The Liberal Democrats have pledged to build 300,000 homes per year, of which 100,000 would be for social rent, if they are elected in the upcoming general election.
The commitment, included in the party’s election manifesto, is part of a £130bn capital infrastructure budget, which will also see investments in public transport, broadband, schools and hospitals.
Released today, the manifesto includes a pledge to introduce a new Rent to Own model for social housing, through which tenants would gain an increasing stake in their property through renting, which would allow them to own it outright after 30 years.
The party has also committed to ensuring all new homes and non-domestic buildings are built to a zero-carbon standard by 2021, rising to a more ambitious Passivhaus standard by 2025.
A Liberal Democrats government would also pledge to end rough sleeping by 2025, two years earlier than the current government’s 2027 target, the manifesto has pledged.
Other housing policies in the Liberal Democrats’ manifesto include:
Cut energy bills, end fuel poverty by 2025 and reduce emissions from buildings by providing free retrofits for low-income homes, piloting a new energy-saving homes scheme, graduating stamp duty land tax by the energy rating of the property and reducing VAT on home insulation.
Devolve full control of Right to Buy to local councils.
Urgently publish a cross-Whitehall plan to end all forms of homelessness.
Legislate for longer-term tenancies and limits on annual rent increases.
Allow local authorities to increase council tax by up to 500% where homes are being bought as second homes, with a stamp duty surcharge on overseas residents purchasing such properties.
Help young people into the private rental market by establishing a new Help to Rent scheme to provide government-backed tenancy deposit loans for all first-time renters under 30.
The Liberal Democrats manifesto comes as the Labour Party announced plans to build 100,000 council homes and 50,000 “genuinely affordable homes” via housing associations per year, within five years.
Latest government figures, released today, show that 57,485 affordable homes were built in England last year, of which 6,287 were for social rent.
The Conservative Party has yet to publish its manifesto, but is expected to next week.
The Minister of Works and Housing, Mr. Babatunde Fashola, has challenged civil servants to project a positive image of the country, saying a lot is required from them due to their privileged position. The minister’s admonition was conveyed in Abuja, Tuesday at the 2018 recognition and reward ceremony of his ministry. Fashola, in his keynote address, which he turned into an interactive session, sought to know from the audience, predominantly made up of staff of the ministry, who should be referred to as ‘government’. Satisfied with the feedback, “all of us”, the minister went on to deliver his sermon that transforming the country was a collective effort of all civil/public servants, from the least to the highest. He told his audience that President Muhammadu Buhari’s declaration of lifting 100 million Nigerians out of poverty in 10 years could be easily achieved and even surpassed if everyone diligently carries out his or her own duty at the appropriate time. According to him, civil servants are better placed to help lift the country out of poverty because of the catalytic role they play in governance. He described civil servants as the conscious image of Nigeria, urging them to project a positive image of the country through their dressing, conduct, patriotism and dedication to duty. The minister noted that each time a civil servant fails to treat a document at the right time or appropriately, the nation would be losing something, appealing to them to show more commitment as those who were being honoured. He said it was good to reward excellence, explaining that he was happy that Civil Service rules recognise reward for outstanding service. Earlier in his goodwill message, the Chairman of the Federal Civil Service Commission, Dr. Bello Tukur Ingawa, said the provisions of civil service rules were in support of reward for outstanding service as was being done by the Ministry of Works and Housing. Ingawa was represented by a commissioner in the Commission, Fatai Olapade.
Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning, Zainab Ahmed has disclosed that most of the bad roads in Nigeria belong to the states.
The Details: According to the Nation, Ahmed argued that most bad roads in the country were within the jurisdiction of states. She made this statement after the Federal Executive Council (FEC) meeting that held yesterday in Abuja.
She went further to state that the Federal Ministry of Works was the biggest beneficiaries of funding in the 2019 budget as it was adequately reimbursed for the purpose of roads rehabilitation in the country.
