Dubai assets – The Nation

  • EFCC should respond to report on offshore investments of politically exposed persons from Nigeria

A report transferred to the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) from a research sponsored by an anti-corruption group, Human and Environmental Development Agenda (HEDA), and conducted by Professor Gbenga Oduntan of Kent University, has made many revelations about Nigeria’s politically exposed persons (PEPs).

Highlights of the report include the claim that ownership of 130 choice real estates in Dubai, United Arab Emirate (UAE) has been traced to politically exposed Nigerians, including 34 former governors that own 71 properties, seven senators owning 33 properties, and 13 federal ministers owning 26 properties.

Nothing should be shocking in the report because Nigerians have in the past few years been linked to news of political leaders hiding assets in the United Kingdom, the United States of America, and most recently in Dubai, Abu Dhabi, and Sharjah, UAE’s three most populous and commercial cities. What is likely to be surprising is that a report of this magnitude of corruption is still thriving six years into the life of Nigeria’s most cited anti-corruption government, especially five years after Nigeria negotiated with UAE for speedy recovery of illegal Nigerian assets in that country.

In addition to the new data before the EFCC, a separate report by Carnegie Endowment for International Peace in September 2020 examined links of Dubai properties to corruption in Nigeria, about which the centre observed in alia: “At least 800 properties in Dubai appear to have ties to current or former prominent Nigerian politicians, laundering hundreds of millions of dollars. While a Nigerian politician’s ownership of Dubai real estate doesn’t indicate criminality in and of itself, roughly 25 percent of the properties identified in the report can be “linked to individuals who have previously been investigated, arrested, prosecuted, or convicted by Nigeria’s anticorruption agencies.”

But in many ways, the report by HEDA should serve as a wake-up call to the Federal Government, which coincidentally recently announced that many highly connected Nigerians have been arrested and are under further investigation for illegal transfer of money to support terrorism, banditry, and kidnapping in Nigeria.

One consolation arising from this saddening revelation is that HEDA, the anti-corruption group that sponsored the report, had quickly forwarded its report to the EFCC. It is also reassuring that the chairman of the country’s principal anti-corruption agency has shown enthusiasm about the report: “To assure you, that we are going to study the report to add value to those areas where it is within our mandate; we will look at it and ensure that justice is done…The UK and the UAE have their own laws, processes and procedures, but we have a lot of bilateral and multi-lateral agreements that we are signatories to; to discuss about issues of information sharing, investigation as well as repatriation of ill-gotten assets.” It is gratifying that the EFCC chairman has promised to follow up on the report; we urge him to protect the interest of Nigeria as the victim of illegal wealth by some of its public officials, as is expected of his office.

We commend HEDA and the author of the report for this patriotic assignment, especially for their readiness to share the report directly with EFCC in good time. We also urge the EFCC to extend its investigation of the matters raised in the report to their counterparts in subnational governments, which control almost half of the nation’s annual revenue.

We implore other anti-corruption organisations like HEDA and researchers like Mr Oduntan in and out of Nigeria to volunteer to do such studies not only about UAE, but also in other advanced economies like the United Kingdom, the United States, the European Union, Brazil,  other parts of the Arab world, South Africa, Ghana, and inside Nigeria itself.

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