The Royal Town Planning Institute (RTPI) has published its key demands for the next UK government in a manifesto ahead of the 2019 General Election.
From Neighborhoods to Nations – the importance of planning has been sent to every current Member of Parliament seeking re-election in December.
The document sets out key issues that need to be addressed at a political level to ensure town planners and the planning system are able to create sustainable, well-designed, successful urban and rural places into the future, and planning’s role in delivering zero-carbon targets.
Chief Executive of the RTPI, Victoria Hills, said: “Planners and the planning system have a critical role in meeting the future challenges of climate change and population growth over the coming decades.
“However, local authority planning teams have seen a reduction of 42% in funding over the last decade. We therefore call on the next government to ensure local planning authorities are adequately resourced to enable local planning teams to deliver for communities.
“This document sets out our key priorities and I call on politicians to equip planners to help achieve their goals.”
The manifesto also urges the next government to protect and grow devolved powers to city regions, remove barriers to city-regional spatial strategies for development and infrastructure and remove legal barriers to allow city regions to fully use their devolved planning powers.
It also highlights that the future pipeline of urgently-needed planners via apprenticeships and planning schools should continue to be strongly supported by government.
Till date, 20 years after the controversial demise of one of Nigeria’s last military leaders, Sani Abacha, one sore thumb still aching local and international financial crime investigators is the full extent of his legacy of corruption.
In the years since 2002 when the first insight into the depth of corruption during his administration was revealed, Nigerians came to know through out-of-court settlement the Abachas struck with the Nigerian and Swiss governments that the family will return $1.2 billion siphoned out of Nigeria by the late general through a huge criminal network and enterprise. Still, that offered no adequate tally of the famous loot.
While part of the terms of settlement allowed the Abacha family keep about $100 million of the funds, Nigeria’s position was to keep an eye on international investigations around the late dictator. The New York Times reported then, that the Nigerian government persisted in its efforts to track more accounts holding funds that had been siphoned out of the country by the same family.
One of the points of contention in the campaign for the return of what has now been tagged the “Abacha loot,” however, was the status of some $90 million claimed to have been appropriated by Abdulkadir Abacha, a brother to the late military despot, and which the Swiss prosecutors had refused to unfreeze and release to Nigeria.
Now fresh indications have emerged regarding substantial but hitherto concealed property holdings by members of the family in the Dubai real estate market.
Working collaboratively alongside the Cell Norbert Zongo for Investigative Journalism (CENOZO), Finance Uncovered, and Organised Crime and Corruption Reporting Project (OCCRP), PREMIUM TIMES CENTRE FOR INVESTIGATIVE JOURNALISM has now uncovered fresh vistas based on leaked information on property ownership in Dubai indicating just how much investigators still know of the footprints of wealth connected to the Abacha loot.
Whereas years of investigative probing have revealed that the Abachas were involved in numerous cases of money laundering, looting and other corrupt practices during the regime of the late Head of State, according to Nigeria’s anti-corruption agency, EFCC, the hitherto concealed properties in the UAE is the latest in this seemingly unending looting of Nigeria’s treasury by the infamous Abacha family.
Nigeria had, in 2018, signed several bilateral agreements with the UAE which covers trade, finance and judicial matters. The agreement on judicial matters includes mutual assistance on criminal and commercial matters, which covers the recovery and repatriation of stolen wealth. This agreement means the Nigerian government can immediately move on matters such as the unearthed Abacha loot.
The discovery and subsequent use of the Abacha loot has always drawn comments from the accountability sector of society and this instance is no different. Olarenwaju Suraju, Chairman, HEDA Resource Centre, reacting to this new discovery, urged the Nigerian government to quickly engage the UAE authorities using the bilateral agreement between both countries to freeze the assets and move for prosecution and final forfeiture. He expects that the Nigerian government will pursue return of the assets as fast as other properties were pursued. He went on further to say “government must make moves to ensure forfeiture of assets acquired using proceeds of crime by past and present public office holders.