“So far, the sum of N650 billion had been released to fund capital projects,” she said. This figure, according to her is higher than the sum the President ordered to be released last month. She also promised that an extra N250 billion would be released for capital projects to bring the total sum to N900 billion by the end of the year.
Refuting the claim of the Minister of Works and Housing, Babatunde Fashola over the lack of finance to fund road repairs, Ahmed responded that the government had gone as far as issuing several Sukuk Bonds to cope with financial responsibilities associated with road construction.
The Minister said, “Works is always on the priority list; housing is always funded. Same is transportation and power, though we have revenue challenges.
“It allows me to state that the Minister of Works and Housing has a proposed budget of N247 billion for the year 2020 and the greatest component of this budget is the fixing of Nigerian roads.
“Indeed, we are not able to fund the budget 100 per cent, but whenever we release funds for capital projects, the Ministry of Power, the Ministry of Works and Housing is always the priority and also the Ministry of Transport.
“Our fiscal space is tight, resources are limited because revenues are on the performing but at the time we have resources, funds to release, the highest proportion goes to Power, Transport, World and Housing. Also, we have introduced some measures that have seen private sector participants getting involved in road construction.”
Ahmed acknowledged that the government had not done enough to rehabilitate roads all over the country but still attributed most of the bad roads in the country to the states.
“We have a lot of roads in the country but not every road you see is the responsibility of the Federal government. The major arterial roads are the ones that are the responsibility of the federal government.
“Majority of the roads in the country are within the purview and responsibility of States as well as local governments.
“Have we done enough? No, not yet, that is why we are trying to do more including raising special funds to make sure that roads and such other infrastructure are being addressed,” she said.
Nigerian youths have been advised to be more creative in their usage of social media, especially in the area of creating employment for themselves and others.
Mr Jack Dorsey, CEO, Twitter and Ngozi Okonjo Iweala a former minister in Nigeria gave the advice at the African University of Science and Technology, Abuja, during a forum with young entrepreneurs and students of the school.
The Twitter boss expressed his joy, stating that Twitter had grown and evolved from a platform which was created for interactions and social engagements 13 years ago to what is used by millions of young people across the world to make a difference in areas of entrepreneurship, news dissemination and crusade for social justice.
Mr Dorsey stated the purpose for his visit to Nigeria, is to interact with the youth so as to improve on the services provided by Twitter through observations and comments from the users of the platform.
Dr Iweala in her statement encouraged Nigerian youths not to await the creation of jobs by any individual, but should explore social media platforms to create jobs for themselves and for others. Dr Iweala commended young Nigerian entrepreneurs who have leveraged on social media platforms to create employment opportunities in various sectors of the economy.
The former minister expressed excitement about the future of Nigeria and stated that Nigerian youths are vibrant and dynamic in their approach to social media, taking advantage of the platforms to combat economic challenges.
“The point I want to make is that Jack believes that twitter can serve as a platform for young people to create jobs for themselves and for others. That can have a big impact on employment and that is why we wanted him to come to Nigeria so that he can do things for our youths.”
“We are glad he is here and you can see some of the young entrepreneurs who have spoken on what they have been using twitter to do, creating jobs for themselves and for others,” Dr Iweala said.
The Royal Town Planning Institute (RTPI) has published its key demands for the next UK government in a manifesto ahead of the 2019 General Election.
From Neighborhoods to Nations – the importance of planning has been sent to every current Member of Parliament seeking re-election in December.
The document sets out key issues that need to be addressed at a political level to ensure town planners and the planning system are able to create sustainable, well-designed, successful urban and rural places into the future, and planning’s role in delivering zero-carbon targets.
Chief Executive of the RTPI, Victoria Hills, said: “Planners and the planning system have a critical role in meeting the future challenges of climate change and population growth over the coming decades.
“However, local authority planning teams have seen a reduction of 42% in funding over the last decade. We therefore call on the next government to ensure local planning authorities are adequately resourced to enable local planning teams to deliver for communities.
