A few weeks ago it was reported that the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) seized a building worth two billion naira from a former Comptroller-General of the Nigerian Customs Service.
Also, two weeks ago it was reported that the EFCC may seize some houses belonging to Federal High Court Judge, Justice Rita Ofili-Ajumogobia, if she fails to explain where she got the money to buy the houses.
This is in addition to several other properties seized by the EFCC. What is done with these seized properties? According to Vanguard, several hundred houses, hotels, commercial buildings and parcels of land are reportedly in the custody of the EFCC, though most of them are still under litigation.
Since the Buhari administration is fighting corruption, it will need to set a good standard on how seized properties should be used by the federal government.
The three options available to President Muhammadu Buhari are:
Converting the properties to government buildings and for public use. This would help save the cost of constructing new buildings or renting, when the need for them arises.
Leasing the properties to third parties. This could generate revenue to the government if companies and corporate bodies who need to acquire property lease from the government and pay rent into the federation account.
Outright sale of the properties. This might be tricky if the right value is not placed on the property by those in charge of the sale.
It is also vital to note that property seized from proceeds of crime belong, not to the Federal Government alone but the three tiers of government. Therefore, revenue derived from such must be paid into the Federation Account.
Also the Vanguard editorial had this to say: “It is, therefore, necessary for a committee that represents the stakeholders to the Federation Account to be constituted to monitor all seizures and the legal processes leading to their certification as confiscated properties of the Federation or otherwise.
“The public must be kept informed of the activities of this committee to enable them know which property are returned to their owners after due legal processes, and which have been confiscated to the state.
“The issue of transparency in the activities of anti-graft agencies recovering proceeds of crime cannot be toyed with or handled in a manner that leaves question-marks. Unless transparency and accountability are at play, the gallant efforts of our anti-graft agencies to recover stolen property will be in vain in the long run.”