The Executive Director of the Africa Network for Environment and Economic Justice (ANEEJ), David Ugolor, also emphasised the opportunity that the bilateral agreement between both countries presents in handling this instance of loot discovery. He pointed out that similar commitments exist between Nigeria and countries like the U.S. and UK, recalling the 2016 Anti-Corruption Summit where both countries committed to helping Nigeria recover ill-gotten funds and assets of corrupt Nigerians by sharing information.
The GFAR summit in December of 2017 also promised to help developing countries recover their looted assets by providing technical support and information sharing. Mr Ugolor further said that he believes Nigerian anti-corruption agencies have what it takes to go after corrupt individuals to recover assets and to have them prosecuted. He further said “the government should have a politically exposed persons register to help fight against corruption and expose corrupt public office holders and business people”.
Commenting on new revelations of Abacha Loot, Auwal Rafsanjani, Director, Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre (CISLAC) expressed disappointment that 20 years after, Nigeria is still unearthing ill-gotten funds carted away by the Abacha regime. He said Nigeria struggles with controlling Illicit Financial Flows and will continue to struggle until there is serious reforms in the existing policies and legal framework to fight illicit financial flows within Nigeria and abroad. The establishment of a beneficial ownership register is important to the fight against IFF, and the absence of such a register gives way for corrupt politicians, and business people to take advantage of the situation by hiding behind fronts/companies to loot ill-gotten funds via real estate, banks, oil companies and others.
Mr Rafsanjani revealed that the Extractives Industries Transparency Initiatives (EITI) almost suspended Nigeria because they failed to accomplish their commitments. The same applies to the Open Government Partnership (OGP) where the Nigerian government had committed to creating a beneficial ownership register but still has not done it. He further said, “We have been having problems in returning stolen assets to the country because the government is mostly making political pronouncements instead of creating policies to curb corruption, hence, making it difficult for the international community to take the Nigerian government serious”.
He pointed out that there is no framework to manage repatriation of funds and assets thus making it difficult to assess the assets recovered by anti-corruption agencies like the EFCC, ICPC etc. He concluded his statements emphasizing the significance of political will in creating holistic frameworks to fight IFF which costs the country billions of dollars yearly and the successful repatriation of stolen assets. He also said collaboration with the media and CSOs will be important in winning the fight
Multimillion Naira Abacha Properties Stashed in Dubai
According to the leaked database of property holdings in Dubai, Abdulkadir Abacha, who alongside Mohammed, a son of the late Head of State, had played a significant role in moving much of these illicit funds offshore, has six properties in Dubai, with a combined estimated value of a little over $3 million.
The properties traced to Abdulkadir Abacha are located in Dubai Downtown, Marina, and Jumeirah Beach Residence. According to the leaked data, Abdulkadir holds five of the six properties in his name, while the final property, located at the Jumeirah Beach Residence, is owned by a Nigerian company that has been traced to the former dictator’s brother.
The company, registered in Nigeria and with RC no 123141, is named Prospectors Marketers International Limited. The company’s resolution document from the Corporate Affairs Commission reveals Abdulkadir Abacha as the highest shareholder in Prospectors Marketers International Limited, with a 90 per cent shareholding and Zainab Abdulkadir, who could be either his wife or daughter, owning the other 10 per cent of the shares.
It also appears that one Kindway Enterprises Ltd is a shareholder of Prospectors Marketers International Limited, and a search for the ownership of this other entity again revealed Abdulkadir Abacha as its highest shareholder, with an 80% shareholding, while the remaining shares are evenly owned by Fatimah Abdulkadir and Zainab Abdulkadir, who also appear to be his relatives.
The table below contains a list of the sizes, numbers, and value of the properties owned by Abdulkadir Abacha. These properties are located in some of the most expensive areas of Dubai. Four properties are around the internationally renowned Burj Khalifa. One property is located at the Dubai Marina, an area where only the very rich moor their yachts. Yet another property is located at the Jumeirah Beach Residence, an area with lots of high-rise buildings.
The documents obtained and analysed by the investigating team suggest that Abdulkadir Abacha sold one of the properties to an individual named Karl Whyte, and it is understood that Abdulkadir owned the other properties between 2014 and 2015.
