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EFCC recovered properties to rescue FCTA huge expenses on rents

According to the provision of section 4 (1) (e) of the FCT Act, the FCDA is charged with the responsibility of the coordination of the activities of all ministries, departments and agencies of the Government of the Federation within the Federal Capital Territory. This provision provides the window for the requests by Federal Ministries, Agencies and Departments, including foreign organizations, both governmental and nongovernmental, to make requests to the FCT Administration for office and residential accommodations in the FCT whenever they have the need.

Additionally, Section 4 (2) (c), also saddles the FCDA with the construction and maintenance of such roads, railways, sidings, tramways, bridges, reservoirs, water courses, buildings, plant and machinery and such other works as may be necessary for, or conducive to, the discharge of its function under the Act. However, due to paucity of fund and the huge expenses involved, the Authority rarely embark on building new houses long time from now. But, the FCTA source for buildings and pay the rents according to the requests and needs.

Meanwhile, the budgetary provision for the renting of office and residential accommodation for the Ministries and Agencies is always inadequate no matter how huge the allocation. The situation necessitated the FCTA to direct all Government institutions to make provisions in their own budgets to contain their needs in order to allow the FCTA concentrate on the provision of critical and major infrastructure, as provided in the above section of the FCT Act. However, this directive excludes some critical Government institutions and foreign organizations. These are donors whom Nigeria benefits from their services and those with bilateral agreements signed. However, despite this measure, more than one billion naira is allocated annually for renting commercial and residential buildings.

Among the three major agenda of the Buhari administration is fighting corruption. There was no time in the history of this country that colossal numbers of buildings were confiscated and recovered by the Federal Government through the Economic and Financial Crime Commission (EFCC) than the present. Despite the ongoing efforts, the landscape of Abuja is still littered with many exotic and luxurious houses that are still unoccupied. These houses are also being suspected as products of corrupt practices. Otherwise, who are the owners and why were they built? Thus, the EFCC’s effort is akin to being a tip of the iceberg.

In a related issue, the accommodation problem of low and medium income earners in Abuja is a matter for serious concern to all well-meaning Nigerians. Majority of Abuja based workers source for accommodation outside the city, because they cannot afford the high rents charged by the houses owners. During weekends and public holidays the federal Capital City can best be described as a ghost town, because the city is always empty in comparison to its population during the working days of the week.

The refusal to release these houses shows that the owners are not perturbed by the extent of the period these houses remain wasted, despite the heavy investment. Even without the EFCC’s revelation, this attitude can confirm the speculation of ill-gotten wealth as the source for such investment. It is not possible to transfer illegally acquired wealth to foreign countries these days without facing the wrath of the law on money laundering. There is also a limit to the amount of money one can lodge in commercial banks in Nigeria without credible explanation of sources. The only way seems to be sinking such wealth into property development in Abuja, by building these exotic houses, not minding their unaffordability to the general public. It doesn’t matter how long the building remains unoccupied because the resources for their constructions were not hard-earned. Also, there is no consciousness of the national resources that are supposed to benefit the multiple citizens in need, but stolen and left to rot.

We urge and encourage the EFCC to increase its effort at these recoveries through the legal and judicial means. After the recovery, next stage should be the judicious use of the properties recovered. It is also commendable the step taken by the administration for releasing the recovered properties for the use by public institutions to meet their needs.

With the prevailing circumstances in the FCTA, of not being buoyant to embark on new buildings, coupled with the lean budgetary provisions for renting buildings for its needs and other government ministries at its neck, we call for synergy between the FCTA and the EFCC for the proper guide and channeling of the recovered buildings. We also recommend making of law by the FCT, through the National Assembly, for imposition of heavy tax against owners of houses that remain unoccupied for certain periods, in order to discourage such attitudes.

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