“This document sets out our key priorities and I call on politicians to equip planners to help achieve their goals.”
The manifesto also urges the next government to protect and grow devolved powers to city regions, remove barriers to city-regional spatial strategies for development and infrastructure and remove legal barriers to allow city regions to fully use their devolved planning powers.
It also highlights that the future pipeline of urgently-needed planners via apprenticeships and planning schools should continue to be strongly supported by government.
Till date, 20 years after the controversial demise of one of Nigeria’s last military leaders, Sani Abacha, one sore thumb still aching local and international financial crime investigators is the full extent of his legacy of corruption.
In the years since 2002 when the first insight into the depth of corruption during his administration was revealed, Nigerians came to know through out-of-court settlement the Abachas struck with the Nigerian and Swiss governments that the family will return $1.2 billion siphoned out of Nigeria by the late general through a huge criminal network and enterprise. Still, that offered no adequate tally of the famous loot.
While part of the terms of settlement allowed the Abacha family keep about $100 million of the funds, Nigeria’s position was to keep an eye on international investigations around the late dictator. The New York Times reported then, that the Nigerian government persisted in its efforts to track more accounts holding funds that had been siphoned out of the country by the same family.
One of the points of contention in the campaign for the return of what has now been tagged the “Abacha loot,” however, was the status of some $90 million claimed to have been appropriated by Abdulkadir Abacha, a brother to the late military despot, and which the Swiss prosecutors had refused to unfreeze and release to Nigeria.
Now fresh indications have emerged regarding substantial but hitherto concealed property holdings by members of the family in the Dubai real estate market.
Working collaboratively alongside the Cell Norbert Zongo for Investigative Journalism (CENOZO), Finance Uncovered, and Organised Crime and Corruption Reporting Project (OCCRP), PREMIUM TIMES CENTRE FOR INVESTIGATIVE JOURNALISM has now uncovered fresh vistas based on leaked information on property ownership in Dubai indicating just how much investigators still know of the footprints of wealth connected to the Abacha loot.
Whereas years of investigative probing have revealed that the Abachas were involved in numerous cases of money laundering, looting and other corrupt practices during the regime of the late Head of State, according to Nigeria’s anti-corruption agency, EFCC, the hitherto concealed properties in the UAE is the latest in this seemingly unending looting of Nigeria’s treasury by the infamous Abacha family.
Nigeria had, in 2018, signed several bilateral agreements with the UAE which covers trade, finance and judicial matters. The agreement on judicial matters includes mutual assistance on criminal and commercial matters, which covers the recovery and repatriation of stolen wealth. This agreement means the Nigerian government can immediately move on matters such as the unearthed Abacha loot.
The discovery and subsequent use of the Abacha loot has always drawn comments from the accountability sector of society and this instance is no different. Olarenwaju Suraju, Chairman, HEDA Resource Centre, reacting to this new discovery, urged the Nigerian government to quickly engage the UAE authorities using the bilateral agreement between both countries to freeze the assets and move for prosecution and final forfeiture. He expects that the Nigerian government will pursue return of the assets as fast as other properties were pursued. He went on further to say “government must make moves to ensure forfeiture of assets acquired using proceeds of crime by past and present public office holders.
The Executive Director of the Africa Network for Environment and Economic Justice (ANEEJ), David Ugolor, also emphasised the opportunity that the bilateral agreement between both countries presents in handling this instance of loot discovery. He pointed out that similar commitments exist between Nigeria and countries like the U.S. and UK, recalling the 2016 Anti-Corruption Summit where both countries committed to helping Nigeria recover ill-gotten funds and assets of corrupt Nigerians by sharing information.
The GFAR summit in December of 2017 also promised to help developing countries recover their looted assets by providing technical support and information sharing. Mr Ugolor further said that he believes Nigerian anti-corruption agencies have what it takes to go after corrupt individuals to recover assets and to have them prosecuted. He further said “the government should have a politically exposed persons register to help fight against corruption and expose corrupt public office holders and business people”.
