■ We’ll investigate them – Presidency
Influential ministers and aides of former President Goodluck Jonathan were among those who allegedly shared over 500 Federal Government houses located in high brow areas of Abuja and Lagos as parting gifts from the immediate past administration.
Beside the influential ministers and top presidential aides, heads of some powerful federal agencies like the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) and the armed forces as well as top military officers are also beneficiaries of the last minute largesse of the Jonathan’s administration, as documents sighted in the office of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF) have revealed.
Curiously, most of the beneficiaries have one common feature; the allocation of the houses to them was not done in their individual names but in the names of front-companies and/or faceless companies.
Another interesting development is that with the decision of President Muhammadu Buhari to probe the Jonathan administration with a view to recovering billions of public funds and assets illegally taken by top officials of the immediate past government, many of the beneficiaries of the last minute sharing of public assets have abandoned the properties, most of which are now under lock and key and overgrown with weeds while others have refused to pay for the properties to avoid losing their money in the event that the Buhari government choses to revoke the sales.
A source in the SGF office told Saturday Sun that properties whose owners are now scared to take possession of them are scattered all over Asokoro and Maitama areas of Abuja as well as Ikeja GRA, Ikoyi, Victoria Island and Apapa areas of Lagos.
Investigations by Saturday Sun revealed that the abandoned properties are more in Lagos. They litter Emotan road, Apapa GRA; Liverpool road, Apapa, Marine road, Apapa; Park lane and Child avenue, both also in Apapa. In Ikoyi, they are located at Oyinkan Abayomi (Former Queen’s Drive) and Bourdillion road where the EFCC boss, Ibrahim Lamorde has his allocation; a mansion and two bungalows on a large expanse of land.
It was also gathered that while some of the former ministers and presidential aides have their allocations in Abuja, top military officers and some heads of government agencies have theirs in Lagos. Further investigations show that the former ministers, presidential aides and Heads of Departments and Agencies were allocated Guest Houses and other buildings owned by their MDAs at ridiculous prices.
The source, who is a top official of the SGF office, however, told Saturday Sun that most of the houses were abandoned because “the owners are obviously looking for private sector individuals that can buy them as many of them didn’t really get the allocations to live in the houses, they only want to sell them off and make profit.”
When asked why the allocations were done in the names of companies rather than the names of the actual beneficiaries, the top official said: “Most of the owners got the houses while still in government and they wouldn’t like to disclose such huge assets in their assets declaration forms with the Code of Conduct Bureau because of the questions on the source of the funds used to pay for such. We’re only the ones who knows who owns what but if you follow the table of allocations, you will only find names of companies as beneficiaries.”
The source, however, exonerated the committee in charge of the houses which is directly in charge of some of the sales of any complicity, adding: “Decisions and approvals more often than not, come from the Presidency.”
“The committee also has no control over which name will be used for the purpose of allocation and what such beneficiaries do with the properties afterwards”, the official added.
Beside the sales done by the committee, it was also learnt that some public institutions like the NNPC, PHCN, NPA and CBN handled the sales of some of their properties based on approval from the Presidency. It was said that some of the controversial sales could have been done by the ministries and agencies that have presidential approval to dispose of their own assets.
Another source in the Ministry of Lands and Housing however said that the number of houses allocated was far lower than 500. The source, who is an official of the ministry, disclosed: “It is true that some requests for allocation came towards the end of the last administration but the real allocation was tactically delayed by some officials to avoid running into trouble with the then in-coming Buhari administration.”
Reacting on behalf of the Chairman of Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), the commission’s spokesman, Mr. Wilson Uwujaren said he was not at liberty to comment.
Although he did not deny the claims, he insisted on sighting the document wherein Lamorde was named as one of the beneficiaries. He maintained that his reaction would be based on what the document alleged, rather than reacting in a vacuum.
He further insisted that the claims could have emanated from anybody who might be out to smear the image of the EFCC chairman.
“I cannot just react to your claims. At least, it is only fair that I see the document you are relying on. I need to study the contents of the document and then react accordingly. You know too well that anybody can make such a weighty allegation just to smear the image of the chairman of EFCC,” Uwujaren added.
But the presidency in its reaction vowed to investigate the development. Special Adviser to the president on Media and Publicity, Mr Femi Adesina said the Buhari administration “will investigate such deals.”
President Buhari has said he will not extend his corruption probe beyond the administration of former President Goodluck Jonathan.
The President had said during his recent visit to the US that he would arrest and prosecute past ministers and other officials who stole Nigeria’s oil and diverted government’s money into personal accounts.
But the President’s Special Adviser on Media and Publicity, Femi Adesina, said the President will limit his anti-corruption war to the immediate past administration.
He said even before he was inaugurated on May 29, the President had categorically stated that he would not extend his corruption probe beyond the Jonathan government.
“If you recall, that was already settled before he got inaugurated as President. He has said he will not waste time digging into the far past,” Adesina said.
“The far past will include Obasanjo and others. But the President has said he will not waste time to go that far.”
Before leaving office, Jonathan had said any probe by the new government would be seen as a “witch-hunt” if it fails to go beyond his administration.