By Musa Ilallah
Regardless of what arm-chair policy analysts, cynics, pessimists and even wailers from the blinded opposition will say, the PMB administration’s efforts to recover public stolen assets by politicians, public servants and their accomplices is yielding substantial fruitful landmark results. During his electioneering campaigns as APC’s Presidential flag bearer in 2015, Muhammadu Buhari had explained that one of his key priorities in office when elected will be to recover stolen assets of the country, Quite significant recoveries have been made by anti graft agencies like the EFCC, ICPC, SPIP and the Assets Management Company, AMCON among others.
It will not be out of place to put on record the tremendous support the Nigerian Judiciary has given in the current fight against corruption and assets recovery by the Buhari administration since he came on board in May 2015.
It is therefore not surprising when the Buhari Media Organisation, BMO threw its weight behind the judiciary for granting order for forfeiture of properties and monies believed to be proceeds of corruption. BMO felt duty bound to commend the Judiciary for its forthrightness in promptly deciding on cases of assets recovery brought before it expeditiously.
In the words of the BMO ‘‘the courts orders were clear signs of renewed vigour of the anti-graft crusade of President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration. ‘’The Judiciary also deserves commendation for aiding in the steps that would eventually lead to permanent forfeiture of top-of-the-range properties belonging to high profile politicians and public office holders to the Federal Government’’.
A Nigerian newspaper, The Sun recently reported that ‘FG uncovers fresh N3.2 trillion Abacha loot’. It further reported that Abacha’s loot must have exceeded the already established US $5billion.
The simple truth is that the spates of forfeitures are widely viewed as confirmation of Buhari’s readiness to intensify the fight against corruption and corrupt practices. Only recently, in an unprecedented move within 24 hours, Nigeria recorded a major boost in its war against corruption with three separate rulings by two Federal High Courts in Lagos and Abuja for the interim forfeiture of no fewer than 28 high-end properties.
It is on record that in one of the recent court rulings, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC secured a court order to hold on to two houses belonging to former Senate President, Bukola Saraki, located in high-brow Ikoyi in Lagos State. The property was said to have been acquired by Saraki while he was the governor of Kwara State with funds taken directly from government coffers. Another significant recovery was awarded by a another court also in Lagos which ordered the forfeiture of three landed properties belonging to Kola Aluko, an associate of former Minister of Petroleum Resources, Diezani Allison-Madueke which the EFCC valued it at N6.42 billion.
“The court also granted authority to the Muhammadu Buhari-led Federal Government to hold on to 23 properties in four states of the federation and the Federal Capital Territory belonging to the former Chairman of the Pension Reform Task Team, Abdulrasheed Maina.
The Acting Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, Ibrahim Magu during a session with the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Hon Femi Gbajabiamila in September 2019 reiterated the commitment of the Commission to the recovery of stolen assets for the development of the nation.
The EFCC boss who was unequivocal in pledging to recover Nigeria’s stolen funds hidden in different parts of the globe, said, “I am very committed to the recovery of stolen funds wherever they are located which should be utilised through budgetary system to remedy the harm the theft has caused all Nigerians”
While intimating the lawmakers on the recent achievements of the Commission in the fight against cyber fraud, especially the outcomes of EFCC’s collaboration with United States of America’s Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), Magu was quick to say that “the just concluded ‘Operation Rewired,’ resulted in the recovery of the sum of $169,850 as well as N92 million,” adding that lots of expensive cars and several plots of land were also recovered during the operation across Nigeria.
Other strategic recoveries by EFCC include the $40 million worth of jewellery owned by former Minister of Petroleum Resources, Diezani Alison-Madueke and forfeited to the federal government, stating that the EFCC will assist the government to ensure that there was effective utilization of recovered stolen funds.
In line with government’s commitment to maximise utilization of recoveries made so far, some forfeited properties have been allocated to government agencies in dire need of office accommodation while funds recovered are being judiciously used by the Buhari administration for the well being of all Nigerians.
Agencies that have benefitted from allocation of recovered assets include Voice of Nigeria, Pension Transitional Arrangement Directorate, North East Development Commission, National Social Investment Office and Fiscal Responsibility Commission among others.
Hon. Gbajabiamila in his remarks said the essence of the discussion was to see how public funds and assets recovered can help in relation to budget processes, accountability, transparency and how the country can be developed by putting the funds to better use.
Another landmark recent forfeiture ruling by an Abuja High Court presided over by Justice Okon Abang is the case of authority granted the Muhammadu Buhari-led Federal Government to hold on to 23 properties in four states and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) belonging to the former Chairman of the Pension Reform Task Team, Abdulrasheed Maina. An Assistant Director in the Federal Civil Service, Maina was mischievously believed to be seemingly untouchable since 2013, and whom President Buhari was alleged to be shielding from prosecution is now in custody and was last Friday dragged to court on a 12 count charge along with his son, Faisal.
