The Federal Government has accused a former Senate President, David Mark, of illegally acquiring his then official residence, now his private property.
Recall that in September this year, the government, through the Special Presidential Investigation Panel for the Recovery of Public Property, which is chaired by Chief Okoi Obono-Obla, gave the former Senate President a 21-day notice to quit the mansion.
The notice, however, ordered Mark, who represents Benue South in the senate to “show cause” why the Federal Government should not “enforce the recovery of the property for public good.”
But Mark had quickly filed a suit before the Federal High Court in Abuja to quash all steps taken by the panel to evict him and recover the house from him.
The Senate President’s official residence is sited on 1.6 hectares of land at 1 Musa Usman Street, (also known as No. 1 Chuba Okadigbo Street), Apo Legislative Quarters, Gudu, Abuja.
According to title documents obtained by PUNCH, the property comprises eight structures, made up of the main house, ADC/chief security detail’s house, guest chalet, security/generator house, boys quarters, security post, driver/servants’ quarters and chapel.
But by a letter with reference number SPIP/INV/2017/VOL.1/17 and dated September 5, 2017, the Obono-Obla-led Special Presidential Investigation Panel for the Recovery of Public Property insisted that Mark acquired the “national monument” in clear breach of the monetisation policy of the Federal Government.
The letter, signed by Obono-Obla and entitled ‘Investigation activities: Notice to recover public property in your care’, and addressed to Mark, stated in part, “The extant Monetisation Policy of the Federal Government, as enunciated and still being implemented, excludes all Principal Officers of the National Assembly and hence places the responsibility on the Federal Government to provide accommodation for them, same which you allegedly illegally appropriated.”
The letter asked Mark “to take steps within the next 21 days to vacate the said property or show cause why the government of the Federal Republic of Nigeria should not enforce the recovery of the said property for public good.”
It added, “You are further being notified pursuant to the Recovery Property (Special Provisions) Act, 1983, to complete and return within 30 days the attached Form B (Declaration of Assets Form) to the office of the undersigned.”
But Mark, through his lawyer, Ken Ikonne, filed the suit marked FHC/ABJ/CS/1037/2017 before the Federal High Court in Abuja, insisting that he legally acquired the property through a “walk-in bid” at the behest of the FCTA.
The Attorney General of the Federation and Obono-Obla are joined as respondents to the suit.
Among his prayers, Mark sought “a declaration that the unilateral declaration by the defendants that the plaintiff’s acquisition” of the property “is illegal and the order compelling the plaintiff to vacate the aforesaid property” without affording him “a hearing,” amounted to a denial of his “fundamental rights to fair hearing and property, and are therefore unconstitutional and void.”
He stated in his suit that, “the defendants (AGF and Obono-Obla) unilaterally, and without affording me any hearing at all, and without any order of any court, declared my acquisition of the said property illegal, and ordered me to vacate the said property failing which the defendants would enforce the recovery of the property against me.”
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