No Response from Abdulkadir Yet
Several attempts have been made to contact both Abdulkadir and Mr Whyte through the email addresses and phone numbers provided in the leaked documents. The email sent to Abdulkadir Abacha bounced back and his Dubai phone number appears to be disconnected. Efforts made to contact him in Nigeria have also failed. Our partner, Finance Uncovered, was able to contact Mr Whyte and posed questions about the property acquisition process, who he interacted with during the acquisition and which lawyers he used in the transaction. Although Mr Whyte had initially promised to respond to the questions via email, he however did not honour this promise.
Involvement in the Intractable Malabu Oil Scandal
The Abachas are also actively linked to the Malabu Oil scandal, which has been the subject of attention of law enforcement and the justice departments of many countries. In this case, the late military Head of State, in concert with Dan Etete, the then petroleum minister, had granted Malabu Oil and Gas Limited the Oil Prospecting License (OPL) 245, a company which he (through his son, Mohammed Abacha) and Etete had illegal stakes in.
OPL 245 was considered the most lucrative oil block in Africa, with proven reserves having a value in excess of $5 billion from conservative estimates. Apparently, Malabu Oil had been registered and was secretly owned by the cohort, who granted themselves the hugely fecund OPL245 through the Department of Petroleum Resources under the Ministry of Petroleum led by Etete, just about a week after the company was registered in the second quarter of 1998.
The Malabu Oil scandal remains a problem for Nigeria till date because a few years after the death of General Abacha, two international oil companies, Shell and Eni, also became entangled in the intrigues around the ownership of OPL 245, which has knotted into a legal nightmare, with litigations still ongoing across several transnational jurisdictions till present.
Two Resource-rich Countries; Very Different Outcomes
One is forced to draw a comparison between Dubai, a popular destination for many people, including Nigerians and Nigeria. Both are oil-producing countries, although the similarity between both ends there.
The United Arab Emirate’s real estate grandeur is the end product of oil exploration and trade in the Middle East region since the 1970s, particularly as the UAE is currently the 8th largest producer of oil in the world, proceeds from which have been driving the huge developments in the region.
In two decades, the United Arab Emirates has been able to grow its economy swiftly, away from just oil, and is currently one of the leading tourist destinations in the world. Dubai, one of the seven emirates making up the UAE, is now a global hub for tourists, investors, and human traffic transiting to numerous destinations across the world.
While oil revenue is still a great source of the country’s prosperity, oil earnings contributed only about 30 percent of the government’s revenue in 2017; a drastic reduction from the 70 per cent it contributed in the 1970s.
Evolving with its rapid economic growth, the real estate business in UAE holds huge appeal to many from various locations due to its uniqueness, brisk development and boom, resulting in numerous international construction companies investing in high rise luxurious buildings and villas, which are open to acquisition by foreigners around the world.
Consequent upon this, Nigerians have been investing heavily in property ownership in Dubai as an asset holding venture for business owners. Unfortunately, corrupt public office holders use the Dubai property market as a means of hiding stolen funds meant for the welfare of the generality of the people.
The Director-General of the Abu Dhabi Chamber, Mohamed Helal Al Muhairi observed that Nigerians are the second largest group of property owners in Dubai, after Indians, while also stating that Nigerians spend more than $110 million yearly in visa fees to the UAE. From available information, almost Dh200 million ($52.2 million) was invested in the Dubai property market in the first half of 2012. The First Group’s sales manager, an international construction company, also stated that about $6 billion has been invested in Dubai’s property market in three years, with Nigerians accounting for some 60 per cent of the company’s sales.
Whereas at home in Nigeria, the story is vastly different. A country equally blessed with crude oil with an average daily production of 2 millions barrels, and average annual oil revenue of $30 billion, has failed to convert this into any form of significant development. The Niger Delta region of the country, a once verdant land lush with flora and fauna and a unique ecosystem thriving on fishery and crafts, has now been distorted into rivers flowing with black oil from the spills of exploration activities by both multinationals and illegal oil refinery activities, with its skies burning a relentless orange from the continuous fires of flared gas.