Commenting on new revelations of Abacha Loot, Auwal Rafsanjani, Director, Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre (CISLAC) expressed disappointment that 20 years after, Nigeria is still unearthing ill-gotten funds carted away by the Abacha regime. He said Nigeria struggles with controlling Illicit Financial Flows and will continue to struggle until there is serious reforms in the existing policies and legal framework to fight illicit financial flows within Nigeria and abroad. The establishment of a beneficial ownership register is important to the fight against IFF, and the absence of such a register gives way for corrupt politicians, and business people to take advantage of the situation by hiding behind fronts/companies to loot ill-gotten funds via real estate, banks, oil companies and others.
Mr Rafsanjani revealed that the Extractives Industries Transparency Initiatives (EITI) almost suspended Nigeria because they failed to accomplish their commitments. The same applies to the Open Government Partnership (OGP) where the Nigerian government had committed to creating a beneficial ownership register but still has not done it. He further said, “We have been having problems in returning stolen assets to the country because the government is mostly making political pronouncements instead of creating policies to curb corruption, hence, making it difficult for the international community to take the Nigerian government serious”.
He pointed out that there is no framework to manage repatriation of funds and assets thus making it difficult to assess the assets recovered by anti-corruption agencies like the EFCC, ICPC etc. He concluded his statements emphasizing the significance of political will in creating holistic frameworks to fight IFF which costs the country billions of dollars yearly and the successful repatriation of stolen assets. He also said collaboration with the media and CSOs will be important in winning the fight
Multimillion Naira Abacha Properties Stashed in Dubai
According to the leaked database of property holdings in Dubai, Abdulkadir Abacha, who alongside Mohammed, a son of the late Head of State, had played a significant role in moving much of these illicit funds offshore, has six properties in Dubai, with a combined estimated value of a little over $3 million.
The properties traced to Abdulkadir Abacha are located in Dubai Downtown, Marina, and Jumeirah Beach Residence. According to the leaked data, Abdulkadir holds five of the six properties in his name, while the final property, located at the Jumeirah Beach Residence, is owned by a Nigerian company that has been traced to the former dictator’s brother.
The company, registered in Nigeria and with RC no 123141, is named Prospectors Marketers International Limited. The company’s resolution document from the Corporate Affairs Commission reveals Abdulkadir Abacha as the highest shareholder in Prospectors Marketers International Limited, with a 90 per cent shareholding and Zainab Abdulkadir, who could be either his wife or daughter, owning the other 10 per cent of the shares.
It also appears that one Kindway Enterprises Ltd is a shareholder of Prospectors Marketers International Limited, and a search for the ownership of this other entity again revealed Abdulkadir Abacha as its highest shareholder, with an 80% shareholding, while the remaining shares are evenly owned by Fatimah Abdulkadir and Zainab Abdulkadir, who also appear to be his relatives.
The table below contains a list of the sizes, numbers, and value of the properties owned by Abdulkadir Abacha. These properties are located in some of the most expensive areas of Dubai. Four properties are around the internationally renowned Burj Khalifa. One property is located at the Dubai Marina, an area where only the very rich moor their yachts. Yet another property is located at the Jumeirah Beach Residence, an area with lots of high-rise buildings.
The documents obtained and analysed by the investigating team suggest that Abdulkadir Abacha sold one of the properties to an individual named Karl Whyte, and it is understood that Abdulkadir owned the other properties between 2014 and 2015.
No Response from Abdulkadir Yet
Several attempts have been made to contact both Abdulkadir and Mr Whyte through the email addresses and phone numbers provided in the leaked documents. The email sent to Abdulkadir Abacha bounced back and his Dubai phone number appears to be disconnected. Efforts made to contact him in Nigeria have also failed. Our partner, Finance Uncovered, was able to contact Mr Whyte and posed questions about the property acquisition process, who he interacted with during the acquisition and which lawyers he used in the transaction. Although Mr Whyte had initially promised to respond to the questions via email, he however did not honour this promise.
