Former Governor of Bayelsa State, Timipre Sylva, has been in the news for owning 48 houses.
Yeah, you read that right. 48. That's an average of one house in each of Nigeria's 36 States...plus jara!
A Punch report on the development painted the picture of a man who was a house collector. Scratch that--a mad house collector.
Some of the property, located in Wuse II and Maitama areas of Abuja, were reportedly seized during the administration of former presidentGoodluck Jonathan.
The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) had arraigned Sylva before three federal high courts in Abuja on 50 charges bordering on corruption, the story read.
The case was later struck outafter Sylva claimed he was being witch-hunted by the anti-graft agency.
The former Governor said this was all a case of political persecution.
It was gathered that the inscription ‘EFCC, Keep Off’ on some of the walls and entrances to the 48 houses have been cleaned off. Some of the houses had also been rented out, Punch reported.
A Punch reporter who was said to have posed as a prospective tenant, was informed that the rent for the property ranged between N2.5m and N6m per annum.
There was some more detail for the interested:
Sixteen units of service apartments at Plot 1181 Thaba Tseka Crescent, off IBB Way in the Wuse II area of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), reportedly cost N6m per annum including a N1.5m service charge.
“When the EFCC sealed off this property, it was rotting away. However, it was re-opened a few months ago so we started to refurbish the property. We have repainted the property and we have started renting the apartments out,” a guard at the property was quoted to have said.
Sylva's 48 houses and the EFCC returning the 'seized' homes to him, caused something of a stir on social media, all Monday.
The former number one citizen of Bayelsa State belongs to the APC--the governing party at the center and the party of the President, Muhammadu Buhari.
This was yet another affirmation of the selective anti-corruption war of the Buhari administration, opposition supporters swore.
If Sylva's 48 houses were returned to him by the EFCC, that was only because he contributed a chunk of what was used to bankroll Buhari's presidential campaign, others averred.
There have been different sets of rules for APC and PDP members in the course of waging Buhari's anti-graft war, a few social media influencers reiterated again and again. The administration's anti-graft war was up to no good and has been a witch-hunt, they told their followers with ample smugness, like they've done all year.
Hours later, Sylva said he has no 48 houses anywhere in Nigeria or abroad. It was all a lie, he said. The former Governor who failed in his bid to return to Bayelsa Government House, said this was all the handiwork of "malicious" persons hell bent on furthering a "media persecution."
Sylva said he only owns three houses.
Sylva's media adviser, Doifie Buokoribo, sent Pulse the following statement in rebuttal of the '48 houses' story:
"We have read a report in a national newspaper, which was reproduced by a few online publications and in the social media, claiming that Chief Timipre Sylva had ‘retrieved 48 of his properties which the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission seized during the administration of Goodluck Jonathan.
"We view this report with disgust, given its unconcealed speculation and vindictiveness regarding such a sensitive matter.
"For the avoidance of doubt, Sylva does not own 48 buildings in Abuja or anywhere in the world. So the issue of reclaiming ‘48 houses’ does not arise. He has only three houses in Abuja, which he built before he became the governor of Bayelsa State.
"This point has been made several times before, and neither EFCC nor those who had used EFCC as a tool of persecution against Sylva during the Goodluck Jonathan administration have contradicted this fact.
"EFCC had taken their allegations of property ownership against Sylva to several courts without establishing anything against the former governor during the Jonathan era. Beyond the commission’s routine media prosecution, no court of law has found Sylva guilty of any crime.
"Indeed, in the course of the trials at the Federal High Court, Abuja, owners of some of the properties wrongfully attributed to him joined to claim their houses. The court ruled on the matter of the said 48 properties since 2013. Why is it now a subject of media attention? Clearly, this is a sponsored publication.
"Sylva takes great exception to the wholly speculative and vindictive report on the matter. He frowns on the malicious audacity of the publishers of such a story, or their sponsors, despite warnings by the courts against media prosecutions and persecutions like this one, and the attempts by the EFCC to burnish its image that was mindlessly battered during the last administration.
"After failing to prove any crime against Sylva in a democratic court of law for the past four years, this latest media show is another desperate attempt to rubbish him politically.
"To correct the wrong impression that sponsors of the falsehood against him are obviously trying to create, Sylva has instructed his lawyers to take legal action against publishers of the fake story."
But if Sylva doesn't own 48 houses anywhere, who put a number to the houses and linked them to him? Why 48 though? Who has been doing the counting for Sylva?
Did the EFCC, at any point, seize 48 houses from Sylva? Where, really, is the story coming from? Is politics at play here?
Sylva said he only owns "three houses in Abuja". How come he owns no property in his home State of Bayelsa? Is he living in rented homes in Bayelsa?
Why is the story of the EFCC surrendering the property to him, coming during the Buhari presidency?
EFCC spokesperson, Wilson Uwujaren, had yet to respond to Pulse request for comment, before this story was filed.