National Vice Chairman, South East, of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Cairo Ojougboh, has petitioned President Muhammadu Buhari and the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) over what he described as fraudulent acquisition of over 3,000 hectares of land in the Federal Capital City, Abuja, for the Abuja Centenary City Project by its sponsors.
Land allocated for the project is estimated to be the size of Maitama, Asokoro and Guzape residential districts put together.
Ojougboh, in the petition, accused the immediate past Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), Anyim Pius Anyim, of being the brain behind the project, which, he said, was designed in such a way that the nation would lose millions of dollars in the process.
The petition was dated July 21, 2015.
Incidentally, a protest was staged at the PDP National Secretariat yesterday against Ojougboh by some persons who want him removed from office over allegations that he plans to hijack the party structure in the South East for his personal interest.
Addressing newsmen in Abuja yesterday, Ojougboh, a former member of the House of Representatives, said former President Goodluck Jonathan approved the project and did the ground breaking as part of activities to mark Nigeria’s centenary activities, because he was hoodwinked into believing it was a laudable one. He alleged that unknown to the ex-President, the project was a fraud put together by Anyim.
Responding through his aide, Sam Nwaobasi, Senator Anyim, said he would not join issues with Ojougboh because he is already in court over the allegation against him, which he considers libelous.
Ojougboh stressed: “Yes, the former president signed the papers as was presented to him by the former SGF, he was not properly briefed because of vested interests, I can defend him, he was not part of the fraud. If Jonathan had been properly briefed he would not have approved the project, not to talk of going to perform the ground breaking of the project.
“The former President thought that the Centenary city was for the good of all Nigerians because of the centenary spirit; unknown to him, it was the private project of the former SGF and his cohorts.
“I am calling on President Buhari now to revisit the centenary project and he will be shocked at the findings that the project was owned by some private individuals but procured with government funds.
“It would be interesting to note that he land owners demanded for compensation in line with the FCT administration resettlement and compensation programme from the Federal Government but the sponsors of the project used a private firm to pay the sum of N1.2 billion to the land owners.
“Where did they source that money from? How can an individual still serving in the government get such a huge sum to pay compensations without government knowledge. Who is the owner of Mullark?
“President Muhammadu Buhari should direct the Department of State Services, the Nigeria police, even the Directorate of Military Intelligence should be brought to look into the matter as well as the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission.
“The President must insist that each of these security agencies carry out independent investigation so that the depth of the matter would be reached. I am available to offer the much I know from my independent quests on the matter.”
Ojougboh described the project as a scheme used to defraud the Federal Government in taxes, stressing that the Free Zone status given to the multi-district estate was inconsistent with the extant laws of the Federal Capital Territory as well as the rules guiding the granting of a free trade zone by the Nigeria Export Zonal Authority (NEPZA).
“During my tenure at as Chairman of the Board of NEPZA, I can categorically attest to the fact, emphatically and unequivocally, that the board did not approve the grant of the status of free trade zone to Centenary City.
“Centenary City cannot be a free zone because it is purely a residential estate within the confinement of the Federal Capital Territory and it is implicit that those who live in the free trade zone will require re-entry visa for ingress and egress.
“I make bold to say that the Federal Government has no equity in the Centenary City project and that Senator Anyim Pius Anyim is the sole owner of the 3000 acres of land owned by the Centenary City Abuja.
“This is against the tenets and spirit of the Public Service rules for a public servant to own such a business while in government,” Ojougboh stated.
The PDP stalwart further stated that he aligned his thought with that of the Anti-Corruption Network which drew the attention of his board to the matter that the “idea of certifying the Centenary City as a free zone was to give import duty to the owners through the back door.”
He stated that the consequence was to rob Nigerian masses of their land and revenue, and retard the industrial growth of the nation.
He stated that for every one job the project creates today, it robs the nation of over 10 jobs in taxes and industrial development.
Nwaobasi responding on behalf of Senator Anyim in a telephone interview said the issue was already in court and therefore won’t dignify Ojougboh with a response.
“The issue is already in court. Senator Anyim has gone to court to sue him for defamation on the previous press conference and interviews that he has granted and in which he has accused him of almost all these things you said he is saying now.
“So the matter is already in court and Senator Anyim does not wish to join issues with Ojougboh on matters that are already in court.
“Senator Anyim did not raise any protest against Cairo Ojougboh. There is no need for such thing. What he thinks and what he knows is very civilised. Since he feels aggrieved by what Cairo has been saying and writing against him, he is pursuing a very civilised cause of going to the court to plead his case and that offers Cairo the same opportunity to defend himself.
“So he cannot resort to engaging people to demonstrate which does not in any way mean anything to him. He did not, he will not, it is not his character to do so. Whatever Cairo Ojougboh is making, he will have an opportunity in court to explain all of those and then plead his case.
“As far as Senator Anyim is concerned, the matter is in court and he does not wish to join issues with Cairo in matters that are already in court,” he said.