Involvement in the Intractable Malabu Oil Scandal
The Abachas are also actively linked to the Malabu Oil scandal, which has been the subject of attention of law enforcement and the justice departments of many countries. In this case, the late military Head of State, in concert with Dan Etete, the then petroleum minister, had granted Malabu Oil and Gas Limited the Oil Prospecting License (OPL) 245, a company which he (through his son, Mohammed Abacha) and Etete had illegal stakes in.
OPL 245 was considered the most lucrative oil block in Africa, with proven reserves having a value in excess of $5 billion from conservative estimates. Apparently, Malabu Oil had been registered and was secretly owned by the cohort, who granted themselves the hugely fecund OPL245 through the Department of Petroleum Resources under the Ministry of Petroleum led by Etete, just about a week after the company was registered in the second quarter of 1998.
The Malabu Oil scandal remains a problem for Nigeria till date because a few years after the death of General Abacha, two international oil companies, Shell and Eni, also became entangled in the intrigues around the ownership of OPL 245, which has knotted into a legal nightmare, with litigations still ongoing across several transnational jurisdictions till present.
Two Resource-rich Countries; Very Different Outcomes
One is forced to draw a comparison between Dubai, a popular destination for many people, including Nigerians and Nigeria. Both are oil-producing countries, although the similarity between both ends there.
The United Arab Emirate’s real estate grandeur is the end product of oil exploration and trade in the Middle East region since the 1970s, particularly as the UAE is currently the 8th largest producer of oil in the world, proceeds from which have been driving the huge developments in the region.
In two decades, the United Arab Emirates has been able to grow its economy swiftly, away from just oil, and is currently one of the leading tourist destinations in the world. Dubai, one of the seven emirates making up the UAE, is now a global hub for tourists, investors, and human traffic transiting to numerous destinations across the world.
While oil revenue is still a great source of the country’s prosperity, oil earnings contributed only about 30 percent of the government’s revenue in 2017; a drastic reduction from the 70 per cent it contributed in the 1970s.
Evolving with its rapid economic growth, the real estate business in UAE holds huge appeal to many from various locations due to its uniqueness, brisk development and boom, resulting in numerous international construction companies investing in high rise luxurious buildings and villas, which are open to acquisition by foreigners around the world.
Consequent upon this, Nigerians have been investing heavily in property ownership in Dubai as an asset holding venture for business owners. Unfortunately, corrupt public office holders use the Dubai property market as a means of hiding stolen funds meant for the welfare of the generality of the people.
The Director-General of the Abu Dhabi Chamber, Mohamed Helal Al Muhairi observed that Nigerians are the second largest group of property owners in Dubai, after Indians, while also stating that Nigerians spend more than $110 million yearly in visa fees to the UAE. From available information, almost Dh200 million ($52.2 million) was invested in the Dubai property market in the first half of 2012. The First Group’s sales manager, an international construction company, also stated that about $6 billion has been invested in Dubai’s property market in three years, with Nigerians accounting for some 60 per cent of the company’s sales.
Whereas at home in Nigeria, the story is vastly different. A country equally blessed with crude oil with an average daily production of 2 millions barrels, and average annual oil revenue of $30 billion, has failed to convert this into any form of significant development. The Niger Delta region of the country, a once verdant land lush with flora and fauna and a unique ecosystem thriving on fishery and crafts, has now been distorted into rivers flowing with black oil from the spills of exploration activities by both multinationals and illegal oil refinery activities, with its skies burning a relentless orange from the continuous fires of flared gas.
