A new anti-corruption crusade, which focuses on the seizure and sale of empty houses in Abuja, the nation’s capital is in the offing.
Hints of the new approach emerged yesterday from the Chairman, Special Presidential Investigation Panel for the Recovery of Public Property, Mr. Okoi Obono-Obla.
He said that under the initiative the Federal Government would take over empty houses in Abuja and sell them.
Obono-Obla, who is also the Senior Special Assistant to the President on Prosecution, made this known when the “Say no Campaign”, a civil society organisation, visited him in Abuja.
He said there was need for the government to collaborate with civil society groups in order to search out properties of looters of the national treasury.
Obono-Obla said: “I want the houses taken over, that is where CSOs will have to work with us. We have to take over those buildings and sell them and maybe put the money into education for our children.
“I was appointed to work to galvanise the anti-corruption war. This assignment is a very important one and I will do it well, ’’ he stressed.
He said there was a law known as the Recovery of Public Property Special Provisions Act, which had been in existence for the past 40 years without being implemented by successive regimes.
According to him, if that law was used, corruption would have been reduced drastically in Nigeria.
The presidential aide said that the law specifies that anyone who lied about his or her assets would go to prison for 21 years and if such assets are more than the person’s earnings, the punishment is life imprisonment.
The prosecutor said that his office was ready to collaborate with civil society groups to fight corruption and urged them to submit the names of people who own properties illegally, especially public servants.
“This is because I have been asked to focus on public sector corruption,’’ he added.
Obono-Obla said that public sector corruption was the endemic worm, adding that bankers could also be investigated including anybody who could not explain the sources of his wealth.
He said that the law had been in existence since September 30, 1979, so anybody who had been in the local, state and federal governments from that period till date could be investigated.
Earlier, Mr. Ezenwa Nwagwu, one of the conveners of the group, said the campaign was conceived to fight corruption, impunity, rape and election rigging.
Nwagwu said that the group sought partnership with the Prosecution Office because of its passion to fight corruption, adding that Obono Obla’s appointment as chair would aid prosecution in Nigeria.
He said that the group was worried about prosecutions in Nigeria especially that of anti-corruption agencies because sometimes there were compromising issues.
“So we want to be able to screen out particular areas where we will be coming in to assist you and if there are collaborative areas you think we can also collaborate, the CSOs will be able to do,’’ he stated.
Mr. Jaiye Gaskiya, co-convener of the group stressed the need for property identification scheme in Nigeria so that property owners could have special numbers just like the BVN.