Despite the deficit of 22 million housing units in the country, the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC) has recovered 241 houses from a public officer and 60 from another in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT).
Altogether, this amounts to 301 houses owned by two Nigerians alone in a country where 70 per cent of its citizens are said to be living in ghettos and slums, mostly in decrepit houses despite huge investments in the housing sector over decades.
The ICPC also recovered an advance of N51billion promissory notes from various real estate developers in the nation’s capital.
The findings came through efforts of the commission to unravel the owners of the ever-increasing unoccupied luxury estates in Abuja.
The commission revealed that public office holders top the list of fraudulent investors in the real estate sector in the nation’s capital, adding that they are well involved in illicit financial flows in the country.
ICPC chairman, Prof Bolaji Owasanoye, disclosed this yesterday when he appeared before the House of Representatives ad-hoc committee on the operations of real estate developers in the FCT.
He said such public officers acquire estates in pseudonyms to conceal the illegal origin of funds.
This, he said, was made possible by the absence of proper documentation, registration of titles to land and estates in the country and the non-enforcement of beneficial ownership standards.
Owasanoye told the committee that a tour round Abuja, especially the metropolis and the central area, would show a lot of estates that are built up but empty.
He stated: “If they had been constructed with funds that were borrowed at market rates, I don’t think any investor would allow such properties to be empty. One way or the other they would put them to use. So, it is suspected that some of those estates have been used to launder ill-gotten public funds.
“The commission has for example in one case recovered 241 houses from a public officer and another one in which we recovered 60 buildings on a large expanse of land from another public officer.”
Noting that corruption in real estate aids illicit financial flows, the ICPC boss said major culprits and criminals who are encouraging the problem are staff of the Federal Capital Development Authority (FCDA) and their land collaborators.
He accused some members of the Real Estate Development Association of Nigeria (REDAN) of accessing funds from the Federal Mortgage Bank (FMB) for mass housing and diverting same to construct private estates.
Owasanoye noted that the private estates are sold at exorbitant prices to the general public, excluding public officers, who are the main and intended beneficiaries of the projects and structures.
“By the original concept of the mass housing policy of the government, developers are supposed to profile and forward names of allottees to FCDA to issue certificates of occupancy. But in practice developers do not comply with these policies and subscribers are often left at their mercy, holding only letters of allocation without a proper title to land,” he told the House committee.
The intervention of the ICPC in the sector, Owasanoye noted, has led to recoveries on behalf of some allottees for FMB, FCDA and sometimes for other stakeholders.