ICPC Recovers Over 300 Houses From Two Government Officials

ICPC Partners OAGF, BPP To Prevent Corruption In MDAs
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The Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC) says it recently recovered over 300 houses from two civil servants in the nation’s capital, Abuja.

Making the disclosure on Thursday, the Chairman of the ICPC, Professor Bolaji Owasanoye, went on to expose how real estate is often used as cover for money laundering and Illicit Financial Flows (IFFs).

Owasanoye, who spoke at a public hearing on real estate organized by the House of Representatives Ad-Hoc Committee on Investigation of Operations of Real Estate Developers in FCT, Abuja, also stated that public officers use real estate developers as conduits for IFFs.

He said: “Corrupt public officers use real estate investment as a vehicle for hiding ill-gotten wealth and money laundering. Public officers acquire estates in pseudo names to conceal the illegal origin of funds.

“This is made possible by the absence of proper documentation and registration of titles to lands and estates in the country and non-enforcement of beneficial ownership standards.”

“The Commission has a case in which we recovered 241 houses from a public officer and another one with 60 buildings on a large expanse of land,” he added.

“Corruption in real estate aids illicit financial flows. The real estate sector is globally recognized as attractive to IFFs largely because it is informal, unregulated, and thus open to abuse, shell-companies, use of intermediaries and third parties to acquire high-value real estate with proceeds of crime and/or illicit funds,” the ICPC boss further explained.

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The ICPC leader told the committee of efforts to sanitize the real estate sector which has resulted in the recovery of monies and properties for the government.

He said: “ICPC continued with an exercise started by the defunct SPIP and concluded it from which recovery of a total sum of N53,968,158,974.64 was made.

“The figure comprises of N858,938,681,681.06 fully recovered and paid into FMBN account; N1,357,490,846.28 post-dated cheque for October 2021 and a notarized agreement to pay the sum of N51,751,729,447.30 to the FMBN, “Owasanoye explained.

Speaking further on the need for strict government regulation of the sector, Owasanoye noted that irregularities bordering on forgery and cloning of land documents, double/multiple land allocations, allocations of lands without the minister’s approval, and revocation of land titles without due process have become rampant.

He observed that even real estate developers were not spared of problems in the sector arising from the high cost of home acquisition, unstable capital market, currency volatility, increased rural-to-urban migration, ineffective property protection laws, perceived multiple taxations, and poor building quality.

He further stressed that while some of these challenges of real estate may be tackled by legislative and executive laws and policies, others were strictly based on the interplay of economic forces.

No Pretense

Owasanoye informed the committee that an investigation by ICPC had shown how the Real Estate Developers Association of Nigeria (REDAN) fraudulently short-changed prospective house owners.

“The commission conducted a System Study and Review of Mass Housing delivery in the FCT in 2010/2011 wherein it was discovered that members of the Real Estate Developers Association of Nigeria (REDAN), who had been allocated huge plots of land for mass housing development in the FCT, failed in the delivery of infrastructure to the project sites and rather resorted to offering and selling the estate plots to the highest bidder contrary to the policy. These abuses were hardly sanctioned by the FCDA,” he noted.

“The estates end up being the exclusive preserve of the rich in society. The consequent pressure on low and middle-income earners is a push factor for public sector corruption as public servants subvert processes, policies, and abuse of office for private gain in order to meet the desire for decent housing.”

He called for strict government regulation and an inclusive mass housing policy saying, “we cannot continue to pretend that all is well with the sector while the economy groans and our teeming populace suffers lack of affordable housing while shylocks and criminals perpetrate their evil intents unchecked.”

The Speaker of the House of Representative, Rt. Hon. Femi Gbajabiamila, who declared the public hearing open, called on the government to protect prospective homeowners from fraudulent real estate developers.

Gbajabiamila, who was represented by the Majority Leader, Hon. Alhassan Ado Dogowa, added that it was the responsibility of lawmakers to make good legislation to ensure that hardworking Nigerians do not lose their monies to fraudulent developers.

Earlier, the Chairman of the committee, Hon. Blessing Onyeche Onuh said the provision of affordable housing was critical to the government and the people and cannot be left unregulated.

She restated that the committee was set up to correct the growing anomalies in the sector and stop real estate developers from taking advantage of prospective homeowners through fraudulent housing schemes.

The Minister of the Federal Capital Territory Administration (FCTA) Muhammed Bello, in his remark, noted that the government was working towards reducing the housing deficits.

He added that the FCTA was collaborating with other agencies including ICPC to reposition the housing sector which has started yielding results.

Lagos Confiscates Houses Used For Fraud

A file photo of Lagos state Governor, Babajide Sanwo-Olu.
A file photo of Lagos state Governor, Babajide Sanwo-Olu

 

The Lagos State Government on Tuesday said it has confiscated two houses discovered to be used in defrauding residents in the state.

The Special Adviser to the Governor on Housing, Mrs. Toke Benson Awoyinka, revealed this at a press briefing to commemorate the first year of the Babajide Sanwo-Olu administration in the state

She said the government has resolved to take strong measures to stop developers or agents from defrauding members of the public and therefore anyone caught in the act would be prosecuted.

