Lawmakers warn EFCC against selling assets to looters
The House of Representatives has urged the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) to prevent looters from recovering their loot in the ongoing auction of seized and forfeited assets.
The call was made by the House Ad Hoc Committee on Assessment and Status of All Recovered Loot Movable and Immovable Assets from 2002 to 2020 by Agencies of the Federal Government of Nigeria for Effective Efficient Management and Utilisation.
The committee’s Chairman, Adejoro Adeogun, who noted that his panel had earlier recommended speedy disposal of recovered loot, especially fixed assets, expressed the possibility of looters recovering the forfeited assets by proxy.
Adeogun, however, stated that the committee would continue with its investigation despite the sales.
Recall that the EFCC on December 6, 2022, commenced inspection and auction of 649 forfeited vehicles located across nine states and the Federal Capital Territory through appointed auctioneers.
Other assets listed for auction were 15 vessels and barges in Rivers, Delta, and Lagos states, about 39 mobile phones, 11 laptops, and other devices.
On December 27, 2022, the EFCC listed for auction 144 luxury houses and lands seized from convicted politicians, public servants, business moguls and internet fraudsters as proceeds of their corrupt practices ranging from money laundering and fraud to misappropriation of funds and fraudulent diversion, among others.
Speaking on Tuesday, Adeogun, however, decried that the House does not have the powers to determine how the assets should be disposed of, or to whom they should be sold.
According to him, “We are aware. Part of what we wrote in our interim report is the delay in the auctioning. Some of these assets were seized seven to eight years ago. They have depreciated. It was our concern then that they were depreciating, so we advised that it should be done fast especially now that the Federal Government needs money to fund the budget. It is to make sure that they recover as much value as can be recovered.”
“Look at most of the tankers and the ships that were seized. Some of them have lost up to 80 to 90 per cent of their value due to poor storage.”
“Then, the enabling law allows the (anti-graft) agencies to auction directly. The EFCC is supposed to auction what it seized, subject to due process.”
Speaking on the possibility of looters buying back their loot through the auction, Adeogun said, “That is possible but we in the National Assembly have no control over that. We can’t control what they do but what we must do is to ensure that they did the right thing.”
He further said that the assets must not remain abandoned till another government takes power in a few months.
Adeogun stated that his committee had done “most of what needs to be done,” including presenting an interim report to the House, while the comprehensive one would be laid after the general elections.
Members of the committee had initially opposed the auction of the assets at the centre of the probe.