Sunday, September 24, 2023

I can’t account for N6 trillion ground rent; ask SGF, Fashola tells Senate

“I will advise that you direct your enquiries about what the PIC does to the SGF since the organisation does not report to me. I cannot account for them.”

• May 4, 2023
Babatunde Fashola and Boss Mustapha
Babatunde Fashola and Boss Mustapha

Works minister Babatunde Fashola has urged the Senate ad hoc committee investigating the N6 trillion unpaid ground rent to seek information from Boss Mustapha, the secretary to the government of the federation.

Mr Fashola said this when the Senate ad hoc committee chaired by Adamu Aliero (PDP-Kebbi) visited the ministry on Wednesday.

The Senate had, on March 29, set up an ad hoc committee to investigate and recover the over N6 trillion accrued from the non-payment of ground rent from property owners across the country. The motion was moved by Yusuf Yusuf (PDP-Taraba).

Mr Fashola, during the meeting, told the Senate committee that the Presidential Implementation Committee (PIC) that issued receipts on the property was under the purview of the SGF and not his ministry.

The minister explained that he only knew about the activities of the PIC after requests were forwarded to him to sign a certificate of occupancy on the property.

“About two years or so when they started passing C-of-Os to me to sign, and I said, where is the delegation because the power to sign C-of-Os is vested in the president for land belonging to the federal government and in the state governors for lands belonging to the states,” the minister explained. “In the process, I saw a body called the Presidential Implementation Committee (PIC), the body that was supposedly issuing receipts and all of that. Anytime I sought to find this body, nobody showed up.”

He added, “As we are getting close to the end of term, I now formally wrote, I asked the director of lands to write them, to ask to tell me what they are doing. They (PIC) replied that they are not accountable to our office and they are in the SGF office and that they report to the presidency. So, as far as your letter seeks to ask us to account for the PIC, they don’t report to us. I will advise that you direct your enquiries about what the PIC does to the SGF since the organisation does not report to me. I cannot account for them.”

Mr Fashola noted that most of the C-of-Os he had signed were pending requests dating back to 15 or 20 years.

Mr Aliero, while briefing reporters after the meeting, said that his panel would engage the PIC over the disposal of federal government ground rent next week and that about N18 billion had been recovered and that efforts are being made to collect the balance.

“They explained to us how much has been collected so far. They have close to N18 billion, and efforts are being made to collect the remaining money. Within the next three weeks, we will come back for an update,” the senator explained. “I’m sure they will be able to collect whatever is due to the federal government on all federal government property either sold or still under the hold of the federal government.”

Mr Aliero assured that his committee would unravel all the property owned and sold by the federal government in various states and FCT and the payment mode of the ground rent.

“You will agree with me that in this era of revenue shortfall, and federal government is trying to diversify all sorts of revenue other than oil. When they hear N6 trillion, definitely, a lot of attention will be given to it,” the senator added. “I know the Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS) is doing its best to diversify revenue collection. We have a nominal increase from N800 billion in 2017 to over N5 trillion now. If we have ground rent added to it, certainly it will reduce the incidence of borrowing by the federal government.”


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