Unfortunately, while Dubai’s city in the desert has countless magnificent skyscrapers built with the proceeds of oil, Nigeria’s similar desert topography has become a battleground for the Boko Haram insurgency, the containment of which has remained a burden for the state’s armed forces in the past decade. The region has become synonymous with sorrow, tears and blood, with women and children, the greatest casualties. The citizenry in this region are killed by terrorist groups laying claims to religious radicalisation or unconscionable bandits.
While one society has adequately harnessed its humongous oil wealth for the greater good of its people, another with a similar trajectory of earnings has merely been a playground of rapacious and avaricious actors, often linked to the state, who have plundered the country’s oil proceeds in orgies of corruption either hidden in offshore havens or utilised in the acquisition of exotic foreign properties.
It remains to be seen whether Abdulkadir Abacha’s impressive UAE property portfolio has a source other than what he acquired, one way or the other, from being a brother to the late General Sani Abacha. The view in many quarters in Nigeria is that except genuine explanations on their sources are offered, the ownership of these properties may well be the Nigerian people.
The Nigerian Institution of Surveyors has advised its members to be innovative in the discharge of their functions, as well as acquire new skills due to the dynamic nature of the profession.
Speaking at the 37th Annual Olumide Memorial Lecture in Abuja, the President, NIS, Alabo Charles, told surveyors at the event that the profession of surveying prides itself as being the primary source of any developmental project.
He said, “As much as that is true, what have we done to establish primacy and dominion over our environment? The surveying and geo-informatics profession is a leader and should always prime itself for that role, ready to adapt and innovate.
“We are faced with challenges of technology every day. Yes we use them but we need to find a way to establish usefulness to relevance with the work of other professionals not only in the built industry but across the society.”
Charles told his listeners that the present day society was beset with advances in artificial intelligence and machine learning.
“We now have Building Information Modelling that integrates all professionals’ input into a model that facilitates professional communication and actions to ensure timely project actualisation,” he stated.
The NIS president added, “BIM also engenders effective cost management and project quality, performance evaluation and control, as well as timeline management.
“We must therefore evolve and adapt in our skills sets to ensure that we retain primacy and relevance in the industry.”
In his address, the guest speaker, Prof. Akin Osibogun, who spoke on the theme, ‘Microbes and Disease as Existential Threats: The Need for Constant Watchfulness,’ urged surveyors to be conscious of the fact that they had high exposure to microbes due to the nature of their job.
He said, “You are always breaking new grounds and in breaking new grounds, you come across microbes, which is why you need to know how to stay safe, especially when coming in contact with some microscopic organisms.
“Microbes can knock out a surveyor if not dealt with adequately. Microbes cause disease and a disease will not spare its target. So, you have to be careful with your drinking water sources when you are in the field.”
The chief executive officers of deposit money banks in the country have denied directing MTN Nigeria to charge customers for using unstructured supplementary service data (USSD) channels.
In a joint statement released on Tuesday, the bankers said the charges on financial transactions have not been changed.
“Our attention has been drawn to SMS sent on Saturday 19th October by MTN Nigeria Communications PLC (“MTN”) to customers of banks in Nigeria in respect of the above,” the statement read.
“The message states that the banks requested MTN to start charging customers for USSD transactions directly. It also asks customers to contact their banks for more information. We wish to state as follows:
“That the banks did not ask MTN to start charging customers as contained in the text message. The decision on whether, and what amount, to charge a customer for accessing USSD is entirely that of the telco company, in the same way a customer is billed for calls, SMS and data.”
The CEOs went on to state that MTN is “the only telco that is yet to implement end-user billing which is the standard practice for customer-initiated transactions” despite meetings with the Central Bank of Nigeria since 2018 on reducing the cost of USSD to aid financial inclusion.
Expressing commitment to improving financial inclusion, the bankers said they would continue to advocate that telcos implement a low-pricing model for using USSD access codes.
Addressing the issue on the sidelines of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and World Bank meetings in Washington, Godwin Emefiele, the CBN governor, had told banks to ditch telcos that want to raise charges.
Another mob in Abuja a while ago Tuesday killed suspected robber beside the former Daughter of Charity hospital, a few metres from the Kubwa train station, few weeks after ‘one chance’ men were equally burnt.
