Almost seven years after EFCC handed over the N2.8billion Chelsea Hotel built by former governor of Bayelsa state, Diepreye Alamieyeseigha to the state government, the hitherto revenue-generating hotel is rotting away in Abuja. Alamieyeseigha was governor of the oil rich state form 1999-2005.
He was standing trial for corruption in 2007 and lost possession of the property and some others after a ruling by a court in a Federal High Court, Lagos. Asides the hotel, the EFCC sold other Alamieyeseigha assets in Nigeria and realised N3, 128, 230, 294.83billion; $441,000; E7, 000 and £2,000.
The forfeited properties were then handed over to the then state governor, Timpreye Sylva by Former EFCC Chairman Farida Waziri on September 7th 2009 .
The antigraft agency had thought that the properties, if utilized, would serve as a source of revenue for the state government. Seven years after the asset was returned to the state government, the hotel has become a haven for miscreants, men of the underworld, rodents and reptiles.
An EFCC source who spoke in confidence to the Nation about the forfeited properties said:
“As at the time we handed over the hotel, in 2009, the asset was worth N2.8billion. We returned the hotel to Bayelsa State with another asset at No. 2 Marscibit Street, Off Aminu Kano Crescent Wuse II Abuja which was valued at N210million. We took a step further by instructing Diya Fatimilehin and Co., former managers of the hotel to provide the state with detailed inventory of assets of the hotel. It is unfortunate that nothing has been done in the last seven years. The land where the hotel is sited attracts either up to N800million to N1billion in Abuja. Yet the asset is allowed to lie fallow. To the source, the fate of the once throwing hotel is a typical case of how the anti-graft war is being “frustrated and rendered meaningless. A former Chairman of EFCC, Mr. Nuhu Ribadu worked day and night to bring Alamieyeseigha to justice but the efforts have come to naught,” he said.
The source added that the antigraft agency cannot query the state government on why the forfeited properties are not being utilized.
“Well, there is not much we can do because we have done our best. The state’s funds were looted and used to buy the hotel; we traced the loot and recovered the assets. It is left to the state to live up to its pledge to make judicious use of the asset or sell it. We have been expecting a status report from Bayelsa State on how it has spent the recovered funds and the utilisation of the returned assets.” Upon the receipt of the hotel in 2009, the then Bayelsa state governor, Timpreye Sylva said the state government would not be able to manage the assets by itself
“The Bayelsa State Government will not be able to manage the assets by itself. The fund that the state government will receive will also go to building what is called the Transparency Plaza, in the middle of the Yenagoa Central Business District, so that this plaza will be a monument that will be a constant reminder of today. As soon as the fund is accessed, we will like to ask you to come to Bayelsa State to lay the foundation of this plaza. We will welcome your close monitoring of the expenditure of this fund, after all without the instrumentality of EFCC, we would not have accessed this fund, so it is only good that you know exactly what we are doing. We are running an open government; our budget is on the website, anybody can access it. We are fully committed to transparency and to partner fully with EFCC.”