Ex-Kwara gov Mohammed Lawal, others linked to N164bn Dubai properties – US report

Bought houses while in office worth N.7bn

Offered former police boss, Tafa Balogun N1.2bn to stop Bukola Saraki’s guber bid          

By Mumini AbdulKareem

Former Kwara State Governor, Mohammed Alabi Lawal has been listed among tops politician in the country including serving governors and senators linked with the acquisition of over 800 choice properties in Dubai and United Arab Emirates (UAE).

Late Lawal ruled Kwara State in 1999 as the first democratically elected governor when the country returned to democracy after several years of military rule.

He died in November 2006, after a four year stint before he was eventually replaced by former Governor Bukola Saraki.

The report said the late admiral out of the governors listed is tied to the most real estate with six properties worth a total purchase price of over $2 million adding that “at least” one of those properties, a villa, was bought in January 2003, while he was still in office as Governor of Kwara State.

Efforts to get the reaction of Lawal’s son and former PDP gubernatorial aspirants, Hakeem proved abortive last night as several calls to his telephone line failed to connect.

“As Kwara State governor, Lawal had a widespread reputation for settling his scores by force and pulled no punches in his bitter political rivalry with the Saraki family.

“Ahead of the 2003 election, Lawal allegedly paid then inspector general of police and fellow Dubai property owner, Tafa Balogun, three million British pounds ($4.8 million at the time) to exert pressure on Lawal’s opponent, Bukola Saraki”, the report released on Thursday by a US based nongovernmental organisation, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace added.

The report is a product of an investigative research conducted by one of the organisation nonresident scholars, Matthew Page.

According to the report, the prominent public figures otherwise described as politically-exposed persons (PEPs), who were found to own these properties, cut across Nigeria’s major ethnic, religious and political divides.

It noted that about 20 former and serving governors, seven former and serving senators, current and former heads of ministries, departments and agencies of government, commissioners and those described as ‘money changers,’ that is, bureau de change operators, own a significant number of the properties.

Apart from former governor Lawal, some of the other identified individuals linked to the properties include the chairman of the forum of governors elected on the platform of Nigeria’s ruling All Progressives Congress (APC), Atiku Bagudu, senator representing Enugu West senatorial district, Ike Ekweremadu, former PDP chairman, Ahmadu Ali; former Petroleum Minister, Dan Etete; another former Deputy Senate President, Ibrahim Mantu; former Managing Director of the acquired Oceanic Bank, Mrs. Cecilia Ibru.

Others are the former Inspector General of Police, Tafa Balogun; former chairman of Military Pension Board, Bala Mshelia; former Group Managing Director of the Nigeria National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), Ladan Shehu, and a former head of the Petroleum Product Marketing Company, Samuel Okeke, among others.

The officials were named as part of 334 prominent Nigerians who are linked to 800 properties scattered around the city of Dubai, United Arab Emirates on illicit financial flows which put the value of the properties at N164 billion.

“While linking 69 properties to 35 governors; 16 properties to 45 lawmakers; 25 properties to 16 heads of departments/agencies; 24 to 15 ministers; 13 to NNPC staff members; 13 properties to five Presidency staff and one property to a judge totalling 800 properties. The 800 Dubai properties linked to Nigerian Politically Exposed Persons (PEPs) are estimated to be worth well over $400m.

“This equals roughly two-thirds of the Nigerian Army’s annual budget and over three times the annual budget of the country’s Independent National Electoral Commission.

“A burgeoning group of middlemen now specialize in selling Dubai property to recently elected politicians and newly appointed officials”, the report added.

The spokeswoman for one of Nigeria’s anti-corruption agencies, Independent Corrupt Practices and other Offences Commission (ICPC), Rasheedah Okoduwa, said the agency is determined to recover as much loot as possible.

She said the agency would study the report and consider its review for possible action adding that “We will look into it and take appropriate action.

Mrs. Okoduwa’s counterpart at the EFCC, Tony Orilade, however told this reporter last night that the commission was not aware of any such report. “I am not aware of any such report, thank you”, Orilade added.

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