Over 800 luxury properties in choice locations in Dubai valued at N146 billion (about $400 million) are linked to Nigerians, especially those described as politically exposed persons (PEPs), a recent report on the United Arab Emirate (UAE) country’s property market has revealed.
This huge amount of money, arguably, is part of Nigerians’ commonwealth pilfered by this class of citizens who have power, influence and access to the public purse or assets.
To get a real sense of the size of this lush money now being used to develop the economy of another country is, perhaps, to place it side-by-side with allocations to critical ministries in Nigeria’s N10.33 trillion 2020 budget (now being reviewed downwards to reflect current economic realities).
N146 billion is well over 50 percent of N262 billion allocated to the ministry of Works and Housing in the 2020 budget which got the highest sectoral allocation. This means that the money that have been illegally taken away and ‘invested’ in property in Dubai is more than the budget for housing set apart.
The report compiled by Matthew T. Page of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace (Publication Department) says this money equals two-thirds of Nigeria Army’s annual budget and over three times the annual budget of the country’s Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).
A couple of reasons have made the outflow of this money to the UAE country’s property market possible. Besides the (1992) reform in Dubai’s land administration which allowed foreigners free-hold in property ownership, the Nigerian elite, according to the report, faces few obstacles transferring large sums of money to Dubai.
“Banks or other money transfer agents in both Nigeria and the UAE do not appear to be reporting large or otherwise suspicious transactions by PEPs to national authorities,” the report notes, adding that for Nigeria’s PEPs and their associates, Dubai is a welcoming destination for any unexplained wealth.
“It is not doubtful that Nigerian politicians have ‘invested’ that kind of money in Dubai,” confirmed Ebun-Oluwa Sadiq, a Dubai-based Nigerian realtor. He explained that Nigerians are known for buying choice properties in very expensive locations in Dubai.
According to him, a good number of properties in Palm Jumeirah Island, Dubai Marina, Jumeirah Golf Estate, which are the equivalents of Banana Island in Lagos and Asokoro in Abuja, are owned by Nigerians, mostly politicians. “These are very expensive locations that somebody on salary cannot dream of,” Sadiq affirmed.
Dubai, ordinarily is one of the most spectacular destinations in the world and this is reflected in its iconic architecture, magnificent skylines, exclusive shopping and beautiful coastline. This explains why, the report says, “Dubai property ownership is an indicator, not a definitive proof, that a particular politically exposed Nigerian possesses unexplained wealth.”