The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) says it has arrested a "pastor" over an alleged contract scam of N1.8 billion. The spokesman of the commission, Wilson Uwujaren, who disclosed this in a statement in Abuja on Thursday, identified the suspect as James Ezekiel.

Mr Ezekiel, according to the commission's spokesman, claimed to be the presiding pastor of One Touch Power Ministry, Agudama, Epie in Bayelsa. He said the suspect was arrested by operatives at the Port-Harcourt Zonal Office of the commission. Mr Uwujaren said the suspect allegedly defrauded an unsuspecting victim of N1.3 million by deceiving him to enlist as one of the "financiers" of a spurious N1.8 billion contract. He added: "Ezekiel claimed to have won a contract for the roofing of a church cathedral belonging to the Salvation Ministries in Port Harcourt, Rivers. "He reportedly put the contract sum at N1.8 billion and showed a contract award letter to his victim. "He also wooed his victim to collaborate with him as one of the "financiers" of the contract. "Ezekiel promised the victim mouth-watering interests on his investment".

Trouble started for the suspect when the victim demanded repayment of his money with interests, which he couldn't pay immediately. Mr Uwujaren said investigations showed that the suspect delayed making the payment by deceiving him that he had been paid N800 million as mobilisation fee for the contract.

He said Mr Ezekiel lied that he could not access the funds because his company's account had been frozen by the EFCC. Mr Uwujaren said the suspect also contrived a fake EFCC's e-mail message notifying him of the freezing of the account. He said that the victim suspected foul play and petitioned the commission to help him reclaim his money. "Further investigations showed that the Salvation Ministries did not award any contract to Ezekiel and no transfer of N800 million was made into his company's account.

"Besides, the e-mail address he ascribed to the EFCC does not belong to the commission. "The suspect allegedly initiated the scam to fraudulently obtain money from the petitioner and other unsuspecting members of the public.

"The suspect is in the custody of the EFCC and will be charged to court soon," Uwujaren said.

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