ICPC raises alarm over multi-billion naira Abuja estates abandoned by owners

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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 when the commission initiate
non-conviction assets forfeiture proceedings.

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.

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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.

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.”

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