Unfortunately, while Dubai’s city in the desert has countless magnificent skyscrapers built with the proceeds of oil, Nigeria’s similar desert topography has become a battleground for the Boko Haram insurgency, the containment of which has remained a burden for the state’s armed forces in the past decade. The region has become synonymous with sorrow, tears and blood, with women and children, the greatest casualties. The citizenry in this region are killed by terrorist groups laying claims to religious radicalisation or unconscionable bandits.
While one society has adequately harnessed its humongous oil wealth for the greater good of its people, another with a similar trajectory of earnings has merely been a playground of rapacious and avaricious actors, often linked to the state, who have plundered the country’s oil proceeds in orgies of corruption either hidden in offshore havens or utilised in the acquisition of exotic foreign properties.
It remains to be seen whether Abdulkadir Abacha’s impressive UAE property portfolio has a source other than what he acquired, one way or the other, from being a brother to the late General Sani Abacha. The view in many quarters in Nigeria is that except genuine explanations on their sources are offered, the ownership of these properties may well be the Nigerian people.
The Nigerian Institution of Surveyors has advised its members to be innovative in the discharge of their functions, as well as acquire new skills due to the dynamic nature of the profession.
Speaking at the 37th Annual Olumide Memorial Lecture in Abuja, the President, NIS, Alabo Charles, told surveyors at the event that the profession of surveying prides itself as being the primary source of any developmental project.
He said, “As much as that is true, what have we done to establish primacy and dominion over our environment? The surveying and geo-informatics profession is a leader and should always prime itself for that role, ready to adapt and innovate.
“We are faced with challenges of technology every day. Yes we use them but we need to find a way to establish usefulness to relevance with the work of other professionals not only in the built industry but across the society.”
Charles told his listeners that the present day society was beset with advances in artificial intelligence and machine learning.
“We now have Building Information Modelling that integrates all professionals’ input into a model that facilitates professional communication and actions to ensure timely project actualisation,” he stated.
The NIS president added, “BIM also engenders effective cost management and project quality, performance evaluation and control, as well as timeline management.
“We must therefore evolve and adapt in our skills sets to ensure that we retain primacy and relevance in the industry.”
In his address, the guest speaker, Prof. Akin Osibogun, who spoke on the theme, ‘Microbes and Disease as Existential Threats: The Need for Constant Watchfulness,’ urged surveyors to be conscious of the fact that they had high exposure to microbes due to the nature of their job.
He said, “You are always breaking new grounds and in breaking new grounds, you come across microbes, which is why you need to know how to stay safe, especially when coming in contact with some microscopic organisms.
“Microbes can knock out a surveyor if not dealt with adequately. Microbes cause disease and a disease will not spare its target. So, you have to be careful with your drinking water sources when you are in the field.”
The chief executive officers of deposit money banks in the country have denied directing MTN Nigeria to charge customers for using unstructured supplementary service data (USSD) channels.
In a joint statement released on Tuesday, the bankers said the charges on financial transactions have not been changed.
“Our attention has been drawn to SMS sent on Saturday 19th October by MTN Nigeria Communications PLC (“MTN”) to customers of banks in Nigeria in respect of the above,” the statement read.
“The message states that the banks requested MTN to start charging customers for USSD transactions directly. It also asks customers to contact their banks for more information. We wish to state as follows:
“That the banks did not ask MTN to start charging customers as contained in the text message. The decision on whether, and what amount, to charge a customer for accessing USSD is entirely that of the telco company, in the same way a customer is billed for calls, SMS and data.”
The CEOs went on to state that MTN is “the only telco that is yet to implement end-user billing which is the standard practice for customer-initiated transactions” despite meetings with the Central Bank of Nigeria since 2018 on reducing the cost of USSD to aid financial inclusion.
Expressing commitment to improving financial inclusion, the bankers said they would continue to advocate that telcos implement a low-pricing model for using USSD access codes.
Addressing the issue on the sidelines of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and World Bank meetings in Washington, Godwin Emefiele, the CBN governor, had told banks to ditch telcos that want to raise charges.