15th February, 2018
Benin City, Nigeria…Sequel to recent legislation, Unexplained Wealth Orders, UWO, which empowers courts in the UK to seize assets of foreigners in the UK with questionable source of funding, the Africa Network for Environment & Economic Justice, ANEEJ, has said that Nigeria can leverage on this legislation and use it as an opportunity to conduct a comprehensive census for the purpose of drawing tax on all property owned by Nigerians locally and abroad and use proceeds thereof to develop critical areas of the Nigerian economy.
In making this call, ANEEJ Executive Director, the Rev David Ugolor said that the anti-corruption commitment evident from the enactment of the UWO is one which other governments where Nigeria wealth is stashed should emulate.
‘One thing which the UK has demonstrated with this new law is that it is willing to stretch the boundaries, go beyond rhetoric to help Nigeria rid itself of the cankerworm of corruption, by putting together a law which checkmates the increasing tendency of politically exposed persons to launder illicit wealth in offshore locations like the UK’, the Rev David Ugolor said.
The UK is a preferred destination for many of Nigeria’s politically exposed persons seeking to launder their illicit wealth. Even though a 2017 Klepto Bus Tour targeted Russian and Ukrainian Oligarchs in the UK, it eventually exposed the many choice property owned by Nigeria’s past and serving public officials with questionable sources of wealth.
‘Politically exposed persons have no need to see this as a witch hunting exercise. Rather, we believe that they should exploit the period of grace provided by the government to voluntarily declare their assets and income sources’, the Rev Ugolor remarked further.
Prior to the enactment of the new British law on property ownership, ANEEJ developed a virtual property tracker application. The objective is to map and share information on ownership of property in specific districts of Abuja. The idea easily syncs with that of the UWO of the UK and the Federal government VAIDS. The ANEEJ Property Tracka application seeks to identify persons/institutions linked to specific property, and will attempt to determine whether such persons meet their tax obligations to Nigeria.
‘If such taxes on property are collected here in Nigeria, they become a veritable source of funding for government for critical areas like education, power, health and other infrastructure’, Rev Ugolor added in a statement he made to the press.