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Property and Environment

ICPC Alarmed Over Multi-Billion Naira Abuja Estates Abandoned by Owners

The Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC), is alarmed at the rate owners of multi-billion naira housing estates in Abuja abandon their property the moment the Commission initiates investigation into their ownership status.

Chairman of the ICPC, Prof Bolaji Owasanoye who made the disclosure in Abuja on Monday, said the development has become a great worry to the ICPC and other anti-corruption agencies in the country.

Owasanoye, who was represented by his Chief of Staff, Dr. Esa Onoja, also raised concerns over illicit financial flows abroad estates springing up every day in different locations in the Federal Capital Territory.

The ICOC chair spoke as a special guest at a Forum of Special Anti-Corruption Situation Room, organised by the Human and Environmental Development Agenda (HEDA).

According to him, in many cases where Non-Conviction Assets Forfeiture proceedings are initiated against the numerous sprawling estates, nobody comes forward to claim ownership.

He explained that the ICPC has initiated a number of Non-Conviction Assets Forfeiture proceedings, in line with Section 17 of the Advanced Free Fraud Act.

Owasanoye added that Sections 37 and 38 of the ICPC Act also empowered the Commission to initiate such proceedings in court where there is suspicion that such assets were proceeds of crime.

Where nobody comes forward to claim ownership after publication of Temporary Forfeiture Orders from the courts, the assets become the property of the Federal Government.

The ICPC boss however, could not immediately provide the number of such Abuja assets so abandoned by their owners, saying it’s a big problem that required information from members of the public.

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“We feel that citizens should provide information and after providing information, to act as witnesses. The current administration has a very strong and viable whistle blowing policy.

“Over N.5tn has been recovered through this policy. But a lot more information is required. If we can only get just 25 percent of what has been stolen and if that money is deployed to education, health, security, I think we would be on the road to joining other nations that our citizens will like to fly to and use their resources”, he said.

Owasanoye enjoined Nigerians to stop seeing corruption as a “victimless” crime, saying, “When funds meant for health, education, security, housing etc are diverted and end up in private hands, we all feel the impact”.

Also speaking at the event, the Director General of the National Orientation Agency (NOA), Mr Garba Abari said the anti-corruption war was being waged at all levels of government.

Abari said citizens owed it a duty and responsibility to key into the anti-corruption campaign of the government, stressing that the cumulative effects of corruption are felt by the generality of the citizenry.

“We must rise to demand for transparency in governance, to demand for accountability and begin to hold people accountable against all manners of infractions”, Abari said.

Head of HEDA’s Human Right project, Olanrewaju Suraju bemoaned the huge resources in foreign exchange the country had lost to corrupt practices in the oil industry.

Suraju cited the case of the controversial OPL 245 issued to Malabu and how the Federal Government lost billions of dollars to unethical practices by past government officials.

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He said “What we have done before now is to have taken a legal action compelling the office of the Attorney General of the Federation to revoke the OPL 245 licenses issued to Malabu on the strength that it was issued by Dan Etete while serving as a Minister of Petroleum Resources.

“This is actually against the Constitution as at the time and also against the Code of Conduct which prohibits an office holder from superintending over a process that he will benefit from.

“What the law says in that situation is that such benefits should actually be recovered by the government. So we have gone to court to get an Order of Mandamus to compel the Attorney General to revoke the license.

“What we have seen is that $1.1bn that was paid as bribe to officials of Nigeria/ENI was what was supposed to have come to Nigeria as part of the profit that was calculated and paid in advance to oil companies, individuals and public office holders.

“So monies meant to provide for health and education was actually paid to private individuals to buy jets and luxury apartments outside the country”.

By Gbade Ogunwale, Abuja
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