Benson, who is also in charge of the Lagos State Real Estate Transaction Department (LASRETRAD), said her office is currently prosecuting a developer who duped members of the public in the Ketu area, and also another developer who defrauded people in the Mafoluku area.

She said the government has also seized their properties and her office is working on how to sell the properties. According to her, the proceeds from the sale would be used to settle the defrauded members of the public.

She, however, appealed to members of the public to always patronize agents and developers who are registered with her agency.

Awoyinka said: “We have successfully reviewed the Lagos State Estate Agency Regulatory Law, Cap L28, Laws of Lagos State, 2015 (“Law”) presently in operation in the state, which provides for the establishment of the Lagos State Real Estate Regulatory Authority.

“The essence of this Law is to regulate real estate transactions in Lagos State by identifying persons eligible to be licensed as Real Estate Practitioners and providing for the issuance or renewal of annual permits.”

She pointed out that the authority has the responsibility to maintain a register of Licensed Real Estate Practitioners and the sanctioning of unlicensed Estate Agents in the state.

“There is a need to sanitize Real Estate transactions in Lagos State. In achieving this, the state must have a data-base of persons dealing in Real Estate Transactions for it to control their activities.

“Thus, the state must amend the Law to reflect its efforts in monitoring the transactions of real estate in a way that is proactive so as to protect its citizens and rid the State of fraudsters,” she added.

Anambra Police Tour Prisons And Motherless Babies’ Homes

Anambra policeThe Police in Anambra State have vowed to prove their friendliness with a visit to the prison and some Motherless babies homes in the state, to contribute towards their upkeep and welfare.

The Deputy Commissioner of Police, Mr. Fimihan Adeoye, who led the charity delegation, said that the idea to extend love to the less privileged and prisoners is borne out of the need to put smiles on their faces and help strengthen their confidence that they are not abandoned.

It was also done to foster community policing as it is not only about crimes and arresting criminals.

The Police delegation first visited the Awka Prison with food items and provision where the Prisons Deputy Comptroller, Matthew Kalu, was on hand to receive the guests.

From the Prisons, the charity delegation headed for Tender Love Motherless Babies Home in Amenyi, Awka where they also presented food items and provisions for the upkeep of the children.

The Deputy Commissioner called on other well meaning people of the state to support these groups of people in the society, as it will not only improve their living condition, but will create a sense of belonging in them.

The visit also afforded them the opportunity to interact with the children and the caregivers to find out what their needs and challenges were.

Visiting Model Community Children’s Home and Day Care Center at Real Estate, Awka, owned by the state government, the children were also presented with food items.

The Coordinator of the Center expressed appreciation to the Police for their presence of mind for the less privileged.

EFCC Arrests Former Bayelsa Governor; Timipre Sylva In Abuja

The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, on Wednesday arrested the former governor of Bayelsa State, Timipre Sylva.

A statement signed by EFCC’s Acting Head of Media and Publicity, Wilson Uwujaren, said the former governor was “picked up at his Abuja home, at No. 3, Niger Street, Maitama” by the EFCC officials who stormed the former governor’s home at about 10.00 am.

According to the statement, the embattled governor was discovered in the house where he was “hiding in a dingy corner in the upper chamber of his expansive mansion.”

“On arrival at the facility at about 10.00 am, the Commission’s operatives were told that the ex-governor was not in town but they insisted on conducting a search on the house having obtained a warrant from the court.”

“During the search, vital documents were obtained. Ironically, the ex-governor who was said to be out of town was later found hiding in a dingy corner in the upper chamber of his expansive mansion” the statement claimed.

He was immediately whisked away and is currently being interrogated at the Abuja headquarters of the anti- graft agency.

According to EFCC Mr Sylva is “being grilled in connection with fresh evidence linking him with a bouquet of fraudulent transactions that borders on money laundering. Part of the new evidence includes a number of eye-popping real estate acquisitions in Abuja.”

The anti-graft agency further explains that the arrest of the former governor is sequel to his refusal to honour invitations and purported lies by his attorney that he was ill in Lagos, whilst he was in residence in Abuja.

“Rather than appear before the EFCC, he got his lawyers to inform the Commission that he was unable to appear because he was sick, and hospitalised in Lagos. The lawyer had promised to appear with his client on May 7, 2013 but failed to do so.”

The agency also released a number of distraught pictures of Mr Sylva following his arrest from his alleged hiding place.

The commission warned that it will no longer tolerate the antics of suspects who treat its invitation with levity.

 The embattled governor is standing trial on a six-count money laundering charges and embezzling over N6billion of Bayels state funds whilst in office.  

Sylva recently denied allegations that he is hiding from the EFCC after an Abuja High court granted the commission permission to paste the six-count money laundering charges at the front gate of his Abuja residence.

The governor in a statement by his media aide, Doifie Ola, stated that the governor was not hiding but keeping a low profile because he does not want his security compromised.