Industry Players Express Concerns Over Forfeited Properties

The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission is an organization whose duty no one is a stranger to. One of their popular characteristics in the act of carrying out their duty is sealing off public buildings whose owners are under investigation.

This is supposed to be a good thing except in the long run there are more losses than gains for the country. Eventually that very valuable big building, that helped take away some youths off the streets, that building that had an office that was someone’s sole source of income, eventually that building becomes a shadow of it self, depleted, deteriorated and of no use whatsoever. Another humongous sum of money that would have contributed to the economy in it’s own way flushed down the drain.

A gigantic building located at Awolowo Road has been rendered useless because it was locked down by the EFCC. That large building was a landmark and a centre of attraction and had a lot of office spaces that could be rented for N200 , 000 to N 300,000 yearly. Right now the only persons transacting on any kind of business are hawkers who sell their wares front of the building.
Let us also take a look at Savannah bank buildings in Lagos , Wuse 2 – Abuja. It’s the same story again, a steady functional building is locked down, sealed off and allowed to rot away in the name of investigation. The buildings has been under lock and key for almost 10 years and counting. The buildings are now used as rendezvous point for criminals.
Do not loose the fact that these buildings are worth hundreds of million of naira, but after years of neglect you’ll have a big for nothing building with no sort of commercial value.

Sadly the number of buildings that are subjected to this fate are on the increase. Every time someone is arrested, detained or being investigated for corruption be sure that one or more buildings are getting sealed off and locked down. The big question now is why is there not a workable plan to make sure that these buildings do not deteriorate and that their economic value is maintained at least if not improved.

For example , the Federal Government had in its publication last year , showed that 22 farmlands and 182 completed buildings , are among non- cash recoveries made within May 2015 and last May 2017.
On Monday , August 7 , 2017 , there was a final forfeiture order from a Federal high Court , Lagos of a $37 .5 m ( N 11 . 75 bn ) property on Banana Island , Ikoyi , Lagos which was alleged to be the property of a former Minister of Petroleum Resources .
The Federal High Court Lagos also ordered the temporary forfeiture of a landed property belonging to the minister valued at N325 , 400 ,000 , to the Federal Government of Nigeria . The vacant plot of land is said to be situate at Plot 13 , Block 11, Oniru Chieftaincy Family Private Estate, Lekki, Lagos.

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Also Federal High Court , Lagos on April 24 , 2018 ordered the temporary forfeiture of a 12 -storey building at 27 , Marine Road , Apapa belonging to a serving senator over an alleged contract scam of N 1. 5 billion . The list goes on and on.

Currently people have their various opinion on the maintenance and management of these properties, assets, and facilities. A school of thought is that the EFCC Act 2004 gives the commission the power to attach or seize as explicitly provided for in Sections 24 , 28 of the EFCC Act.
Section 30 ( 1 ) of the same act provides that , a copy of every final order forfeiting the asset and property of person convicted under this Act shall be forwarded to the Commission and Section 30 ( 2) has it that once there is a receipt of final order in accordance to this section , the Secretary to the commission shall take steps to dispose of the property concerned either by sale or any other means and if the property is sold , the proceeds should be paid into the Consolidation Revenue fund of the country.
The reason is to ensure that the value of real estate is preserved and to make sure that , the assets are made available to the suspect if in the end there was no final forfeiture order on the property by the court.

Eyebrows were raised and people’s interest was sparked more concerning the management of the properties when the Chairman of Panic Alert Security System ([ PASS) , Dr. George Uboh accused former Executive Chairman of EFCC, Mr . Ibrahim Lamorde of obvious hiding of the details of the unsold properties forfeited by both Tafa Balogun and DSP Alamieyeseigha even though it was clear that he had been receiving rent revenues from some estate agents on the same properties.
Uboh said that for instance Etudo & Co . estate agents aggregate N 185 ,663 ,336 .62 in Access Bank as follows: 28 / 3 / 2012 ( N 70 , 655 ,872 .47 ) , 13 / 9/ 2012 ( N 99 , 083 ,241 .75 ) and 6 / 3 / 2012 ( N 15 , 944 ,222 .40 ).
EFCC however denied those allegations, saying that Etudo & Co . has never served as EFCC asset manager on any of the properties forfeited either by Tafa Balogun or DSP Alamieyeseigha . They went on to say that the rent proceeds , which date of payment and total sums were cited by George Uboh , were infact payments by Etude & Co from the management of forfeited properties of suspects under investigation that were not Tafa Balogun or DSP Alamieyeseigha.

