|Mr. Dan Okoro, a Deputy Commissioner of Police|
Mr. Hodonu's ordeal began in 2013 when his ex-mother-in-law visited him Canada. Being infirm, said Mr. Hodonu, the woman died within 24 hours of her arrival. Her death happened at a time when the businessman wanted to ship to Nigeria three containers holding four vehicles each. Mr. Hodonu told Saharareporters that he always traveled with his shipments, but could not do so because of the death of the mother of his ex-wife.
His ex-wife, he said, needed to accompany her mother's corpse to Nigeria, thereby also yoking him with the responsibility of looking after their two daughters.
On account of Mr. Hodonu’s inability to leave Canada, a family friend, who is a police officer, offered to help. The family friend claimed that her boss was familiar with many reputable clearing agents and could be of help.
Convinced that his friend's boss, being a police officer, represented safety, Mr. Hodonu said he sent the documents of the containers to Mr. Dan Okoro, who had been introduced as the man familiar with the best agencies.
Mr. Okoro, said Mr. Hodonu, used to be the Area Commander of Festac Police Area Command in Lagos. Mr. Okoro introduced Mr. Nwabude as an agent, to whom Mr. Hodonu paid N3.9 million as clearing expenses.
From then on, explained Mr. Hodonu, it was one story after the other, without a single one indicating that the containers holding his vehicles had been cleared. Things remained that way until Mr. Hodonu arrived in Nigeria in June 2013, when he routinely resumed every morning at Tin Can Island and spent evenings at Festac Police Area Command, where Mr. Okoro was the Area Commander.
The businessman said he kept asking questions about what might have caused the long delay, but never got answers from either Mr. Okoro or Mr. Nwabude.
Mr. Hodonu said the pressure on him was mounting, as he was just getting back on his feet after a catastrophic investment decision.
“Some went on radio and television shows to brand me a fraud," said Mr. Hodonu.
He started complaining in bitter tones to Messrs. Okoro and Nwabude.
The businessman had planned to be in Nigeria for a month but was already into his ninth month with no solution in sight.
Out of desperation, Mr. Hodonu went on a dispute resolution program, Mogbejomi De, on Lagos Television. The presenters, he said, wrote to invite Messrs. Okoro and Nwabude, but they refused to come.
Mr. Hodonu said he slumped twice, having developed hypertension because he was losing money, as he desperately tried to save his reputation. Mr. Nwabude, said the businessman, demanded more money, which he got before he could get one of the four containers cleared.
He pressured Mr. Okoro to arrest the agent. The police boss did, but released him shortly thereafter, saying he had signed an undertaking.
When Mr. Nwabude defaulted, the police boss said he did not know his whereabouts any longer. The beleaguered businessman said he was told by one Dr. Anebunam, founder of an association chaired by Mr. Nwabude, that he and Mr. Okoro were long-standing partners in fraud.
Things got worse, Mr. Hodonu explained. While he was chasing his containers, his former wife sold his house and moved to another Canadian province.
Having no other option left, Mr. Hodonu got his lawyers to petition the Inspector-General of Police and the Attorney-General of the Federation.
Two of those petitions, dated 15 November 2016 and addressed separately to the Inspector-General and Attorney-General of the Federation, were obtained by SaharaReporters. The petitions, which alleged criminal breach of trust by Messrs. Okoro and Nwabude, appealed for urgent intervention.
"Our client informed us that ACP Okoro brought one Mr. Uche Nwabude as the clearing agent. In the presence of ACP Okoro, the discussion was done with the said Uche Nwabude and a fee of N3.9 million only was agreed as the total expenses for clearing. Our client paid the money to the said Nwabude. Upon receipt of the money, Mr. Uche Nwabude failed and refused to clear the goods," said the petitions.
Prior to these petitions, Mr. Hodonu had written others to the Police and Attorney-General. He disclosed that a former Inspector-General had shown an interest in the matter and directed the Police Commissioner in charge of the Ports, Mrs. Harrison, The businessman said Mr. Okoro was always telling Mrs. Harrison to give him more time.
The loss of over N40 million through the transaction, said Mr. Hodonu, has left him broke and broken.
"I can't do fraud or drugs. The only way I know how to earn money is by working my butt off. I need to take care of my children. I still manage hypertension up till today," he ruefully told SaharaReporters.
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