It is very heart warming that the court orders are a clear sign of intent of more inter-government collaborative effort to retrieve and recover property illegally acquired with public funds for private purposes. It is therefore very encouraging that the PMB administration has raised the bar in the anti-corruption war and so deserves more support from Nigerians for the success of the crusade.
Nigerians therefore anxiously look forward to the speedy trial and subsequent sentencing of people found to have breached public trust for betraying that trust of using our commonwealth to acquire personal properties at the expense of taxpayers over the years. Nigerians must as a matter of necessity continuously support government to ensure that these individuals, no matter how highly placed, do not escape justice. What is also required is for the anti-graft agencies to live up to the confidence reposed in them by the Buhari administration to stand their feet and refused to be cowed by the might of the corrupt. They must do everything possible to write their names engraved in gold for posterity to acknowledge and remember their patriotism for life.
Ilallah wrote in via email@example.com,
EMEKA ANYAOKU STREET, ABUJA
The Nigerian press reported the Acting Chairman of Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, Ibrahim Magu, boasting that he had set a new record in asset recovery and conviction of corrupt elements in the country in the last three years of his stewardship of the EFCC..
In flaunting his achievements in office Magu announced that EFCC under his watch had recovered N794 billion, $261 million (about N77.8 billion), £1.
On its part, the Assets Management Company of Nigeria, AMCON which was established in 2010 by the federal government to buy bad debts from banks and ensure stability in the financial sector, recovered a total of N759 billion and properties worth more than N263.73billion from inception to December last year. AMCON’s liabilities as at today stand at N5.43trillion. The company had already entered into a working alliance with the Independent Corrupt Practices Commission, ICPC in its crusade to recover the huge debts hanging on its neck.
The breakdown released by Magu shows that 103 convictions in 2015, 194 convictions in 2016; 189 in 2017 and 217 from January 2018 till date were secured from the courts, adding that about 90 per cent of all recoveries in Nigeria came through the EFCC.
It is also on record that the EFCC had recovered hundreds of properties such as filling stations, petroleum products, plots of land, jewellery, automobiles, real estate, vessels, hospitals, company shares and heavy machinery and broadcast equipment belonging to corrupt elements between 2015 and 2018 while lots of land seized sums up to 98 of which 56 are under interim forfeiture, while 42 have been forfeited finally to the Federal Government and Two hundred and fifty nine automobiles have been seized, 35 are under interim forfeiture while 224 have been forfeited finally.
In its determination to recover assets looted from the commonwealth of the public, the EFCC had resolved to go after top Nigerian contractors who collected huge sums of money from the government and its agencies for key projects and services but abandoned those projects and disappeared into thin air. The commission was on the trail of top Nigerians who looted public treasury to acquire choice properties in Dubai and other world capitals, and are presently desperately trying to dispose of such properties so as to evade arrests, prosecutions and forfeitures by the EFCC.
Let us not forget the infamous OML 245 scam, otherwise known as Malabu Oil racket which Magu disclosed that in an effort to nail the perpetrators of the scam, some Italian prosecutors would be arriving Nigeria very soon to compare notes with the EFCC on the matter, adding that the high profiled suspects in the controversial fraud would face the full wrath of the law.
The Special Presidential Investigation Panel for the recovery of public property, SPIP, now defunct and headed by Okoi Obono Obla had also made some recoveries in the course of its assignment.
It has recovered N1.36 billion and $10.29 million belonging to Nigerian Export and Import (NEXIM) Bank. The funds were recovered from Heritage Bank. The recovered funds as part of refund of money illegally placed in fixed deposit by previous management of NEXIM Bank at Heritage Bank.
Upon maturity of the fixed deposit term, however, Heritage Bank failed to return both the capital and accrued interest which cumulatively stands at over 20 million dollars to NEXIM Bank.
The over N1.36 billion, on the other hand, is a refund Heritage Bank is making on behalf of Paytech Technology Limited, for which the bank had provided crystallised bank guarantee, on a loan Paytech took from NEXIM Bank that Paytech failed to pay back.
“These figures are cumulative refunds Heritage Bank has been making to NEXIM Bank since 2017 following the intervention and investigation by the Presidential Panel.
“The Panel found the bank culpable and caused it to refund its indebtedness to NEXIM Bank.
Also the Special Presidential Investigation Panel for Recovery of Public Property, has started investigation into the ownership of some offshore companies allegedly linked to a former President of the Senate, Senator David Mark who owns 20 companies in British Virgin Island and other tax heavens.
It will therefore not out of place to say that the introduction in 2017 of the Integrated Payroll and Personnel Information System, IPPIS has resulted in saving more than N230 billion that would have been stolen by government official through fictitious payment of salaries and pensions.
So far, so good, the recovery of stolen assets in Nigeria is yielding results though not without some hiccups from looters and operational procedures. Generally, it is one’s hope and prayer that the end will justify the means. And Nigerian will be the full beneficiaries of the recoveries so far. Under President Buhari, no one doubts accountability and transparency in the recovery and usage of all looted funds and properties.
Ilallah wrote in via firstname.lastname@example.org,
EMEKA ANYAOKU STREET, ABUJA