The Attorney-General of Abia state has responded to the marking and sealing, by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), of several properties in the state capital- Umuahia. At the press briefing earlier today, he decried the act of the EFCC as illegal and unwarranted. The full text of his speech reads:
Some few days ago, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission in brazen disregard of the regulatory, enforcement and investigative provisions of the law establishing the Commission purported to mark and seal assets and/or properties of the Abia State in various locations in the State Capital, Umuahia under the guise that these assets and/or properties were under investigation. These properties are –
- The Abia Mall
- The Housing Estate at Adelabu Street, Umuahia
- The former Township main market at Ogwumabiri
- The Millennium Luxury Apartments, Umuahia
- Abia Hotels
- Linto Estate, Old Timber Shed
In 2016, the same Commission, EFCC, investigated the ownership of most of these properties. The Certificates of Occupancy and Public Private Partnership Agreements between the State Government and Investors in respect of the properties were duly submitted or tendered before the Commission at the time, which documents the Commission found satisfactory.
It is pertinent to note that the properties listed above belong to the Abia State Government and are not under investigation by the EFCC.
Abia State Government duly entered into arrangements with credible investors for the development of these properties under Public Private Partnerships, which means that the reversionary interests in these properties still reside in the State Government.
Sections 28 and 29 (a) of the law establishing the Commission, ie, the Economic and Financial Crimes (Establishment) Act, Cap E1, LFN 2004 makes it clear that the Commission can only attach or seal the properties of persons arrested for an offence under the Act. As noted earlier in this briefing, ownership of the propertied by the Abia State Government is not subject of any EFCC investigation.
With particular reference to the Housing Estate at Adelabu Street, the estate was initially to be developed by investors under Public Private Partnership arrangements but later terminated for non performance by the developers/investors. The Adelabu estate under my watch as Commissioner for Housing was later built with direct labor by the Housing Ministry with the approval of the State Government. The houses in the estate, on completion were allocated to individuals who paid for the allocations and continue to pay ground rents to the State Government.
Also the Abia Mall is in receivership as a result of the failure of the investor to pay back bank facilities. Had the Commission done a due diligence check, it would have unearthed this fact without shooting itself on the foot.
The unwarranted and unlawful actions of the EFCC has fine incalculable harm to the economy of the State by scaring away high profile investors from the State. This also sends a negative signal to investors planning to invest in Nigeria.
In the light of the foregoing, the EFCC is hereby given Seven (7) days from today to remove the offensive and provocative notices placed on the above listed properties or estates. The EFCC must tender an apology to the Abia State Government within the same period.
Failure to comply with these demands will leave the State Government with no option but to seek appropriate redress in a court of law.
Uche Ihediwa, Esq
Honorable Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice, Abia State.