Days after it emerged that 35 governors, 15 ministers and dozens of other public office holders are among Nigerians, who own 800 choice properties in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, suspected to have been bought with stolen funds, SaharaReporters can exclusively confirm that there are still so many high-profile Nigerians with luxury apartments in the Arabian city never previously mentioned.
A report by Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, a United States-based non-governmental organisation, had on March 19, 2020 revealed how the likes of Kebbi State governor, Abubakar Bagudu, and former Deputy President of the Nigerian Senate, Ike Ekweremadu, invest in luxurious properties in Dubai using proxies and stolen public funds.
The 800 Dubai properties linked to Politically Exposed Persons under scrutiny by anti-graft agencies in Nigeria is estimated to be worth well over N164bn ($422m).
However, in the new list of Nigerians, who own properties in posh Dubai sections seen by SaharaReporters, it was discovered that a former governor of Lagos State, Mr Akinwunmi Ambode, a former Speaker of the state’s House of Assembly, Adeyemi Ikuforiji, two wives of Kebbi State governor, Aisha and Zainab, wives of immediate-past governors of Oyo and Anambra states, Florence Ajimobi and Margaret Peter Obi, are all proud home owners in the popular tourist city.
The list also include incumbent lawmaker representing Kaduna Central Senatorial District at the National Assembly, Uba Sani, a brother to Kebbi State governor, Bello Bagudu, businessman, Jimoh Ibrahim, immediate-past Executive Chairman of the Federal Inland Revenue Service, Babatunde Fowler, and Adamu, one of the sons of Nigeria’s former Vice President, Atiku Abubakar.
Mr Abiodun Awosika, husband to a former Chairman of First Bank Nigeria Plc, Ibikun Awosika, is also on the list.
Out of the 404 units of luxury apartments owned by Nigerians on the list obtained by SaharaReporters, former governor, Ambode has four units, which is located at The Lotus.
The property is placed in the care of Biodun Afinowi of District Concept Ltd, Lagos.
Recall that mid-way into his reign as governor of Lagos, Ambode fell out of favour with power brokers in the state including a national leader of the All Progressives Congress, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, leading to his denial of a second term ticket by the party.
Shortly after leaving office in May 2019, the Lagos State House of Assembly accused Ambode of misappropriating N9.9bn of public funds.
On August 20, 2019, after receiving a petition against him, operatives of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission raided his residence in Epe and Parkview in Ikoyi.
On October 10, 2019, the Lagos State Assembly threatened to arrest him if he failed to appear before the House to make some explanations on the purchase of 820 buses for public transportation in the state.
“Mr Akinwunmi Ambode did not report to the House before commencing the purchase of the buses in question, and investigation revealed that over N48bn was committed to the project, excluding the import duty totally N20.2bn.
“Out of 820 buses in question, 520 are still at the Nigerian Port Authority, Lagos,” Chairman of a committee established to look into the case at the time, Fatai Mojeed, said.
A few days later, Ambode instituted a law suit against the Lagos Assembly at the High Court in Ikeja contesting the constitutionality of the probe.
But on February 27, 2020, the court threw out the former governor’s suit, allowing the Lagos Assembly to go on with the probe.
Ambode has been quiet since that period.
On his part, Ikuforiji, who has one unit apartment located at Lincoln Park Residential, is also not new to scrutiny over his involvement with public funds while in office as Speaker of Lagos Assembly between December 2005 and July 2015.
For instance, on December 11, 2019, he was arraigned before a Federal High Court in Lagos over the alleged misappropriation of N338.8m.
He was charged alongside his former Personal Assistant, Oyebode Atoyebi, on a 20-count charge bordering on money laundering.
They first appeared in court on March 1, 2012, before Justice Okechukwu Okeke but were both released on bail after pleading not guilty to the charges.
Ikuforiji has since fizzled away from public glare only for his name to pop up on the list of Nigerians, who own choice properties in Dubai.
Out of the 404 units of apartments on the new list obtained by SaharaReporters, wife of former Oyo governor, Florence, has one unit at Lakeside while Mrs Peter Obi, whose husband was a former governor of Anambra State, also has one unit at Damac Heights.
In January, Mrs Ajimobi opened an ultramodern shopping centre at Ringroad, Ibadan, and have also made some other bold investments in recent times.
