6th July, 2010
The revelation by the Senate panel on Housing andÂ Urban Development that N1.2 billion proceeds from the sale of Federal Government houses are missing has once again brought to the fore the pervasive corruption in the land and how those in position of authority use their positions to fleece the nation of billions of naira that could have been used in developing the nation.
No wonder Nigerians continue to wallow in abject poverty as a result of the activities of a few occupying public office. According to the Senate panel, the missing money represents the interest payable on the N80 billion realised from the sale of the houses. The report not only exposed how members of the Presidential Implementation Committee (PIC), charged with the exercise, mismanaged the proceeds but also how they used their positions to shortchange Nigerians.
In the report, the Senate panel alleged that N1.236 billion of the proceeds was missing and unaccounted for. Instead of keeping the N80 billon generated from the sale of the houses in a bank at five percent or 10 percent interest, as directed by the government, members of PIC allegedly negotiated with banks to fix the interest payable on the various sums kept with them at two percent and pay them the remaining three percent upfront. What a country! No wonderÂ foreign investors are not keen on bringing their capital to invest in the country. A country whose officials cannot be trusted to obey simple transactional agreement without demanding for bribe cannot be the investment destination ofÂ serious businessmen.
The Senate panel did not only expose the corruption of the government officials but also indicted the then Minister of Housing and Urban Development of deliberately stalling investigation into the sale of the houses.
According to the panel, â€œthe minister in collaboration with the Executive secretaries and top officials of PIC made it impossible for our financial consultants to have access to the books and financial records of the PIC. The PIC lodged a total of over N80 billion with various banks and testified that the Accountant-General of the Federation granted it approval to deposit the said sum at two percent interest rate but the Accountant-General denied giving such approval.
â€œInstead of fixing the lodgements at between five percent and ten percent interest per annum, the PIC officials had under the table deals with the banks such that the lodgements were fixed at two percent interest while PIC officials had the difference paid to them as gratification. Preliminary investigations by our financial consultants revealed that the approximate sum of N1,236,074,517.00 payable to the Federal Government is already missing.â€
Apart from embezzling the proceeds realised from the sale of the houses, the senators also accused the PIC officials of refusing to disclose the number of houses sold so far, those yet to be sold and the beneficiaries of those sold. The senators alleged further that some choice properties in Ikoyi, Lagos were sold to prominent persons and companies instead ofÂ the sitting tenants who had bidded for them but were not allowed to pay for them.
In an instance, a mansion at 15 Macdonald Road, Ikoyi, Lagos was to be sold to a sitting tenant for N251 million, but his money was rejected and the house was resold to the wife of a governor in the Northeast for N165 million. It is really a sad development that those entrusted with public property for the common good will turn round to sabotage the interest of those they are expected to serve.
The action of the PIC officials reflects the deep seated corruption pervading public service in this country and it shows why we are where we are today. Our country today is bristling with decaying infrastructure, bad roads, poor power supply, lack of potable water and massive unemployment. The money that should have been used in providing these facilities are siphoned by officials put in position of trust.
It is really unfortunate that those who should have served as catalysts for Nigeriaâ€™s development are the same people bringing her down into ignominy and underdevelopment. This is why we support the position of the senators to compel the minister and members of PIC to appear before them and defend the allegations.
We also urge the anti-corruption agencies to wade into the allegations and bring the culprits to book. This is another opportunity for us to show the world that we are serious about our fight against corruption. There should be no sacred cow in this regard. President Jonathan should seize this opportunity to demonstrate his practical determination to bring corrupt public officials to book just like former Senate President, Senator Adolphus Wabara, the former Inspector-General of Police, Tafa Balogun and others were charged to court for betraying public trust.