From Steve Oko, Umuahia
Commissioner for Justice and the Attorney General of Abia State, Mr. Uche Ihediwa, has given insight on why the state gave 7-day ultimatum to the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC to unseal some marked properties by the commission in Umuahia.
According to him, the affected properties belong to the state government and its investor partners.
The Attorney General who addresses the press in Umuahia said EFCC over stepped its bounds by encroaching into the affairs of the state government which owns the sealed properties.
Ihediwa who was flanked at the briefing by his Trade and Investment counterpart, Dr. Cosmos Ndukwe; as well as the Culture and Tourism Commissioner, Mrs. Loveth Adimoha, said the action of the EFCC was a huge embarrassment to the state.
He listed the sealed properties to include : the Abia Mall Umuahia, Adelabu Housing Estate, Millennium Luxury Apartments Umuahia, and a housing estate at the former Umuahia Township Market.
Others are Abia Hotels limited Umuahia, and Linto Estate at the Old Timber Market Umuahia.
The State Attorney General faulted the action of the EFFCC, contending that the ownership of the affected properties is not in doubt or suspicious.
He explained that the mentioned properties belong to Abia State Government.
His words : “The state government duly entered into arrangements with credible investors for the development of these properties under Public Private Partnership, which means that reversionary interest in the properties still resides in the state government”.
He recalled that EFCC had in 2016 investigated the ownership of the said properties and found they were genuine.
Reading from a prepared speech, the Attorney General who served as Commissioner for Housing in the immediate past administration when most of the properties were developed asked EFCC to immediately remove the “offensive and provocative notices “.
He further read : ” In 2016, the same EFCC investigated the ownership of most of the properties. The Certificates of Occupancy and Public Private Partnership agreement between the state government and investors in respect of the properties were duly submitted to the commission at the time, which documents the commission found satisfactory.
“EFCC under in brazen disregard to the regulatory and investigate provisions of the law establishing it purported to mark assets /properties in various locations in Umuahia under the guise that these properties were under investigation.
” Section 28 and 29 (a) of the law establishing EFCC makes it clear that the commission can only deal properties of persons arrested for an offense under the Act. As noted earlier, ownership of the properties by the Abia State Government is not the subject of EFCC investigation.”
On the Abia Mall (Shooprite), the Attorney General noted that the property “is in receivership as a result of failure of the investor to pay back bank facilities, ” adding that, “had the commission done a due diligence check it would have unearthed this fact without shooting itself on the foot “.
The state Attorney General further lamented that “the unwarranted and unlawful actions of the EFCC have done incalculable harm to the economy of the state by scaring away high profile investors. This also sends a negative signal to investors planning to invest in the state “.
“Failure to comply with these demands within seven days will leave the state government with no option but to seek appropriate redress in a court of law “, he warned.