• Tuesday, July 23, 2024
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LIST: 200 Nigerian politicians, security officers own $1bn properties in Dubai

200 Nigerian politicians, security officers own $1bn properties in Dubai

Atiku, El-Rufai, Fagbemi, Uba, Datti, others linked

…Nigerians second highest foreign property purchasers with 1,824 assets

About 200 Nigerian politicians and security officers have invested nearly $1 billion (N1.49 trillion) in the sprawling Dubai property market in less than two decades, BusinessDay can exclusively report.

Wives and children of politically exposed persons (PEPs), court judges and top civil servants are in the party, amassing 1,600 properties in choice locations in Dubai, which is famed as the most populous city in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and capital of the Emirate of Dubai.

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This investigation came to light as part of a project named ‘Dubai Unlocked,’ which is a six-month investigation into the UAE’s booming and secretive property market led by the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project (OCCRP) together with more than 70 media partners. Economy Post is the only Nigerian firm which participated in the project.

BusinessDay obtained exclusive files from Economy Post detailing all the properties owned by Nigerian PEPs, their family members, civil servants and other individuals linked with Dubai properties. The estimated value of properties owned by these Nigerian individuals in Dubai is $997.79 million.

As at 2020, only 800 properties valued at $400 million were traced to Nigerian PEPs in the UAE’s commercial capital, but this has now increased to nearly $1 billion and 1,600 properties following new revelations, according to BusinessDay painstaking calculations of assets belonging to Nigerians in Dubai.

Nigerians are the second highest foreign purchasers of Dubai properties after India, owning 1,824 real estate assets in the flourishing market, according to Dubai Land Department. By BusinessDay data analysis, PEPs, top security agents, civil servants and people connected in government with their family members own 88 percent of properties ascribed to Nigerians in Dubai.

BusinessDay conducted social media analyses of all the persons mentioned in this story to ascertain their identities and also used dates of birth listed on the spread sheets to match them.

“There is absolutely nothing wrong with owning properties in Dubai or anywhere else in the world for the purpose of securing one’s future and that of one’s children,” said Emmanuel Okeke, a university lecturer of law.

“Not all the politicians stole public funds to acquire Dubai properties. However, there is so much money moving around the Dubai property market which is tied to corruption,” Okeke said.

Prominent Nigerian politicians own mostly flats, villas, two- or three-bedrooms, villas, studios, and hotel rooms in Dubai, the data says.

The locations are mostly posh areas, including Burj Khalifa, world’s tallest building; Marsa Dubai, Al Merkadh, Palm Jumeirah, Wadi Al Safa, Madinat Al Mataar, and Nad Al Shiba First, among others.

Nigerian owners of Dubai properties

Atiku Abubakar, Nigeria’s former vice president, is linked with a three-bedroom flat estimated at $1.23 million at Palm Tower in Dubai. His daughter, Hadiza, is also linked with a one-bedroom flat at Trade Centre Second, valued at $104,135. The 23-year-old Atiku’s daughter also owns another two-bedroom flat at Hadaeq Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid estimated at $289,305.75. The flat, the data shows, serves a commercial purpose.

Lateef Olasunkanmi Fagbemi, Nigeria’s chief attorney and justice minister, is linked with an $85,846 property at Al Hebiah Third. Fagbemi is a lawyer and Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN).

Nasir Ahmad El-Rufai owns a four-bedroom flat valued at $193,084 at Al Hebiah Third. He governed the northwestern state of Kaduna for eight years.

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Eight properties valued at $2.28 million are linked to Yusuf Datti Baba-Ahmed, vice-presidential candidate of the Labour Party in the 2023 elections. The properties are located in choice locations such as Burj Khalifa, Al Yelayiss, Al Barsha South Fourth, and Town Square Safi 2.

Datti is currently not in government, but he was once a senator and member of the House of Representatives. He founded Baze University in 2011.

One property, a villa, valued at $1.13 million was traced to Patrick Ifeanyi Uba, chief executive of Capital Oil and Anambra South senator.

However, eight properties were traced to his wife, Uchenna Uba. The values of all the properties were not inserted in the files, but one property (a villa) at Wadi Al Safa 7 costs about $1.13 million, while two others are valued at $294, 516 each.

Seven properties valued at $1.48 million are linked to Attahiru Bafarawa, former Sokoto State governor, while another real estate asset, located at Palm Jumeirah and valued at $750,112, belongs to his wife.

A property at Burj Khalifa valued at $$822,016 belongs to Ahmed Markafi, former Kaduna State governor.

Late Tafa Balogun, former police chief, is linked with five properties in various locations, including Marsa Dubai. The properties cost more than $1 million today.

A property was traced to a former police assistant inspector-general (AIG), Mbu Joseph Mbu.