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In the light of all these events, the Nigerian Institution of Estate Surveyors and Valuers ( NIESV ) has requested that the federal government stop the practice of allowing the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission ( EFCC) to be in charge of the management of properties that were seized from corrupt Nigerians .
The government was further asked to create a National Property Management Agency that will have the sole duty of managing and taking care of all the properties and assets seized by the EFCC to make sure that there is proper accountability and transparency.

According to NIESV , the EFCC should not be allowed to over see the management of properties that were seized from people under investigation for corrupt practices.
Olorogun James Omeru voiced his opinion during the 46 th annual national conference of the NIEVS in Abuja.
He emphasized the fact that for Nigeria to attain a reasonable level of transparency and accountability in the management and maintenance of properties and assets seized from corrupt public officials , the anti- corruption agencies such as the EFCC and ICPC should not be put in control of those properties. The reason for his view is not far fetched, as the reason he gave was that due to the fact that there was no form of check and balance or a system in place to ascertain the level of accountability of these agencies it is not a wise move to place all that power on a single agency. He said that it is just like moving around in circles achieving absolutely nothing if not further encouraging the same corruption that was sought to be eradicated.

Other members of NIESV were equally of the same view as they stressed on the fact that Nigerians deserve accountability.
The former chairman of the Estate Surveyors and Valuers Registration Board of Nigeria , ( ESVARBON ) Elder William Odudu, made it clear that Nigeria is losing millions annually over the lack of management of the properties seized by the EFCC. He used Savannah bank in Lagos and other buildings in Benin , Kaduna and Abuja as examples of how these buildings that should have been yielding a lot of money for the country is allowed to deteriorate and be of no use. The same goes to AMCON . They also seal off and place properties under lock and key until it is good for nothing.
Elder Odudu also made it clear that the situation is worse in the rural areas.

EFCC made it known sometime last year that they want to appoint surveyors to oversee the management and maintenance of some of these properties but the sad fact is that nothing more has been done about it till date.
Legal experts at a National Stakeholders Workshop on Recovery and Management of Recovered Assets , planned by the Presidential Advisory Committee on Corruption ( PACAC ) , equally agreed that the practice of sealing off and locking down properties without maintainance and management and little or no accountability about the ones sold is a waste of resources and distracts these anti corruption agencies from their main aim which is to fight corruption.
They wanted the enactment of a law , which would avail a centralised administrative agency to take care of recovered assets . Until the law is passed, they suggested that a multi -disciplinary Central Assets Management Committee should be established to effectively and properly over see and manage the recovered assets.

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They said that it is essential for the government to have a record of all the seized properties and maintain a database that will include description of properties , suspected source of funding , history of properties , beneficiaries of the properties , information of cases surrounding the properties , classification of the assets as to whether they are perishable and non -perishable and also as the value of the properties .

PACAC Executive Secretary , Prof . Bolaji Owasanoye has also made it clear that the Federal Government has reached a conclusion to centralise the management of recovered stolen properties so as to have a system for continuous monitoring.
He said that the government has commenced an initiative to bring together government assets through the creation of an Assets Register .
Attempts to have the EFCC respond to this , was not successful as the spokesman of the agency, Wilson Uwajaren requested two days to respond. However, a week after that, he has refused to pick up his calls and blatantly ignored text messages sent to his mobile phone without even the courtesy of a reply.

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