House of rep members asks EFCC to probe Pius Ayim

The House of Representatives Committee on the Federal Capital Territory has recommended that the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) and the Independent Corrupt Practices and other related Offences Commission (ICPC) should investigate a former Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Chief Anyim Pius Anyim, over his role in the acquisition of land for the controversial multi-billion dollar Abuja Centenary City Project.

The Project was approved by former President of Nigeria Goodluck Jonathan in 2014 to commemorate Nigeria’s centenary anniversary and at that time Pius Anyim was the Senate President who was the one in charge of the project, estimated to gulp $18.376bn.

The public land acquired for the city covered 1,267 hectares.

But, the panel said the promoters of the project allegedly “abused” Jonathan’s directives and also flouted the existing laws guiding the Abuja land-swap policy to suit personal and other business interests.

The committee, which is chaired by a member of the All Progressives Congress from Benue State, Mr. Herman Hembe, laid its report before the House, in Abuja, on Thursday.

The session was presided  by the Speaker, Mr. Yakubu Dogara.

However, the House has yet to consider the recommendations of the committee to decide whether to approve them or reject them.

In line with its tradition, the House, in its Committee of the Whole, will list the report for consideration by members on a later date.

Among those listed for probe along with Anyim by the committee are a former Minister of the Federal Capital Territory, Mr. Bala Mohammed; Ms Boma Ozobia, and Mr. Paul Oki.

Ozobia and Oki are the sole directors of Centenary City Plc, a firm incorporated for the sole purpose of executing the project.

Part of the report read, “As the main driver of the Centenary City project, the former SGF knew or should have known that financial consideration was the real essence for sourcing for a private investor for the project.

“As far as the committee could determine, there was nothing in the portfolio of Centenary City Plc to suggest that the company had the financial capacity to implement a project of USD18,376,660,950.

“As earlier said, the two companies that own the Centenary City Plc have a combined share value of N20,000.

“The two companies are, in turn, owned by two individuals (Boma Ozobia and Paul Oki), who happen to share the same address.

“The former FCT minister, Senator Bala Mohammed, on the basis of this information, expressed misgivings as to the financial capacity of the investor in a letter to the then SGF dated April 8, 2014.”

In addition, the committee directed the return of all the parcels of land taken by the FCT administration to form part of the centenary city project to their original owners.

This invariably implied the revocation of the entire land for the centenary project on the grounds of breaching the Abuja land-swap policy.

The committee’s recommendation stated, “The Right of Occupancy and Certificate of Occupancy purportedly granted the Centenary City Plc by the former FCT Minister, Senator Bala Mohammed, on April 10, 2014, should be withdrawn by the present FCT Minister, Mohammed Musa-Bello.”

The committee explained that by the terms of the contract agreement on the project, the land title automatically ceased to exist after the investor failed to meet the 180-day requirements for the commencement of development.

Among others, the committee advised President Muhammadu Buhari to revoke the status of the Free Trade Zone granted to the Centenary City Plc and the “company should be deregistered as a free zone entity.”

Summing up its findings, the committee said, “The implementation of the centenary city project from beginning to its current status leaves much to be desired.

“Presidential directives were flouted, relevant laws were violated and contractual obligations were wantonly breached.

“The committee determined that the only feasible way to do justice and equity to all parties is to restore them to the status quo ante and cause the law enforcement agencies to investigate the circumstances of the project.”

It will be recalled that during a public hearing conducted on the project in last months, some stakeholders, including a member from Anyim’s home state, Ebonyi, Mr. Linus Okorie, disagreed with the committee.

Anyim had claimed that Hembe was investigating him to get his pound of flesh over his refusal to sack a former Director General of the Securities and Exchange Commission, Ms Arunma Oteh, as requested by Hembe.

( Punch Newspaper)