Thursday, August 1, 2013

Nigeria: Where Are the Seized Assets?

The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission should account for, and dispose of seized assets
The House of Representatives last week directed its Committee on Drugs, Narcotics and Financial Crimes to initiate a probe of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) with a view to accounting for all the assets the commission has seized from suspects it investigated since its inception in 2004.

The decision of the House followed a motion sponsored by Hon. Toby Okechukwu and 15 others who expressed the need for proper management of the seized assets. Okechukwu told the House that the EFCC had between 2004 and 2010 confiscated over 200 mansions through 46 forfeiture by court orders. The seized items include landed property, business concerns, billions of Naira in bank accounts, shares in blue chip companies, exotic vehicles, fuel stations, hotels, warehouses, shopping malls, schools, bakeries, estates, telecommunication companies, and radio stations, in and outside Nigeria.

The House move is indeed a welcome development in view of the unusual secrecy that has enveloped seized assets of accused and convicted persons in custody of the EFCC from its inception to date. In the United States of America where "confiscation" or "forfeiture" of assets was first adopted as part of the government's war against drug barons, property and bank accounts of suspected narcotics lords can be frozen or seized without a court judgment. All that was required is a "reasonable ground" to prove that the assets in question are indeed traceable to the drug baron. In fact this method of fighting crime has become popular in many countries including Britain, Italy and South Africa.

That explains why when the EFCC adopted the asset seizure at its inception about a decade ago it was hailed as one sure way of fighting sleaze. Consequently the commission has over the years seized countless number of real estate property, vehicles as well as physical cash. Unfortunately in typical Nigeria fashion, after the initial public show, nothing more is heard of the confiscated assets.

Whether under its pioneer Chairman Mallam Nuhu Ribadu or his successor, Mrs. Farida Waziri, the EFCC is known to have seized huge amount of assets from politicians, drug barons, bank chief executives and other suspects and convicts over the years. But the commission has so far failed to account for the whereabouts of these confiscated assets. And as presently alleged on the floor of the House, over $170 million proceeds from seized assets was allegedly transferred to an unidentified account, while 200 mansions, countless landed properties and exotic cars were left to rot away or vandalised. According to House Speaker Aminu Tambuwal "these landed property, monies, and business concerns were estimated to be worth in excess of two trillion Naira."

It is therefore only proper that the EFCC should be held to account for the properties it had confiscated from all the people it had investigated from its inception to date. There is also the urgent need to locate the whereabouts of the $170 million allegedly transferred to an unnamed account after it had been traced to the office of the Accountant General of the Federation (AGF).

Unfortunately, the two individuals who at one time or the other headed the anti-corruption agency failed to honour the House Committee's invitation to appear before it and help with the search for the confiscated assets. While we consider that to be rather unfortunate, the House should not despair in its determined efforts to ensure that the seized assets were accounted for by the EFCC.

Such assets were meant to be auctioned in a transparent bid and the proceeds deposited with the Central Bank or the money returned to the government agency or private organisation from where it was looted. For an organisation set up to fight corruption, EFCC should be transparent in its dealings

Nigeria: Heirs Holdings, Lsdpc to Turn Falomo Buying Complicated In to World Type Mall

Heirs Holdings, a pan-African investment company, chaired by Mr. Tony Elumelu, Tuesday signed an agreement with the Lagos State Development Property Corporation (LSDPC), for the redevelopment of the iconic Falomo Shopping Mall located in Ikoyi, Lagos State.  The mall will undoubtedly be redeveloped in to a shopping mall, a company complex and top notch residential apartments that will serve the requirements of the burgeoning populace in Lagos State and beyond.

Speaking at the website tour, the Managing Director of LSDPC, Mr. Biodun Oki, said: "The Falomo Shopping Mall's redevelopment is long overdue. Our partnership with Heirs Holdings is consistent with their state government's urban redevelopment project and it bodes well for their state, the united states and for the citizens.
"Once this project is completed, we can all look forward to a fresh and improved landscape that will stimulate business activity in this area and beyond.

"Relating to the private sector within our redevelopment agenda could be the model for all future projects."
Speaking on the program to remodel the shopping complex, the chairman of Heirs Holdings said: "Redeveloping among the country's most iconic malls is part of our commitment to drive development and move Nigeria forward through our business activities.

"As well as financial services, oil and gas, and power, real estate and hospitality is another of our core sectors since it plays a vital role in a nation's development. Specifically, real estate development contributes not merely visually but economically to the country's progress.
"We've other development projects in the offing. This include the Transcorp Hotels in Ikoyi, Lagos and Port Harcourt, that'll commence this quarter now that people have secured the land.

"We are also expanding our existing property in Abuja and that is just the start of the mega plans we have to transform the Nigerian skyline."
The Falomo Shopping Mall redevelopment project is really a private-public sector agreement between Heirs Real Estate Limited, a wholly owned subsidiary of Heirs Holdings, and the Lagos State Development Property Corporation (LSDPC).

Heirs Holdings is really a pan-African proprietary investment company that deploys capital in projects that will yield value on the long term.