A Presidential Panel has revealed that over 400 names of past and present public servants linked to ownership of suspicious property in Maitama district of the Federal Capital Territory are under investigation.
Special Assistant to the President on Prosecutions and Head of Special Investigation Panel for Recovery of Public Property, Mr Okoi Obono-Obla, made this known in Abuja at the official launch of Property Tracka platform, an initiative of the Africa Network for Environment and Economic Justice (ANEEJ).
He said the fight against corruption by the current administration of President Muhammadu Buhari was total and that public officers have to be engaged on how they acquire their wealth.
He insisted that there was nothing unconstitutional about the Executive Order 6 recently signed by the President, saying anybody who has not stolen money to acquire assets should not be jittery by the executive order.
He said the Panel is also investigating public office holders who have assets outside the country, saying United Kingdom has been very cooperative in this regard.
Obono-Obla stated that the new law activated in UK, “Unexplained Wealth Order” has strengthened the effort of the Panel to recover stolen assets in the country in cash and landed property.
“Thank God there is a law in UK that has strengthened our hands. The law is known as Unexplained Wealth Order. That law says if you have property that is above 50 thousand pounds, you have to explain where you made the money to acquire that property.
“We have Nigerians who have properties in London, landed property, worth 20 million pounds. One of them I am investigating was a Group General Manager of NNPC who has a piece of property in London worth over 800 thousand pounds,” he said.
He commended the Executive Director of ANEEJ, Reverend David Ugolor, for partnering with the Nigerian government in tackling corruption through improving transparency in property ownership.
Obono-Obla, said: “Fighting corruption should not be responsibility of President Muhammadu Buhari alone. It should be the responsibility of everyone, National Assembly, the civil society, because this country has suffered tremendously because of corruption.
“I have already 400 names of some past and present public office holders who have property in Maitama district alone in my data that we are investigating and I will make them available to you.
“All of us have the duty to ask some Nigerians mostly present and past public office holders, some of them with massive estates, let them come and tell us how they make the money.
“For instance, if I earn less than N7 million a year, and at the end of my tenure I have property that is more than N200 million or one billion Naira, you must find out how I make my money. It cannot be from my legitimate earnings.
He further stated that, “Most of these people who have properties in Maitama and Asokoro are public servants, earning less than N2 million a year. Where do they get the money? If they cannot explained where they made the money from, it means that it’s a proceed of corruption.
“That is the question we have not been asking. We have to engage our public officers. They must tell us where they make their money from to build massive estates all over Abuja.
“The money they would have used to invest in our schools, social infrastructure and so on are siphoned to build massive estates nobody is living all over Abuja.”
He recalled how a High Court of the Federal Capital Territory in Apo, Abuja, recently ordered temporary forfeiture of 86 luxury vehicles, together with four houses and a quarry plant in Abuja, belonging to a civil servant.
The luxury vehicles were allegedly seized from the Director of Finance and Account in the Federal Ministry of Power, Works and Housing.
He noted that all the 86 exotic vehicles were brand new and that 23 of them were armoured plated, insisting that there was no evidence that the National Security Adviser authorized him to import the vehicles.
He said: “We first wrote to the Accountant General of the Federation to give us how much this director has earned from 2007 and 2017 and they gave us the figure that the man has earned about N30 million.
“But this man has 86 vehicles. I am not talking about toy vehicles, we are talking about exotic vehicles and 23 of them were armoured plated X Class Mercedes 200. One of those vehicles is going for about N250 million and we had Jaguar and so on.
“The vehicles where warehoused in Jabbi and we went there we saw the vehicles, brand new vehicles. There was no evidence of payment of import duties; there was no evidence that he was given authority by the National Security Adviser to bring them into the country.
“So, if he had earned N30 million in those years, where did he get the money to buy those vehicles. It means the money must have come from the treasury of Nigeria.
“There was evidence that he had other properties in Nigeria and abroad. All these assets have been seized from him. That is the only way we can stop public officers from stealing; when you take over their assets and that is why some people are very uncomfortable with the Executive Order issued by Mr President.
“I am happy that you are working towards that line, in order to track down these properties illegally acquired,” he said.
He said there is chronic and scandalous poverty in the country because of corruption, saying those entrusted with the responsibility of running the country were selfish and self-centred.
Obono-Obla said the country has tremendous resources that could take care of everybody but said most public officers were not interested in the general welfare of the people.