The Special Presidential Investigation Panel for the Recovery of Public Property on Tuesday said that the federal government may soon take over empty houses in Abuja and sell them.
The chairman of the panel, Okoi Obono-Obla, who is also the Senior Special Assistant to the President on Prosecution, made this known when the Say no Campaign, a civil society organisation, paid a courtesy call on him in Abuja.
He said that there was need for the government to collaborate with civil society groups in order to search out properties of looters of national treasury.
“I want the houses taken over, that is where CSOs will have to work together with us.
“We have to take over those building and sell them and maybe put the money into education for our children.
“I was appointed to work to galvanise the anti-corruption war this assignment is a very important one and I will do it well,” he said
Mr. Obono-Obla said that there was a law known as the Recovery of Public Property special provisions Act which had been in existence for the past 40 years without being implemented by successive regimes.
He said that if that law was used, corruption would have been reduced drastically in Nigeria.
He said that the law stated that anyone who lied about their asset would go to prison for 21 years and if they had assets more than their earning their punishment was life imprisonment.
The prosecutor said that his office was ready to collaborate with civil society groups to fight corruption.
He urged them to submit the names of people who own properties illegally, especially public servants.
“This is because I have been asked to focus on public sector corruption.’’
Mr. Obono-Obla said that public sector corruption was the endemic worm, adding that bankers could also be investigated including anybody who could not explain the source of his wealth.
He said that the law had been in existence since September 30, 1979; so, anybody who had been in the local, state and federal governments from that period till date could be investigated.
Earlier, Ezenwa Nwagwu, one of the conveners of the Say no Campaign, said the campaign was birthed to fight against corruption, impunity, rape and election rigging.
Mr. Nwagwu said that the group sought partnership with the prosecution’s office because of his passion to fight against corruption adding that his appointment as chair would help the prosecution in Nigeria.
He said that the group had been worried about prosecutions in Nigeria especially that of anti-corruption agencies because sometimes there were compromising issues that were involved.
“So, we want to be able to screen out particular areas where we will be coming in to assist you and if there are collaborative areas you think we can also collaborate, the CSOs will be able to do.”
Mr. Nwagwu said that there were empty houses wasting in Abuja and most of them had been built for over 10 years and nobody lived in them.
He said that the group would partner with the office to ensure that the fight against corruption was intensified.
Jaiye Gaskiya, another convener of the group, said that there was a need for property identification scheme in Nigeria so property owners could have numbers just like the BVN.
Mr. Gaskiya said that if people with property register them and they had numbers it would be far much easier to trace.