House Sale: N15bn Diverted, Alleges Senate C’ttee

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By Sufuyan Ojeifo, Abuja
Senate Committee on Housing and Urban Devel-opment yesterday alleged diversion of between N10 billion and N15 billion interest that accrued from the deposit of N400 billion realised from the sale of Federal Govern-ment houses by the Preside-ntial Implementation Comm-ittee (PIC).

Chairman of the Comm-ittee, Senator Ikechukwu Obio-rah, who articulated the committee's position at a stakeholders' meeting on the sale of Federal Government houses, said the meeting was called to conclude investigations into the status of the N400 billion proceeds.

Obiora said at the opening of the meeting: “We have invited the PIC on the sale of FG houses and some other interested parties to discuss the following issues: the diversion of the proceeds on the sale of Federal Government property; the returns from the sales of those properties seem not to tally with what was remitted to the Federal Government account.

“So we wanted to address this issue jointly. Large sums of money between N300 and N400 billion were realized from the sale of the Federal Government houses.

“Secondly, the interests accruing from such huge moneys which were kept in various banks for a period of time, sometimes a year, six months and even sometimes two years for which the interest element accruing to the Federal Government should have been between N10 billion and N15 billion as the case may be.

“But the Federal Govern-ment has not received such. What has happened is that two per cent of the sum rather than the full sum was remitted, while the remaining part was diverted.

“Then the expenditure of the handling fees, when you buy a house for say N3 million, you pay five per cent of that as handling charges which should be aggregated and then sent in for appropriation.

“This money has been spent without recourse to the National Assembly as provided for by the constitution.

“We also want to discuss issues bordering on racketeering. We had requested for the lists of those notable Nigerians; but, up till now, there has been no response.”

Obiorah added: “We also want to take the complaints from legal sitting tenants; unfortunately, one of the sitting tenants is the General in the wheel chair; he has been here for some time and he is here today.

“The Presidential Implem-entation Committee seems not to be here today. There is also the issue of improper delineation property. You can see that the PIC has not come. They were invited but they did not come and they know the rules very well.

“We are a committee of the Senate. We will crave your indulgence to allow us to go back and report to the Senate for its further directives. We are appalled that the issues, as sensitive as they are, have been treated with such levity.”

But the meeting could not conclude as the Minister of State for Housing and Chairman of the PIC, Mrs. Grace Ekpiwhere, did not attend the meeting.

Apparently displeased about her absence, the Committee threatened to invoke all relevant sections of the Senate Standing Rule (2007 as amended) and the 1999 Constitution against the minister and members of the PIC.

However, the PIC had written a letter to the Committee to intimate it that the Minister of State and its chairman would not be in the country effective from last Sunday.

The letter, as learnt, which was signed on behalf of the Secretary of the PIC, Mr. Mohammed Bala Dahiru, by a junior officer, Mr. S.M. Ishaya, said that Ekpiwhere was going away for medical treatment from July 12 to August 2, 2009.

The letter, entitled: “Re-Invitation to brief the Senate Committee on Housing and Urban Development on the activities of the implementation committee for the sale of government properties” also said that other members of the PIC had gone for scheduled meetings in the 36 states of the Federation.

It reads in part: “I am directed to refer to your letter ref NASS/W/COH/20/01/Vol.11/17 of 8th July, 2009 on the above mentioned subject and to inform you that Honourable Minister of State, Works, Housing and Urban Development will be away from 12th July-2nd August, 2009 for medical treatment while members and Secretary of the Committee will be away to the states of the Federation on scheduled meetings and painstakingly arranged over a long period.

“However, in order to facilitate good response to the issues raised, I am to request you to please make available the petitions to enable the members address and resolve some of them while they are in the states.”

THISDAY gathered that the Senate would have been on its six-week recess in August when Ekpiwhere is billed to return.

Sources close to the Committee claimed yesterday that the PIC was deliberately frustrating the investigation in a bid to cover up alleged sleazy deals.

They also claimed that the PIC was calculating that by the time the Senate resumes from its recess, the standing committees would be dissolved and the current Chairman, Obiorah, and other members moved to other committees.

This as further calculated would set back the ongoing investigation by the Committee into the sale of Federal Government houses.

But the Committee has, in the meantime and in a bid to plug leakages and areas of possible compromise within, restructured its secretariat by asking the National Assembly Bureaucracy to redeploy its Secretary.

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