Iro Ukpai, the Managing Director of Smart Drilling Services (SDS), has been arrested by officers of the Rivers State police command and charged to court on questionable charges, SaharaReporters has learned.
This is the second time in recent weeks that Mr. Ukpai has been arrested by police authorities who first seized him outside court premises as he and his attorney were leaving an adjourned court hearing. Mr. Ukpai, who co-founded SDS, had filed a lawsuit against his co-founder, Bart Nwibe, and other directors of the company, claiming illegal removal from his office and other fraudulent activities.
In a bizarre twist, the police who whisked him away two weeks ago said Mr. Ukpai’s estranged co-directors, who are respondents in his lawsuit, had accused him of stealing his official car as MD. Even though he explained to police investigators that he was entitled to the car as the company’s chief executive, the detectives decided to file a criminal case against him in what a legal observer described as high-handedness and abuse of police powers.
Mr. Ukpai’s battle with Mr. Nwibe, chairman of SDS, and the chairman’s cohorts has been at the center of several investigative pieces by SaharaReporters. Documents obtained by our correspondent reveal that Mr. Ukpai sued Mr. Bart Nwibe and fellow directors, Ben-Chika Uzoagu and Uche Ejiogu, for unlawfully removing him from running a company he co-founded. Mr. Ukpai’s feud with the other directors began after he questioned their actions he believed violated Nigeria’s corporate laws. In one instance, the embattled MD had warned that the other directors’ plan to supply inventory to their own company, SDS, represented a conflict of interest.
SaharaReporters reported on December 3rd that after a court hearing Mr. Ukpai was seized by plain-clothes police officers and whisked away in a vehicle.
SaharaReporters learned that some of the directors who are respondents in the case Mr. Ukpai filed told the police that the MD stole the company car and other official assets. A police source had told our correspondent that Mr. Ukpai was released after a lengthy interrogation. Mr. Ukpai was released after the intervention of a higher-ranking police officer.
However, Mr. Ukpai was arrested again and detained earlier today, according to reports by his family. “We fear for his life,” a relative of Mr. Ukpai’s said, adding that their relative was “a victim of people with a lot of money who have no fear of God.” He wondered why the police allowed themselves to be used.
“They arrested him allegedly for taking the company car. But the car belongs to him,” the family source added.
A correspondent of SaharaReporters contacted Mr. Anyanwu, a police officer with the Rivers State Criminal Investigative Division (CID) in Port Harcourt, who is handling the case, but he declined to answer questions.
A senior police officer in Abuja told our correspondent that the police would release information if SaharaReporters filed a Freedom of Information request.
SaharaReporters learnt that Mr. Ukpai was granted bail, but was staying overnight in a police cell while his family arranged a surety. A family source urged the Inspector General of Police, Solomon Arase, to intervene in the case to ensure that the image of the police force was not tainted by Mr. Nwibe and his fellow directors “who want to use intimidation to silence Iro Ukpai.”