Some of the ships seized by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission have started to sink in waters across the country, while many of those that have been temporarily and permanently confiscated by those suspected of corruption are damaged due to a lack of maintenance.
Sources familiar with developments in the House of Representatives said the Nigerian Navy, which was mandated to oversee seized, recovered or confiscated assets, had no budgetary provision to maintain them, ultimately leaving them damaged. and overwhelmed.
Most of the vessels are in Lagos State and are most affected by abandonment, according to lawmakers.
The House of Representatives ad hoc committee on the valuation and condition of all loot recovered from movable and immovable property from 2002 to 2020 by federal government agencies of Nigeria for effective and efficient management and use had recently undertook surveillance visits to the locations of these assets. for a visual assessment.
Some members of the committee, who spoke to our correspondent on condition of anonymity while the investigation was still ongoing, expressed dissatisfaction with what they discovered during the tour.
One member said: “Some of these assets are still managed by third parties. But many of them are totally sealed. Like business premises, they allow people operating on the premises to continue, while they pay (rent) into the salvage account… they pay rent to the EFCC. But for those who are not like that, they are sealed and those depreciate themselves.
“Now let me tell you the worst case scenario and where you will feel bad about depreciation (of recovered / foreclosed assets): houses depreciate but not as much as ships in waters. Most of the ships that would have been seized, a number of them sunk – three or four of them submerged because no one can take care of them.
“In fact, most of those in Lagos waters have seriously depreciated… they’re like just holding the shell when the snail is dead. This is what happened to most ships. About 10 percent have been overwhelmed, while the rest are just in a terrible state where they can no longer attract much value. “
When asked about the number of ships and vessels on the waters across the country, the lawmaker revealed that more than 30 were in Port Harcourt, around 10 in Warri and around 10 in Bayelsa, adding: “They (the marine) have a lot and they are really in bad shape.
The source noted that although “the most valuable are in Port Harcourt” they are all in the custody of the Nigerian Navy.
“Even if they were confiscated for the benefit of the EFCC, the EFCC cannot protect them; it is the navy that protects them, ”he said.
The lawmaker noted that the ships which were supposed to be propelled regularly had been abandoned for almost seven years “and because of that they started to take on water”.
“At first I doubted the story of the submersion. We went to the water. In fact, I didn’t believe they were overwhelmed. But we actually saw ships inside the water, ”the lawmaker added.
Another committee member was asked what the panel thought about the waste of recovered assets as the federal government mourned the lack of revenue and embarked on a borrowing frenzy locally and internationally.
The lawmaker said: “The problem is that there is a large gap between confiscation and sale (auction). Most of the ships and vessels were confiscated more than five years ago; the minimum is two years ago. And they’re all still there. And these are strengths that cannot be abandoned for long; they depreciate assets.
“Nigeria’s waters have a lot of corrosion due to the high salt content (salinity). So they are corroded from the ground up and as long as they are corroded they will end up damaged.
Responding to a question about advocacy as an alternative, lawmakers said the government and its anti-corruption agencies should have made the offer before going to court for orders for the provisional and permanent confiscation of the ships.
The lawmaker added, “Part of the problem is that their custody and upkeep swallows up a lot of Navy funds and no one pays back the money spent by the Navy. So if we have about 100 ships and six naval sailors working on each ship, that means every day the navy men will be patrolling the waters, so you have about 600 tied to these assets.
“In addition, they have to be fueled and supplied there. Yet the EFCC does not reimburse the Navy for the expenditure on the assets. So because of that, it becomes a burden on the Navy and the level of maintenance gradually decreases.
“And because the Navy was part of the asset seizure process, seeing what happens to them now, the Navy is not encouraged to make more seizures. When you grab something and find that it ends up becoming a burden on you, you can compromise and allow some (of the ships) to go.
The chairman of the committee, Adejoro Adeogun, however, declined to comment on the revelations. When contacted to confirm the findings, he said: “You don’t expect me to talk about an investigation that we haven’t concluded. All the details you need will be provided in our report to the House.
Federation attorney general spokesman Umar Gwandu could not be reached for comments on Sunday ditto for EFCC spokesman Wilson Uwujaren.