Using the outcome of investigations (including interviews with gatemen and security men), some Nigerian newspapers yesterday published or culled a story under a headline, “EFCC Returns 48 Houses to Sylva”. The reports have incensed thousands of online readers who reacted by dismissing the purported anti-corruption war waged by the Muhammadu Buhari administration as vindictive, selective and political.
However, the subject of the story, Chief Timipre Sylva, a former governor of Bayelsa State, on Monday issued a statement, saying the report was speculative even as he denied ownership of the Abuja houses.
The EFCC was said to have returned “48 choice houses” in Abuja that were seized during the administration of Goodluck Jonathan in 2013 to Sylva. He was being prosecuted at a Federal High Court in Abuja for alleged misappropriation of N6.46 billion state funds when he was governor of the state.
Some of the assets allegedly belonging to Sylva include: a mansion at 3 River Niger Street, Plot 3192 Cadastral zone AO, Maitama District Abuja; nine units (comprising six one-bedroom and 3 two-bedroom apartments) at 8 Sefadu Street Wuse Zone 2, Plot 262 Cadastral zone AO2, Wuse Abuja; and 2 units of duplexes at 5 Oguta Street, Plot 906 Cadastral Zone Wuse II, Abuja; a duplex at Plot 1271 Nike Street Cadastral Zone AO5, Maitama District Abuja; a duplex at Phase 1 Unit No. 1 (Villa 1) Palm Springs Gold Estate, Cachez Turkey Projects Limited, Mpape, Abuja; 10 units of one-room apartments at 8 Mistrata Street, Plot 232 Cadastral zone Wuse 11 Abuja; 5 units of duplexes at Plot No 1070 Dakibiyu District Cadastral zone B10, Abuja; 16 units service apartments at Plot 1181 Thaba Tseka Crescent, off IBB Way, Wuse II, Abuja; and 3 units of three-bedroom flats at No. 1 Mubi Close, Plot 766 Cadastral Zone A01, Garki, Abuja.
Sylva issued a rebuttal in Yenagoa through his media adviser, Mr Doifie Buokoribo. The statement reads:
“We have a read report in a national newspaper, which was reproduced by a few online publications and in the social media, claiming that Chief Timipre Sylva had ‘retrieved 48 of his property which the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission seized during the administration of Goodluck Jonathan.’ We view this report with disgust, given its unconcealed speculation and vindictiveness regarding such a sensitive matter.
“For the avoidance of doubt, Sylva does not own 48 buildings in Abuja or anywhere in the world. So the issue of reclaiming ‘48 houses’ does not arise. He has only three houses in Abuja, which he built before he became the governor of Bayelsa State. This point has been made several times before, and neither EFCC nor those who had used EFCC as a tool of persecution against Sylva during the Goodluck Jonathan administration have contradicted this fact.
“EFCC had taken their allegations of property ownership against Sylva to several courts without establishing anything against the former governor during the Jonathan era. Beyond the commission’s routine media prosecution, no court of law has found Sylva guilty of any crime. Indeed, in the course of the trials at the Federal High Court, Abuja, owners of some of the properties wrongfully attributed to him joined to claim their houses. The court ruled on the matter of the said 48 properties since 2013. Why is it now a subject of media attention? Clearly, this is a sponsored publication.
“Sylva takes great exception to the wholly speculative and vindictive report on the matter. He frowns on the malicious audacity of the publishers of such a story, or their sponsors, despite warnings by the courts against media prosecutions and persecutions like this one, and the attempts by the EFCC to burnish its image that was mindlessly battered during the last administration. After failing to prove any crime against Sylva in a democratic court of law for the past four years, this latest media show is another desperate attempt to rubbish him politically.
“To correct the wrong impression that sponsors of the falsehood against him are, obviously, trying to create, Sylva has instructed his lawyers to take legal action against publishers of the fake story.”
Media Adviser to Chief Timipre Sylva
03 October 2016