Professor MT Ladan (DG NIALS) and NIALS Staff, Dr Fatima Bello and Dr Waziri Azi
The Nigerian Institute of Advanced Legal Studies (NIALS) paid a courtesy visit to the Chairman of the Independent Corrupt Practices and other Related Offences Commission Prof. Bolaji Owasanoye. The NIALS delegation was led by Prof. M.T. Ladan, other members of the delegation included Professor. Alemika, Dr Fatima Bello, and Mr Lukman Olomada.
The delegation was well received by the Chairman of ICPC Professor. Bolaji Owasanoye and his team. The event began with a formal introduction of member of both the visiting and the host teams. The host team (ICPC) was led by the Chairman Prof. Bolaji, and on his team were the a board member Barrister Obiora Igwedibia, Commissioner for Asset Tracing and Barrister Oke, Head of Legal Barrister Musen, Director Operations, representative of the Head of Public Enlightenment Department Mr Obinna, Head of Intelligence and Security Mr Madu, and the representative of the Special Investigations Team Mr Innocent.
In his discussion on the focus of the visit, the Director- General highlighted the plight of the Institute when he noted that the Institute was established about 40 years ago, with the main office in Lagos, and the administrative office being situated in Abuja. He observed that in Lagos, we have an office building which is located within the University of Lagos premises for close to 40 years, and we have been squatting in Supreme Court Complex in Abuja for about 20 years out of the kind generosity of the successive Chief Justices of Nigeria- The position which holds the office of the Chair of Council of NIALS.The Director- General expressed his pride in the quality of service provided and the hard work exhibited by the ICPC Chairman Professor. Bolaji Owasanoye who is a staff on NIALS. He pointed out that NIALS has a total of 317 staff, out of which 69 are academic staff, and between 16- 18 Professors (if the ICPC Chairman and the Director- General are included) among which 5 are Senior Advocates of Nigeria (SANs).
In building the justification of the visit, He noted that the ICPC Chairman is one of us and being one of us, he knows the plight of NIALS, particularly those of being within the University of Lagos for 40 years, and squatting in the Supreme Court for 20 years. He observed that during his familiarisation tour of the basement in the NIALS Abuja office, he saw about 39 members of staff working in unfavourable and hazardous working environment which caused him grave concern and prompted him to action. He mentioned the Institute’s inability to provide alternative office arrangement due to budgetary constraint (a constraint he brought to the attention of the House of Representatives during his budget defense the previous day).
Hence, the Director- General noted that upon assumption of office, he chose the ICPC as the first agency to pay a courtesy visit to because the chairman is one of us, and he understands our plight, although he may not understand the magnitude of the situation.as a result of the challenges mentioned by the Director- General, he sought the support of the ICPC Chairman (given that his Commission is one of the law enforcement agencies in Nigeria) to assist us get access to some of the seized properties that we can convert to offices in the short term pending when NIALS work on and move to its permanent site.
In his response, the ICPC Chairman Prof. Bolaji Owasanoye congratulated the Director- General on his appointment and mentioned that they went way back, and worked as the Committee that drafted the Economic Countries of West African States (ECOWAS) Investment Code. He went on to say that the Director- General’s request is interesting as being his place of work, he has both moral and legal obligations to help. He said he was aware of the challenge and mentioned that we own the building in Lagos, although it is situated on the premises of the University of Lagos. With that being said, he agreed that there is a need for NIALS to have its own office.
The ICPC Chairman went further to say they are willing to render whatever assistance they can give although they may not be immediate assistance, or the assistance may not accommodate the entire institute as some of the seized properties may not be suitable for office space. He observed that the ICPC asset recovery has increased to around 200 since he took office, and they expect it to increase to about 500 by the end of the year and went on to explain in detail their current efforts surrounding seized assets. He also spoke about the directive by the president that the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) and the ICPC should dispose of the recovered assets and put the money in the governments’ treasury. The disposal he said depends on whether the property is under full or interim forfeiture.
The Chairman explained that sometimes, in the course of recovery, they only have the property address to work with. It is only when they visit the property that they are able to assess the quality of the property, and what use it can be put to- that is what they call mapping. He said mapping going concerns is very important to him due to the need to prevent unemployment. He said to prevent this under his watch, going concerns are retained as such until they are disposed of. He also observed that it is in their interest to ensure that the concern remains going due to the unintended costs associated with bringing it to a halt (e.g. paying ground rent, etc).
The Chairman then went on to say that if they assess a property and find it fit for purpose, it may be assigned. He noted that this may not be difficult to do, and it may not happen fast either. Therefore, he said he will flag the interest of the Institute as other agencies have also indicated interest. He then advice that the Director- General should write formally and have it documented so that it will be on record and the Institutes’ interest will be noted. He said perhaps a suitable property may be found when they finish mapping and valuing the recovered properties.
He thanked the Director- General for his visit, congratulated him on behalf of the ICPC on his appointment, and reiterated that once they finish the process of mapping and valuing, they will contact the Director- General and let him choose the property he wants and it shall be allocated to NIALS.