Nigerian political office holders and their fronts with access to free state funds have come to be associated with irrational acquisition of properties they hardly inhabit, in and outside the country. “A large number of mansions in the most exclusive areas of London are owned by Nigerians”, the bemused British media once declared. As if to corroborate this claim, Kolapo Olapoju in a recent write up claimed ‘Google Earth virtual tour revealed that two Nigerians, James Ibori and Cecelia Ibru were among the world’s ‘six most notorious for acquiring valuable properties with stolen funds and corrupt means’. They are in ignoble league of Muammar Gaddafi, Mobutu Sese Seko, Imelda Marcos, and Teodorin Obiang, the son of President Obiang of Equatorial Guinea.
It is hard to controvert such claim when one for instance is confronted with the fact that an incredible 103 properties in the United States, Nigeria, South Africa, Dubai and London were in 2009 seized from Cecilia Ibru, the former Managing Director of Oceanic Bank PLC who was also sentenced to six months in prison for fraud and ordered to hand over $1.2 billion in cash and assets; or when James Ibori, described by his London Prosecutor, Sasha Wass as “a thief in government house”, was credited with a fleet of cars such as armoured Range Rovers costing £600,000, £120,000 Bentley, £300,000 Mercedes Benz and six properties in London, including a six-bedroom house with indoor pool in Hampstead at a cost of £2.2million and a flat opposite the nearby Abbey Road recording studios.
And while we raged against David Cameron for describing our nation as ‘a fantastically corrupt country’, we were confronted with a UK Daily Mail’s publication of mansions owned by Nigerians in London which it described as “palaces of corruption”. This was followed by the report of Global Coalition Against Corruption that claimed “about 57 other Nigerians including Diepreye Alamieyeseigha, Joshua Dariye, the late Abubakar Audu, Chimaroke Nnamani, Lucky Igbinedion, Diezani Alison-Madueke and 13 ex-governors on trial for financial crimes, some former ministers either on trial or under investigation, some indicted top bankers’ may forfeit their foreign assets”.
Back home, EFCC in January this year announced the seizure of N10b properties owned by Alex Badeh just as it claimed it traced another $2.8m properties owned by his daughter to the US. In June, EFCC announced the seizure of 29 properties including an N980m shopping plaza, a N450m residential mansion, a N710m executive mansion and anotherN720m four-unit terrace in choice areas of Abuja from three ex-Air Force chiefs – Air Marshal Adesola Amosu; Air vice Marshal Jacob Adigun (retd.); and Air Commodore Olugbenga Gbadebo (retd.). EFCC followed with the announcement of the seizure of Fayose’s N1.35bn properties made up of four duplexes on Victoria Island in Lagos State and Maitama, Abuja. This was soon followed by EFCC’s seizure of four houses worth N872 million from a former Minister of the Federal Capital Territory, Sen. Bala Mohammed, and three duplexes costing about N222 million in the Apo Area of Abuja from Shamsudeen Bala, his son.
Although not a few Nigerians are outraged by EFCC scandalous revelations, they nonetheless merely exemplify the depth of rot in Abuja where there is hardly any minister, governor or a lawmaker who served between 1999 and 2016 who do not own a mansion, an hotel, an estate, a shopping plaza or a farm. We may therefore not in all conscience say that those EFCC has fingered are any more guilty than ministers and lawmakers who deployed proceeds of budget padding or unimplemented constituency projects towards acquisition of choice properties in Abuja .
Although because of the slow pace at which the wheel of justice grinds in our nation, (apology to ex President Jonathan) and since in the name of democracy, the law crafted by the political elite does not allow us question the source of new found wealth of political office holders who yesterday could only afford a modest bungalow after a life long struggle or those who had nothing before becoming lawmakers in their thirties, but within four years tour of duty became transformed into proud owners of multibillion Abuja mansions, I don’t think government is totally helpless.
Here again, APC government is not being called upon to invent the wheel. All they have to do is borrow a leaf from the enlightened British political elite from whom we copied the liberal democratic process. Precisely because they understand that the well-being of the poor and the disadvantaged is the only safeguard for the safety of the leisured class who have taken more than their proportionate share of their nation’s resources, properties owned by the latter (including mansions bought by Nigerians with stolen funds) are heavily taxed. The tax returns are thereafter channeled into building of Council flats for low income earners in all the counties. The Local Council officials collect rent with which the council flats are maintained. And where some cannot afford the heavily subsidised rents in the council flats, government come to their aid and even provide food to ensure no one is without roof over his head or go to bed without food. They know this is the only way the rich can live in peace.
With the rejection of the above tested path by an unenlightened Nigerian political elite headed by Obasanjo, Jonathan and their greedy lawmakers who preferred to confiscate land and properties they held in trust for the poor between 1999 and 2015, what is expected of government of change is a new beginning, starting with the path never taken. It was for this reason Nigerians voted for change. Nigerians are opposed to lawmakers expending taxpayers’ money of SUV toys. Nigerians who saw the immediate past British Prime Minister, David Cameron drive out of 10 Downing Street after six years in office in his small personal car with his family are not asking for too much. But what they got in contrast under a government of change is a lawmaker Abdulmumin Jibrin, 39 who came out of thirty something million naira SUV Landcruiser and walked with a swagger to Abuja EFCC’s office to lodge complaints about alleged budget padding by 13 of his colleagues.
Nigerians expect Buhari and APC to set a new tone. The mood of Nigerians after 16 years of Obasanjo and his PDP profligacy is that lawmakers who cannot ride assembled in Nigeria Peugeot vehicle as official cars should trek. Nigerians who voted for change expect cash-strapped Buhari and his APC government to take the census of property owners in Maitama and Asokoro areas of Abuja for the purpose of taxing the idle parasitic owners in order to bring relief to thousands without homes in Abuja without whose contributions the city decays. And finally the mood of Nigerians who voted for change is for APC government to copy the prevailing law of inheritance in a welfare state like Britain that allows imposition of taxes or outright confiscation of properties of idle children of fraudulent fathers who in their twenties and without visible source of income inhabit N300m mansions in Abuja.
I think beyond blackmail, Buhari and APC have nothing to fear. If the push comes to shove, politicians who have defrauded their states as governors, the nation through budget padding which dates back to 1999 or their constituencies through unexecuted projects may be asked to explain the sources for the funding of their multi-billion Abuja properties.
Source: The Nation