By Vivian Okejeme Abuja
Senator David Mark, the immediate past Senate President, yesterday, told Justice Kolawole of the federal high court, Abuja, why he dragged the Special Presidential Investigation Panel for the Recovery of Public Property before the court.
The Senator representing Benue South Senatorial zone in the National Assembly, is being accused of illegally acquiring the property with the approval of former President Goodluck Jonathan despite that such property was excluded from the monetisation policy of the Federal Government.
Federal Government, through the Special Presidential Investigation Panel for the Recovery of Public Property, gave Mark a 21-day ultimatum to vacate the edifice.
The Chairman of the Presidential panel, Chief Okoi Ogbono Obla, had in the notice to quit, directed Mark to “show cause” why the FG should not “enforce the recovery of the property for public good.”
The residence in questioned is located on 1.6 hectares of land at No. 1 Musa Usman Street, (also known as No. 1 Chuba Okadigbo Street), Apo Legislative Quarters, Gudu, Abuja.
The property comprises eight structures, made up of the main house, ADC/chief security detail’s house, guest chalet, security/generator house, boys quarters, security post, driver/servants’ quarters and chapel.
While reacting through his media aide Paul Mumeh, the senator contended that the agents of the Federal Government unilaterally, and without affording him any right to fair hearing at all, and without any order of any court, declared his acquisition of the said property illegal.
He said, “the property was duly offered for, and purchased like any other person would in line with the Federal Government’s Monetization Policy that was started during the time of President Olusegun Obasanjo.
“The former Senate President had the right of first refusal. Even if he did not purchase it, someone else would have.
Mumeh insisted that Mark legally acquired his official residence as his private house having followed due process.
In the suit, Senator was said to be occupying the said property in 2010 when the Federal Capital Territory Administration decided to construct new official residences for the leadership of the National Assembly, “citing security concerns”.
It was stated the FCTA had insisted that the reserve price of N673,200,000.00 reflected the open market value of the property.
Mark had averred that the valuers of the FCT that inspected and carried out a valuation of the property had put the “replacement cost” of the property at N492,700,000.
The documents showed that Mark duly accepted the offer on April 21, 2011 and paid the “agreed purchase price to the Ad hoc Committee on Sale of FGN Houses” on April 27, 2011.
Surprisingly, the Senator stated that on October 9, 2017, he was served a letter of investigation activities dated September 5, 2017, by the Okono-Obla-led panel.
By the suit, Mark is seeking an order restraining the panel from taking any steps or action aimed at evicting him from the mansion.
The Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, and Obono-Obla are joined as respondents in the suit.
The Senator’s suit filed on his behalf by Ken Ikonne, is marked FHC/ABJ/CS/1037/2017.
Among other prayers, Mark is seeking an order of “perpetual injunction restraining the defendants, jointly and severally” or through any agent “from evicting the plaintiff from the said property, or recovering same from him.”
He wants “A declaration that the unilateral declaration by the defendants that the plaintiff’s acquisition” of the property “is illegal and the order compelling the plaintiff to vacate the aforesaid property” without affording him “a hearing,” amounted to a denial of his “fundamental rights to fair hearing and property, and are therefore unconstitutional and void.”
Further more, Mark is seeking a declaration that “the service by the defendants on the plaintiff of the Notice to Declare His Assets (Form A) and the Assets Declaration Form B is unconstitutional and thus void.”
He also wants “an order quashing” the defendants’ declaration of his acquisition of the aforesaid property as illegal.
In addition, the plaintiff is praying for an order “quashing the directive of the defendants” compelling him to vacate the aforesaid property.”
In the same vern, , he is praying the court for an order “quashing the Notice to Declare Assets Form A and the Assets Declaration Form B” served on him.