said Soludo was picked up at his Abuja residence by operatives of the commission yesterday to answer questions over a petition regarding the Securency contract. Some senior CBN officials who served during his tenure as well as some staffers of Nigerian Security Printing and Minting Company Plc were also being interrogated yesterday, the source said.
The source did not give the names of the other officials being questioned but said there were about 10 of them. Soludo was governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) from 2004 to 2009, and the reissue of polymer naira notes was among key projects executed during his tenure.
Securency reportedly supplied about 1.9 billion banknotes to the CBN between 2006 and 2008.
An Australian newspaper The Age reported in 2009 that Securency, which also produces polymer notes for some other countries, gave bribes of about N750 million to Nigerian officials to get the CBN polymer contracts.
The bribes were allegedly funnelled through banks in the Seychelles and the Bahamas.
EFCC spokesman Wilson Uwujaren could not be reached for comments last night as his cell phones were switched off.
Apart from the issuance of polymer notes, Soludo also executed the banking consolidation which pegged minimum capital base at N25 billion and saw to the emergence of 25 recapitalised banks.
He also contemplated a currency redenomination project, which would have seen some zeros knocked off the naira values. But he had to forget the idea when then-President Umaru Yar'Adua pulled the brakes. Soludo served only a single five-year term at CBN. After he left the central bank, he run unsuccessfully for governor of Anambra State on the platform of the People's Democratic Party.