A former Governor of Bayelsa State, Timipre Sylva, has denied receiving back 48 houses in Abuja seized by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission.
In a statement by his media aide, Doifie Buokoribo, on Monday, Mr. Sylva said neither he nor the courts had at any time confirmed his ownership of such property.
An Abuja Division of the Federal High Court had in June 2015 dismissed a case of alleged N19.2 billion fraud brought against the former governor by the EFCC.
The judgment of the court induced speculations in the media that the property seized from him had been returned to him.
Mr. Sylva, who is a member of the ruling All Progressives Congress, described the reports as “wholly speculative and vindictive.”
He threatened legal action against publishers of the report.
“We have a read report in a national newspaper, which was reproduced by a few online publications and in the social media, claiming that Chief Timipre Sylva had retrieved 48 of his property which the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission seized during the administration of Goodluck Jonathan.
“We view this report with disgust, given its unconcealed speculation and vindictiveness regarding such a sensitive matter.
“For the avoidance of doubt, Sylva does not own 48 buildings in Abuja or anywhere in the world. So the issue of reclaiming ‘48 houses’ does not arise.’
The statement said the former governor had only three houses in Abuja, which he built before he became governor.
It said this point had been made several times before, and neither EFCC nor those who had used EFCC as a tool of persecution against Sylva during the Goodluck Jonathan administration had contradicted it.
“EFCC had taken their allegations of property ownership against Sylva to several courts without establishing anything against the former governor during the Jonathan era,” it said.
“Beyond the commission’s routine media prosecution, no court of law has found Sylva guilty of any crime.
“Indeed, in the course of the trials at the Federal High Court, Abuja, owners of some of the properties wrongfully attributed to him joined to claim their houses.
“The court ruled on the matter of the said 48 properties since 2013. Why is it now a subject of media attention? Clearly, this is a sponsored publication.”
The statement said Mr. Sylva frowned at the malicious audacity of the publishers of such a story, or their sponsors, despite warnings by the courts against media prosecutions and persecutions like this one, and the attempts by the EFCC to burnish its image that was mindlessly battered during the last administration.
It said, “After failing to prove any crime against Sylva in a democratic court of law for the past four years, this latest media show is another desperate attempt to rubbish him politically.
“To correct the wrong impression that sponsors of the falsehood against him are, obviously, trying to create, Sylva has instructed his lawyers to take legal action against publishers of the fake story.”
An official of the EFFC, who pleaded anonymity because he was not authorized to speak on the matter, also said the report was not true.
He explained that “you cannot talk about seizing or returning a property until a court pronounces judgement, saying such property should be confiscated.”