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Nigeria goes down again, ranked 5th in real estate illegal transactions

It is yet another knock-down for Nigeria from international rating organizations. This time, a report by Global Financial Integrity has ranked the country 5th among countries with the most politically exposed persons (PEPs) involved in real estate money laundering schemes in the US.

Global Financial Integrity is an American think-tank focused on illicit financial flows, corruption, illicit trade and money laundering. It ranked Nigeria among over 20 countries in that class.

Experts in real estate and money laundering note that Nigeria’s ranking on illegal real estate transaction in the US did not come as a surprise nor is it an isolated case.

They point to an earlier report by researcher, Matthew T. Page, titled ‘Dubai Property: An Oasis for Nigeria’s Corrupt Political Elite’ which linked over 800 luxury properties in choice locations in Dubai valued at N146 billion (about $400 million then) to Nigeria’s PEPs.

To get a real sense of the size of this lush money now being used to develop the economy of another country, Page placed it side-by-side with allocations to critical ministries in Nigeria’s N10.33 trillion 2020 budget.

Read also: How new oil law holds opportunities for real estate investors

N146 billion, he noted, was 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 has been illegally ‘invested’ in property in Dubai is more than the budget for Housing set apart.

Similarly, 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), according to Page.

Abdulrasheed Bawa, chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), had at a TV programme, declared that the real estate sector of the economy served as a major conduit for money laundering in the country, citing a minister that purchased a $37.5 million property through a bank chief.

Bawa stressed that the real estate sector had regrettably become a major conduit for money laundering, adding that 90percent of stolen public funds are used for the procurement of houses and lands.

The report on the US real estate is quite revealing and mind-bungling. A key finding from the report shows that, in the last five years, more than $2.3 billion had been laundered through US real estate, including millions more through other alternate assets like art, jewelry, and yachts.

The report says that over 50 per cent of the reported cases in the US involved politically exposed persons, which was particularly problematic considering the lack of guidance on PEP identification.

“In the U.S, well over half of all cases involved a PEP, with the top three PEP countries all from within the Western Hemisphere (Mexico, Venezuela, and Guatemala), followed by Malaysia and Nigeria,” the report notes.

According to the experts, these illegal transactions come with grave implications for the domestic economy. “It is not doubtful that Nigerian politicians have ‘invested’ that kind of money ($146 billion) in Dubai,” confirmed Ebun-Oluwa Sadiq, a Dubai-based realtor. He explained that Nigerians are known for buying choice properties in very expensive locations in Dubai.

He argued that if those politicians and other ‘investors’ should put their money in developing houses in Nigeria, it would go a long way to reduce the country’s housing deficit which is estimated at 20 million units. Furthermore, that would increase economic activities that would create jobs for many.

Nigeria is not new to damning ratings and rankings that directly and indirectly reflect the scale of corruption and money laundering, leadership failure or collapse of value system in the country.

Today, the country is known as the Poverty Capital of the World courtesy of World Poverty Clock whose report shows that the country has overtaken India as one with the most people living in extreme poverty. It estimates that 90 million people are living in extreme poverty.

Another report by Steve Hanke, an economist from John Hopkins University in Baltimore, United States, has listed Nigeria, Venezuela, Iran, Brazil and others among the first 10 miserable countries in the world with Nigeria assuming the 6th position. So, Nigeria today is the 6th Most Miserable Country in the World.

As at today, Nigeria is the 3rd most terrorized country in the world according to a report by the 2015 Global Terrorism Index. The country was ranked third out of 162 countries of the world that have been worst hit by terrorist attacks. By that ranking, Nigeria was only better than Iraq and Afghanistan which was recently overrun by Taliban forces.

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