However, observers posit that the two former first ladies could just be fronting for their husbands, who are both ex-two-term governors each.
Kaduna senator, Sani, on his part has two units – one at The Crescent and another at Lakeside, while Fowler, a tax expert, has one unit at The Lotus – the same place as that of Ambode.
Sani was a Special Adviser on Public Affairs to former President, Olusegun Obasanjo, and remains a close ally of Kaduna State governor, Nasir el-Rufai.
Fowler on the other hand is popular with Lagos’ power brokers even though in recent times all had not gone well around him especially following the end of his tenure in December 2019 as FIRS Chairman and President Muhammadu Buhari’s decision not to renew his reign.
Recall that in June 2019, a group, Concerned Staff of FIRS, petitioned President Buhari over alleged atrocities and infractions by Fowler in the agency.
The group recommended that his activities be investigated and he be punished for all infractions he committed during his time in office.
Since that period, there have been a handful of allegations against Fowler with some persons in fact taking offence in his alleged extravagant weekly spending on concerts and parties within and outside Nigeria.
Businessman, Jimoh Ibrahim, is by far owner of the highest number of properties among Nigerians in Dubai.
Ibrahim, who is founder of Global Fleet Group and once contested to be governor of Ondo State, boasts of 38 units of luxury properties in Dubai.
Of the bunch, 28 units are located at Park Towers, Ocean Heights (9) and Marina Terrace (1).
Interestingly, Ibrahim registered the properties with the email of one Janet Osio Ibru – a director at Total Nigeria – raising suspicion that he could just be fronting for several high-profile Nigerians trying to escape the radar of anti-graft agencies and investigators.
In January 2010, a Federal High Court in Lagos presided over by Justice Akinjide Ajakaiye named Janet Osio Ibru among accomplices of a former Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer of Oceanic International Bank Plc, Mrs Cecilia Ibru, in a N399bn financial misconduct.
The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission equally seized 103 houses and shares in 77 companies in Nigeria belonging to the former Oceanic Bank CEO in that case.
A Nigerian woman named Nanaishetu Priscilla Abdulai has 25 units of luxury apartments at Tera Del sol (8), Ocean Heights (9), and Park Towers (8).
Interestingly, upon closer look by SaharaReporters, it was discovered that the properties were also registered with the email address of Janet Osio Ibru.
Upon further digging, it was discovered that Nanashetu Abdulai, who also sometimes poses as Priscilla Bedell, Nanashetu Bedell or Nana Bedell, has been a front for the Ibru family and other top Nigerians for many years.
She was a former personal assistant to Cecilia Ibru’s husband, Michael, who passed away in 2016.
Three other Nigerians, Foluke Abdul Rasaq and Mufutah Gbadamosi, who own one unit each at Park Towers and Ocean Heights, and Taofeek Oki with two units at Park Towers, also had the properties registered with the email of Janet Osio Ibru.
All these persons are likely to be fronts for the Ibru family and other highly placed Nigerians all over the world.
On their part, Kebbi governor’s wives, Aisha and Zainab, have one unit each at Park Towers and The Lotus respectively, while his brother, Bello Bagudu, owns one unit at Lago Vista.
However, there are strong indications that Governor Bagudu could have used his wives and brother to act as fronts for the Dubai properties where eight others are registered against his name and are worth over $4.8m.
Bagudu is famed to have helped late Nigerian military dictator, Sani Abacha, loot billions of dollars in public funds during his cruel reign in the mid to late 1990s.
He continues to deny those allegations whenever being confronted with it.
Adamu, eldest son of Nigeria’s former Vice President, Atiku Abubakar, owns one unit of the 404 choice properties on the fresh list seen by SaharaReporters.
The apartment is at Lakeside, while Abiodun, Ibukun Awosika’s husband, owns two units in The Crescent and Emirates Gardens.
Adamu, who is the Commissioner for Works and Energy Development in Adamawa State and Deputy Managing Director at INTELS, a company owned by his father, is said to be one of the richest young men in Nigeria today courtesy of his dad’s wealth and vast business and political networks.
Two other Nigerian with several properties tied to their names in Dubai are Ebenezer Okunowo, who has 32 units – Water’s Edge (18), Executive Bay (13), Ocean Heights (1), and Anthony Aribisala whose entire 17 units is located in The Corner.