It was gathered that the suspect alongside his accomplice attempted to snatch a motorcycle from a commercial motorcycle rider but their plot was foiled when their victim raised the alarm which attracted passers-by, Punch reports.
One of the suspected robbers was killed and his body set ablaze on the rail track, while his accomplice in the crime was rescued by the police.
Minister of Works and Housing, Mr Babatunde Fashola has said that a total of 524 road projects were ongoing in the different geo-political zones in the country. Babatunde Fashola Fashola said this while addressing the House of Representatives Committee on Works chaired by Rep. Ahmed Birchi in Abuja.
The minister said there were four multilateral-funded road projects, 81 under the Presidential Infrastructural Development Fund and 45 others being funded under the Sukuk bond. Motorists lament bad state of Ikotun-Cele road He said that the ministry was focusing on roads that open up the economy and contribute to the ease of doing business.
He added that “Nigeria would be back on its feet” if government could ensure that there was no failure on roads that stretched from ports to border cities. “What remains is to finish; the real challenge for us and our recommendation is to adopt the policy statement of the president and focus on whatever resources we have towards completing as many of those projects as possible.”
He added that a funding gap of ₦255 billion was required to “ideally” fund some of the major roads and stressed that the ₦157 billion 2020 budget allocation was inadequate. Fashola said that ₦2.93 billion was pending in unpaid certificates under the multilateral funded projects, while ₦306 billion was the amount for unpaid certificates for completed road projects.
On private sector investment in road projects, the minister, however, cautioned that the government “must not play politics” with such investment. He also said that the ministry undertook a traffic count on strategic roads nationwide which supported the argument of the toll gate system on Nigerian roads.
“For the first time in 10 years, the Ministry of Works undertook a traffic count nationwide on strategic roads; we completed it in 2017. “What you see (in the document) before you are reporting; so where you see Average Daily Traffic (ADT), the top item on the far right is Enugu-Abakaliki and it shows ADT is 20,746 vehicles.
“The projected traffic in 20 years is what is under it and if you look through all those columns from the left, Lagos-Ibadan, Ogere Northside the ADT there is reported as 25.1 thousand and projected to rise to 45,000 vehicles. “This (document) provides more information for those who make the argument that if you toll the roads you get all the money.”
Fashola added that the busiest road in the country was the Third Mainland Bridge with vehicular traffic of 117,000 plus average daily traffic. NAN reports that the Ministry of Works and Housing got the highest projected allocation of N262 billion from the N10. 33 trillion budget estimates presented by President Muhammadu Buhari to a joint session of the National Assembly on Tuesday.
Fashola, middle, defending the budget of the Ministry of Works at the House of Representatives
Babatunde Raji Fashola, minister of works and housing announced that the Federal Government will no longer make refund to states which repair federal roads.
He advised the states to concentrate on state-funded roads.
Fashola announced the paradigm shift in federal-state relations on Thursday while defending the budget of his works component of his ministry before the Works Committee of the House of Representatives.
“When we came in, we inherited quite a number of such debts from states which repaired Federal roads and asked for refunds. The President directed that we pay all those that were approved by the previous government.
“He also directed that states should concentrate on their own roads and that states can only get involved in Federal roads, if they are repairing them and not coming to ask for refund,” he said.
The minister complained that the N157b capital budgetary allocation to his ministry is too little, as it is not enough to pay contractors for jobs already done.
According to him the Ministry needs N306 billion to pay contractors for jobs already done, while N2.93 billion was pending in unpaid certificates under the multilateral-funded projects.
The minister said the Federal Government has about 524 ongoing road projects across the country, with four multilateral-funded road projects, 81 roads under the Presidential Infrastructural Development Fund (PIDF) and 45 others being funded under the Sukuk bond.
Fashola said N255 billion was required to fund some of the major roads, adding that the ministry was focusing on roads that help to open up the economy and make the ease of doing business less cumbersome.
The minister listed some of the projects under the PIDF to include the Abuja-Kaduna-Zaria-Kano road, the Second Niger Bridge, the Lagos-Ibadan Express Road, the Mambilla Hydro project and the East-West road.
