Okey Sampson, Umuahia
The Government of Abia State on Monday issued the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) a seven-day ultimatum to remove what it described as ‘offensive’ notices placed on some of its property, saying they are assets of the state government.
The state Attorney-General and Commissioner for Justice, Chief Uche Ihediwa, who issued the ultimatum while speaking on the recent sealing of some property in the state by the EFCC, said some of the property purported to belong to a highly placed politician in the state are owned by the state.
Ihediwa, according to a release by the Chief Press Secretary to the Governor of the state, Mr Onyebuchi Ememanka, demanded that the EFCC tender an unreserved apology to the state within seven days in view of the inconvenience its action has caused the state.
The commissioner said the state would be left with no other option but to seek redress in court if the EFCC fails to apologise within the seven-day period.
He explained that the assets marked by the EFCC belonged to the state government, adding that Abia government duly entered into partnership arrangements with credible investors for the development of those properties under public-private partnerships while the reversionary interest in the properties still resides in the state government.
Ihediwa informed that the law establishing the EFCC makes it clear that the Commission can only seal property of persons under investigation and noted that ownership of the property in question is not under investigation.
He recalled that in 2016, the EFCC investigated the ownership of most of those property and the certificates of occupancy and public-private partnership agreements between the state government and investors of the various assets.
The commissioner described the action of the EFCC as unwarranted and unlawful, regretting that the agency did not write the state government to determine the ownership of the property whose title documents are domiciled at the state Ministry of Lands.
He stated that the action of the EFCC has caused harm to the state economy by scaring investors from the state.
The assets sealed by the EFCC include the Abia Mall, the Adelabu Housing Estate, the former township main market at Ogwumabiri, the Millenium Luxury Apartment, Abia Hotels and Linto Estate, and the Old Timber Market, all in Umuahia.