Three properties are linked with Amadu Adah Ali, former Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) chair, while one valued at $422,887 was traced to his daughter, Khadijah Nneamaka Ali.

Eleven properties were traced to Maina Ma Aji Lawan, former Borno State governor and senator, while one located at Hadaeq Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid, valued at $1.16 million, belongs to Ashe Ahmadu Muazu, wife of a former PDP chairman.

One property was traced to Christabel Bentu, a former special assistant to one-time governor of Plateau State, Joshua Dariye.

Two properties were traced to Isa Mahmoud Nuhu, a Nigeria Customs Service (NIS) senior official. One property is estimated at $553,802.

Two properties were traced to Salisu Abdullahi Yushau, a former senior officer of the Nigerian Air Force.

A flat at Marsa Dubai, valued at $590,807, was traced to Mohammed Sidi Sani, former director-general of the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA), who was sacked in April 2023 with seven of the agency’s directors. The property is valued at $590,807.

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A Marsa Dubai property valued at $3.093 million is linked to Hadiza Ali Sheriff, wife of former Borno State governor.

One real estate is linked to Nenadi Esther Usman, Nigeria’s former finance minister, while another property was traced to Bobboi Bala Kaigama, former Trade Union Congress (TUC) president.

Seven properties are linked to Ibrahim Folorunsho Jimoh, senator representing Ondo South, while five belong to Ike Ekweremadu, former deputy Senate president, who is serving a jail term in the United Kingdom.

One property is linked to Orji Uzor Kalu, former Abia State governor and now senator, while another was traced to Jeremiah Useni, former military governor of old Bendel State.

A real estate estimated at $101,793.37 at Jabal Ali First belongs to Osita Ben Chidoka, former aviation minister, while another real estate asset is linked with Olisa Metuh, former PDP spokesman.

A property at Marsa Dubai is owned by Abdulsalami Alhali Abubakar, Nigeria’s former head of state. A property valued at $1.025 million is owned by Hassan Ardo Tukur, former principal secretary to President Goodluck Jonathan.

A property at Marsa Dubai was traced to Adeyemi Sabitun Ikuforiji, former speaker of the Lagos State House of Assembly. Another property is owned by Dan Etete (Dauzia Loya Etete), Nigeria’s former petroleum minister.

BusinessDay clarifies that this is not an indictment on the names listed, as there is no evidence that the individuals acquired the properties with stolen or public funds.

Findings showed that some Nigerian male property registrants listed their address as Puerto Rico.

Similarly, some male Nigerians were also registered as female.

Dubai property growth

Dubai’s real estate market is outperforming global hotspots such as New York, London and Hong Kong. It grew 20.43 percent in the first quarter of 2024, says the Q1 2024 UAE Market Overview Report.

On a quarterly basis, Dubai residential property prices rose by 6.12 percent (5.57 percent inflation-adjusted) within the period. Transactions over the quarter reached $31.5 billion, official data says.

The 2024 market size of the Dubai property is estimated at $710 billion, Statista says.

“Dubai remains one of the world´s most attractive investment destinations due to its stable economy, strong financial fundamentals, and ability to constantly find new opportunities for growth,” said Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Crown Prince of Dubai and chairman of Dubai Executive Council, reported by the Global Property Guide.

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Capital flight remains a worry

Foreigners own around 43 percent of the residential properties in Dubai, said the EU Tax Observatory. Most properties are part-owned, though the city allows 100 percent ownership in freehold areas once there is a partner.

Some analysts say capital flight from Nigerians to Dubai’s real estate market is a worry, suggesting that Nigeria must take a cue from the Middle East’s powerhouse.

Nigeria’s real estate industry was estimated at $13.2 billion (5.2 percent to the GDP) as at the first quarter of 2024, but Dubai’s is 58 times that number.

“You cannot regulate where people put their money,” said John Alua, a UK-based real estate market expert.

“What you can do is to make your real estate industry attractive to investors. What type of houses do you build? What is the quality? Where are they located? What are the regulations like? These are the questions Nigerian authorities must answer,” he noted.

Corruption must be weeded out

Nevertheless, C4ADS, a critical partner in ‘Dubai Unlocked’, said the Dubai property market is a key haven for international kleptocrats, transnational organized crime, and a vast array of other illicit actors — from narcotics traffickers to Russian oligarchs.

“These networks flock to the United Arab Emirates seeking the benefits of its high levels of secrecy, gaps in enforcement, and to use luxury property as a vehicle to store and launder ill-gotten gains,” it said.

According to Okeke, who was earlier cited, “The UAE must do due diligence to weed out nationals of Nigeria and other countries who acquire properties with stolen funds from its property market.”