Senate probes missing $27m from sales of foreign properties

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Abuja – The Senate on Thursday began investigation into alleged disappearance of 27 million dollars proceeds from the sales of Nigerian properties in New York.

Two former Nigeria ambassadors and the incumbent appeared before the Senate Committee on Foreign Affairs in Abuja.

They are: Dr George Obiozor (2004 to 2006); Prof. Joy Ogwu (2006 to 2007), and the incumbent  Mr Ade Adefuye, who assumed duty in March 2010.

The probe followed a petition by Transform Nigeria Citizen Initiative, a non-governmental organisation, over alleged misappropriation of funds by the officials of the Nigerian embassy in Washington D.C.

The petition was signed by one Mr Daniel Elombah.

Elombah had urged the Senate to investigate why the proceeds from the sale of some Nigerian government properties in the US between 2004 and 2007 were not accounted for.

He said, “Available records showed that between 2004 and 2007, the Embassy of Nigeria sold four prime properties of the Nigerian Government located in Washington D.C and Maryland.

“It also commenced sale of a fifth property located in San Francisco, California.

“For the sale of those properties, the government of Nigeria retained the services of ECULAW Law Firm. Out of those sales, Nigeria realised the sum of 27 million dollars.

“All funds realised from these sales, except those set aside as fees, were remitted to the Embassy of Nigeria in Washington D.C,’’ the petitioner alleged.

He alleged that all the funds and transactions were duly confirmed in June 2007 by ECULAW Law firm when it met with embassy officials at the Embassy premises in Washington D.C.

He alleged that instead of remitting the proceeds to Nigeria, the funds were lodged in Washington bank.

“M&T Bank had been the bank the embassy used for other transactions and had about three different accounts with that bank.

“It was confirmed in clear terms that their bank was holding huge deposits comprising the proceeds of the sales of these properties.

“This remained the position after Dr George Obiozor had returned to Nigeria upon completing his service in Washington.

“However, and surprisingly, the Embassy of Nigeria left that money in Washington partly because it yielded substantial monthly interests, which the embassy officials would never have to account for.’’

The petitioner further alleged that the money in the accounts, disappeared, without trace in March 2012.

 “This became clear when the M&T Bank was forced to close the accounts of Nigerian Embassy and to terminate all banking relations with the embassy at the beginning of 2012.

According to him, since March 2012, no explanation had been given as to the whereabouts of funds which were in the bank accounts when the incumbent assumed office.

The Chairman, Senate Committee on Foreign Affairs, Sen. Matthew Nwagwu, said the committee had received a petition alleging embezzlement of funds in Nigeria’s Embassy in Washington.

“There is a petition before the committee on the issue. We have the petition and we are taking it on the face value.

“We are giving this opportunity to the minister and ambassador to explain what happened. It is alleged that the resources were squandered by embassy officials.

“Ours is to give you a chance to address the committee, to tell us what you know about the administration and management of the fund within your tenure from 2004 till date.

Journalists were, however, ordered out of the Committee Room before the testimonies of the three envoys were taken. (NAN)

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