A Perpetually Scandal-Ridden Society ?
The latest scandal of the
moment, following last week’s break of the
Bribery-For-Budget Education Ministry/National Assembly scandal, is the one
involving the seemingly wrongful allocation of 207 housing properties in
Ikoyi to privileged members of Nigerian society, including many of President
Obasanjo’s personal household as well as cabinet ministers, state governors
and other government functionaries. It included
A source told
The Guardian that eight certificates of the property were
last week handed over to Mrs Obasanjo. They included the property allegedly
* Mr. Henry
Abebe at 23 Milverton Road to the tune of N158,400,000.
Abebe got 12, Ikoya Avenue, Ikoyi at N80,400,000 while her husband, who is a
personal assistant to the first lady,
Abebe, was given the property at 1B, Iru Close at N64,800,000.
Abebe was allotted the property at 7B Maroko, close at N57,600,000.
Those who had
made part-payment were the
President Wabara who was allotted the property at 23, Queens Drive, Ikoyi,
at N208,800,000. He had paid N50 million.
governor Olagunsoye Oyinlola has reportedly made full payment for the
property on 16, Alexander Avenue, Ikoyi, at N112,800,000.
*Mr. Felix Odimegwu of the
Nigerian Breweries Plc was reportedly allotted two property, 20, Lugard
Avenue at N98,400,000 and 22A,
at N79,200,000. He had paid in full for the two. ……
This list was first published on
April 1, 2005.
The text of the president Obasanjo’s memo to Housing and Urban
Development Minister Mrs. Mobolaji Osomo was uncharacteristically short:
Dear Minister, terms, about
the way you seem to be handling the sale of Federal Government properties in
I have a
document sent to me anonymously (copy attached), where 207 people had been
allocated or offered land/property for sale surreptitiously; some with full
payment, some with deposit and some without payment at all.
I also feel
personally embarrassed that almost all members of my wife’s family are on
As it is, the
entire list will now be cancelled without fail, the money collected should
be refunded and all the property will be advertised for sale, except those
allocated to Ambassador Ibrahim Gambari and Chief Emeka Anyaoku which had
been approved long before this excersise on special condition of
encouraging their relocation to Nigeria and on the basis of current value
plus 10 per cent.
faithful compliance with this instruction.
Talking to a cousin over the phone over the newspaper report,
I confided in him that I strongly believed that it was an April fool’s prank
which would be promptly denied in the April 2 newspapers, and that the
irresponsible newspapers might expect some lawsuits for libel.
So imagine my horror when the following day, I started to read some
hemmings and hawings.
Some samples of reactions (paraphrasing now):
Vice-President Atiku; Dr. Okonjo Iweala:
“Ehm, I got some housing offer, but I rejected it. I
Dr. Charles Soludo, Governor Central Bank; Minister Frederick
Bozimo : “Ehn, em, Some forms were
sent to me, but I did not send them back.”
NAFDAC DG Dora Akunyili: “Ehm, the official
Lagos that I
am living in was offered to me under the monetization scheme, and I was
given first option to decline purchase.”
“Ehen, yes, yes, I got my allocation and paid N110
million through a bank loan.”
Governor Donald Duke: “Ehm, I was
allocated a house, I applied – but have not heard back since !”
Minister of Works, Senator
Adeseye Ogunlewe: “Ehm,
I was allocated a house, and I accepted the
offer, and I paid. But sha o, if it has been cancelled
by Mr. President, no shaking, he is the boss: just give me my money back !”
Minister, Chief Chukwuemeka Chikelu:
“Ehm, I was allocated a house, and I accepted the offer.
Abeg, no further comment, please !
Inspector-General of Police, Mr. Sunday Ehindero: “Ehm, have no comment. It
is government’s policy. I will abide by it.”
But the one by Oby Ezekwesili was most interesting:
“Ehm, where is that Minister Osomo ? She
has to apologize to me PROMPTLY for my name being on that list ! As Due
Process czarina, I am profoundly embarrassed by this episode: I requested no
house and made no payment.”
Some questions are so pertinent as to be ridiculous to be
How did the Housing Ministry under Osomo know WHICH house to
allocate to WHICH person IF there had been NO PRIOR INFORMATION as to what
they wished ? One finds it hard to believe that this
allocation was ENTIRELY arbitrary.
One of the arguments has been that these
were houses in which these officials lived as official residence.
Okay – but Lagos/Ikoyi is no longer the capital of
and most if not all of these people, particularly the top civil servants,
work and should be residing in
So HOW COME THEY ARE BEING ALLOCATED OFFICIAL RESIDENCES IN IKOYI ?
Do they have two official residences – does Soludo for example
maintain two official residences, one in Lagos and one in Abuja and would
that not be irregular ? In any case, how
did someone like Governor Oyinlola of
come to become beneficiaries in the Ikoyi housing scheme ?
Who contacted him, how and why ?
Who valued these properties and was proper valuation done ?
Finally, how did these people have all of
these monies to pay even 10 percent downpayment – not to talk of ALL the
money by Governor Oyinlola - for these houses ?
It can be mind-boggling the level of both selfishness and
corruption that has been exhibited and is now being revealed by many
Nigerian elites, particularly in government. It shows
that many of them spend their waking hours tilling the ground in their own
directions rather than looking out for the people whose welfare is supposed
to be government’s business.
It is quite disheartening, and shows why our country is where
it is. It is not actually that the money we get in the
country cannot go far enough, but it is that a few Nigerians have cornered
all the advantages of financial resources for their own good, leaving the
rest of the country holding an empty bag.
But there is a further tragedy: what do
we do with all of these disclosures: Tafa Balogun and
his billions; the National Assembly and the millions
bribery; and now the Ikoyi Housing scandals ? It almost
looks as if while dealing with one scandal, another comes to wipe the
earlier one out of thought, and then we are constantly gasping, expecting
what will come next.
Tafa can be fired, Osuji can be fired; Osomo could (and
should) be fired, Wabara can resign as Senate President, even all of them
prosecuted, etc.. But what kind of moral malaise in the
country produces all of these criminals and fraudsters in and out of
government, including possibly in the president’s bedroom ? One
cannot but pity the president in his present predicament in his seeming
loneliness in his crusade: How can so many people have
such a penchant for corruption and fraud, without inhibitions ? Are the
government audit and control systems so bereft of integrity that these
people act with impunity – out of habit since these things must have been
going on for so long ?
What must we now do to change things so that we are not
constantly locking the stables after the horses have escaped ?
While many might ask for revenge and jailings of these criminals, it
is infinitely better to prevent these kinds of crimes and fraudulent
practice BEFORE they occur, first because they might
simply present more avenues for corruption as these people attempt to bribe
their way out of their latest problems, and secondly otherwise they sap the
development of the country and make us far poorer than we really are.
Clearly, corruption is a cancer that we must tackle HEADLONG
in the country, and the emphasis should be on instituting measures to
PREVENT these instances from occurring, not just triumphalist
rejoicing at the discovery and punishment of the fraudulent ones.
It is all exasperating, but all the movement will be without
motion if we don’t ALL seize the moment to institutionalize transparency,
accountability and integrity in our system not merely by prosecuting and
jailing guilty persons; but through strengthening our laws and their
enforcement; opening up the transparency and accountability process to
public view; instituting zero-tolerance of corruption in our police and
judiciary; and tightening the screws on our banking system
Ikoyi Government Houses Offerred/Sold Without Due Process
MID-WEEK ESSAY: Reacting to
the Day of the Long Knives in the Education Ministry