Says int’l organisations’ expenditure claims on IDPs bogus
Admits economy not growing well
Unveils agenda for economic advisory council
President Muhammadu Buhari yesterday rejected statistics by the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund on Nigeria’s economy.
He said such statistics were developed abroad and did not reflect the realities on ground as they also implied that “we are not fully aware of what is happening in our own country”. Buhari spoke at the Presidential Villa in Abuja yesterday while inaugurating the Presidential Economic Advisory Council which was constituted on September 16, 2019 to replace the Economic Management Team chaired by Vice President Yemi Osinbajo. TODAY OVER 5,000 NIGERIAN MEN HAVE OVERCOME POOR BEDROOM PERFORMANCE SYNDROME DUE TO THIS BRILLIANT DISCOVERY
“Today, most of the statistics quoted about Nigeria are developed abroad by the World Bank, IMF and other foreign bodies. “Some of the statistics we get relating to Nigeria are wild estimates and bear little relation to the facts on the ground.This is disturbing as it implies we are not fully aware of what is happening in our own country,” Buhari said. He set agenda for the Economic Advisory Council: proffering home-grown idea solutions to the economic crisis; coordinating and synthesising ideas and efforts on how to, in collaboration with various employment generating agencies, lift 100 million citizens out of poverty in 10 years as well as developing reliable data that will properly reflect what is happening in the country.
According to the president, “We can only plan realistically when we have reliable data.” Buhari also said the impact of hundreds of millions of dollars which the international organisations claimed to have spent on the internally displaced persons in the northeast was “rarely” seen on ground. “Today, we hear international organisations claiming to spend hundreds of millions of dollars on IDPs in the North East. But when you visit the camps, you rarely see the impact. “In 2017, when the National Emergency Management Agency took over the feeding of some IDPs in Borno, Yobe and Adamawa, the amount we spent was significantly lower than the claims made by these international organisations.
“Therefore, actionable data is critical to implement effective strategies to address pressing problems such as these humanitarian issues. “I, therefore, look forward to receiving your baseline study as this will help us shape ideas for a sustainable and prosperous future,” he said. He charged the council: “As you develop your baseline study, I would like you to focus on primary data collection.
“We can only plan realistically when we have reliable data. As you are aware, as a government, we prioritised agriculture as a critical sector to create jobs and bring prosperity to our rural communities. “Our programmes covered the entire agricultural value chain from seed to fertiliser to grains and ultimately, our dishes. “As you travel in some rural communities, you can clearly see the impact. However, the absence of reliable data is hindering our ability to upgrade these programmes and assure their sustainability.”
On the Social Investment Programmes, the president said his administration was working to measure the impact of the programme targeted at improving the well-being of millions of poor and vulnerable citizens. He said he had directed the Minister of Humanitarian Affairs to commence a comprehensive data-gathering exercise in all IDP camps in the northeast.
The president admitted that the nation’s economy was not growing well. “Yes, Nigeria has exited the recession. But our reported growth rate is still not fast enough to create the jobs we need to meet our national ambition of collective prosperity. “Reason being we had to tread carefully in view of the mess we inherited. Many of the ideas we developed in the last four years were targeted at returning Nigeria back to the path of growth. “I am sure you will also appreciate that during that time, our country was also facing serious challenges especially in the areas of insecurity and massive corruption.
“Therefore, I will be the first to admit that our plans were conservative. We had to avoid reckless and not well thought out policies. “However, it was very clear to me after we exited the recession that we needed to re-energise our economic growth plans. This is what I expect from you,” he said. President Buhari also assured the Council that the Federal Government will ensure that all their needs and requests were met before the next technical sessions in November.
He said all key ministries, departments and agencies would be available to meet and discuss with them on how to collectively build a new Nigeria that caters for all. “Now, no one person or a group of persons has a monopoly of knowledge or wisdom or patriotism.
“In the circumstances, you may feel free to co-opt, consult and defer to any knowledgeable person if in your opinion such a move enriches your deliberations and adds to the quality of your decisions, “he said. The chairman of the council, Professor Salami, said the mandate was about “Nigeria first, Nigeria second, and Nigeria always,” adding that it was about Nigerians, not as numbers, but as people.”