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The wind revealed the belly of Senator Ike Ekweremadu, who served three times as Deputy Speaker of the Senate. It was as if someone had moved the linchpin of his house of cards, given his ongoing setbacks in the organ harvesting saga, and now the provisional confiscation of 40 assets scattered across the globe. Indeed, he deserves our pity, but he should also welcome our scrutiny since he is a public servant. Before he became embroiled in the unsavory organ harvesting saga that put him and his wife behind bars in the UK, he must have seen a sign in the sky that a storm was coming. was preparing. And, that sign in the sky was none other than the 2016 report, titled: “Dubai Property, An Oasis for Nigeria’s Corrupt Political Elites”.
The report was published by Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. The main dataset for the report has been collected from a compilation by UAE-based property and real estate professionals. The dataset, also called the ‘Sandcastles data’, linked prominent Nigerian politicians to 800 Dubai properties worth N164 billion in 2020. It turns out that Atiku Bagudu and Ike Ekweremadu did excellent performance. However, the report also lists around 20 former and serving governors, seven former and serving senators, current and former heads of government ministries, departments and agencies, and a host of other real estate owners in Dubai.
A fortnight ago, a Federal High Court sitting in Abuja upheld a request by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) for the provisional confiscation of around 40 land properties allegedly acquired with the proceeds of corruption. The affected properties include 10 properties in Enugu, 15 in Abuja, nine in Dubai, three in the US and two in the UK. The chicken did indeed roost for the embattled senator. At this point, we cannot say for sure where the pendulum of justice will swing, especially given that the senator has been incarcerated in the UK since June 23. Some might even question the rationale for the EFCC to pursue this line of action at once. when the person in question is unable to defend himself properly.
I have my suspicions too, but that’s a story for another day. But what worries me here is the vanity of Senator Ekweremadu. If it is true that these 40 properties are expressly owned or linked in some way to Senator Ekweremadu, it sends a very bad message to hard working Nigerians for a living. We all know that the salary and allowances of a Nigerian senator are common knowledge. Therefore, it is very easy for every interested Nigerian to make a simple appraisal to show how impossible it is to own such a bulk of real estate on a senator’s salary.
For example, the 2016 report revealed that Ekweremadu was connected to eight properties in Dubai, with a total estimated value of $7 million. The report also linked the senator to two properties in the UK bought between 2008 and 2011 with an estimated value of £4.2million. So what did he do with each of them when Africa’s richest man, Aliko Dangote, has no home outside of Nigeria? Aliko Dangote can afford to own a property in any part of the world, but he is not fascinated by vanity. The multi-billionaire made his counter-intuitive posture at the 2019 Mo Ibrahim Foundation. According to him, luxury items are distracting and time-consuming. He said, “I don’t have a vacation home anywhere. I don’t have a house anywhere but I know people who work for me…they have houses in London.
“But you see, a lot of people, even the younger ones, we have to be very careful because one of the biggest problems with us as Africans is that we spend our projected income. “Once you start doing Business [and] it starts to go well, but rather than investing more in the business, you start spending thinking the profits will keep coming. “There are ups and downs in business, so you have to be very focused.” During a service of thanksgiving and awards ceremony at St. Bartholomew’s Anglican Church, Asata, Enugu in 2013, the (then) Governor of Anambra State, Peter Obi , echoed the same sentiment when he lamented the level of greed among politicians in Nigeria.
He lamented the situation where public office holders use public funds to amass wealth, while the masses are allowed to simmer in abject poverty. He said: “The level of greed in Nigeria is overwhelming, where people cannot see the suffering of others, they just accumulate wealth. For me, it’s time to go. “I wonder why a person should own houses in Ikoyi, Asokoro, Dubai and he doesn’t use them for anything. People hoard what they don’t need. This is madness. The level of greed in Nigeria is intolerable. But the senator is set to lose 40 multi-million dollar properties as his constituency is littered with abandoned and unfinished projects.
It is unfortunate that the senator is currently being held in the UK until his organ harvesting case is called in January 2023, otherwise, Nigerians would have loved to hear from him how he was able to acquire all these properties.
Because even though he took his salary of 1.5 million naira plus the 13 million naira allocated to him for running his office, it is still a pittance compared to the value of one property held abroad. As Nigerian entrepreneurs seek every means to finance and grow their businesses here in Nigeria, Ekweremadu and his colleagues have been kept busy with illicit financial flows. They are the reason why we have a forex crisis that continues to shred the value of the Naira. Just last week, the Naira was exchanged for almost 900 naira to the dollar in some quarters, but these politicians don’t care about anything except themselves. By the way, how many bedrooms can someone who owns nine properties in Dubai sleep in per night? Or how much does the senator pay in tax for his property in the UK? Meanwhile, the Federal Medical Center in Enugu is in dire need of medical equipment.
What if the senator built a world-class hospital in his community with the money he invested in Dubai? Also, how many CT Scan machines are there in the whole of Enugu State? What about primary and secondary schools in his constituency? Can we begin to imagine what changes he might have brought to the school system in Enugu State? I pity him, but his people deserve better, not only in their legislative abilities, but also in their position as a paragon of integrity. His failure in this regard is a signal specimen of the plague that is ravaging and intoxicating the Southeast.
As for Senator Ike Ekweremadu, if these assets belong to him, I would like him to spend the money invested in infrastructure, education and health in his riding. Unfortunately, his colleagues may never learn from his misadventure, most would say it can’t happen to me. But, Nigerians hope to see the long arm of the EFCC deal similarly with other politically exposed persons on Sandcastle data.
By: Raphael Pepple