The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, has returned 48 of properties seized from the former Governor of Bayelsa State, Timipre Sylva, Elombah.com has learnt.
An interim forfeiture order to attach Sylva’s property was granted by Justice A. R. Mohammed on December 21, 2012.
But in a surprise move that calls into question the anti-corruption credentials of the present administration, a Nigerian newspaper reports that the properties located mostly in highbrow areas of Abuja such as Wuse II and Maitama, observed that some of the inscription ‘EFCC, Keep Off’, on the gates or fences of the properties, had been wiped off the buildings while some of the buildings had been rented out.
The Punch correspondent, who visited some of the properties was informed that the rent for the properties ranged between N2.5m and N6m per annum, the newspaper stated.
The correspondent who posed as a prospective tenant was informed that the 16 units of service apartments at Plot 1181 Thaba Tseka Crescent, off IBB Way in the Wuse II area of the Federal Capital Territory, cost N6m per annum including a N1.5m service charge. The building provides seven hours of power supply from a generator.
According to the newspaper, one wing had been painted while the other was under reconstruction.
A guard at the property said, “When the EFCC sealed off this property, it was rotting away. However, it was re-opened a few months ago, so we started to refurbish the property. We have repainted the property, and we have started renting the apartments out.”
At a block of flats, which comprises nine units (six one-bedroom and three two-bedroom flats) located at 8, Sefadu Street, Wuse, Zone 2, our correspondent was told that the rent ranged from N1.5m to N3m.
“Immediately the EFCC inscriptions were erased, all the flats were taken. There is no vacant apartment now,” the security guard said.
At a property located at 8 Mistrata Street, Wuse II, Abuja, it was observed that the property was a hotel, which charged between N25,000 and N45,000 per room.
During the administration of former President Goodluck Jonathan, the EFCC seized 48 properties from Sylva in 2013, an act which the ex-governor described as a witch-hunt and political persecution.
He was subsequently charged with an alleged N19.2bn fraud.
The spokesman for the EFCC, Mr. Wilson Uwujaren, had said in a statement on January 3, 2013, that the ex-governor allegedly stole funds from the state between 2007 and 2011.
The statement read, “The EFCC on Thursday, January 3, 2013, took possession of 48 properties of the former Governor of Bayelsa State, Mr. Timpre Sylva, who is being prosecuted at a Federal High Court in Abuja.
“The interim forfeiture order to attach Sylva’s property was granted by Justice A. R. Mohammed on December 21, 2012.
“Assets belonging to the former governor, against which a forfeiture order was obtained by the EFCC, include a mansion at 3 River Niger Street, Plot 3192 Cadastral Zone AO, Maitama District, Abuja; nine units (comprising six one-bedroom and three two-bedroom apartments) at 8, Sefadu Street, Wuse, Zone 2, Plot 262 Cadastral Zone AO2, Wuse, Abuja, and two duplexes at 5, Oguta Street, Plot 906 Cadastral Zone, Wuse II, Abuja.
“Others are a duplex on Plot 1271 Nike Street, Cadastral Zone AO5, Maitama District, Abuja; a duplex at Phase 1 Unit No. 1 (Villa 1) Palm Springs Gold Estate, Cachez Turkey Projects Limited, Mpape, Abuja; 10 units of one-room apartments at 8 Mistrata Street, Plot 232 Cadastral Zone, Wuse II, Abuja; five units duplexes on Plot No 1070 Dakibiyu District, Cadastral Zone B10, Abuja; 16 units service apartments at Plot 1181 Thaba Tseka Crescent, off IBB Way, Wuse II, Abuja, and 3 units of three-bedroom flats at No. 1 Mubi Close, Plot 766 Cadastral Zone A01, Garki, Abuja.”
The EFCC subsequently slammed 50 charges against the ex-governor and arraigned him before three Federal High Courts in Abuja.
However, the three courts struck out the case against Sylva, accusing the EFCC of abuse of court processes.
At the last ruling in November 2015, Justice Adeniyi Ademola of the Federal High Court, Abuja, struck out the case on the grounds that it was an abuse of court process.
The judge held that the charges had been dismissed by two federal high courts, and resuscitation was tantamount to an abuse of court process.
Ademola also held that the court lacked the jurisdiction to entertain the criminal charges against Sylva, a chieftain of the All Progressives Congress.
He also inferred that Sylva’s case was one of persecution by people who wanted to get at him at all cost, using the EFCC.
He thereafter dismissed the case against Sylva.
In a recent document published on its website, the EFCC said measures were put in place to take Sylva’s case to the Court of Appeal.
However, Wilson could not confirm on Sunday if indeed the anti-graft agency had filed an appeal before the appellate court.
A source within the EFCC described the incident as unfortunate.
He said, “Now that Sylva has reclaimed the properties, he has the right to sell them. The moment he does that, we will not be able to recover anything from him and our ultimate goal, which is to recover stolen funds or stolen property, would have been defeated.”
All attempts to get a reaction from Sylva on Sunday proved abortive as his spokesman, Doifie Ola, neither returned our correspondent’s calls nor responded to a text message sent to his mobile.
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