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SERAP urges Buhari to use retrieved stolen properties as COVID-19 isolation centres

The Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) on Sunday, May 3; issued an appeal to President Muhammadu Buhari regarding the conversion of stolen assets to COVID-19 isolation centres.

SERAP urged the president to “urgently instruct the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice; Mr Abukabar Malami to work with appropriate ministries and agencies to identify, publish and use confiscated stolen assets as isolation centres.”

The organisation further explained that the assets, if converted; will “provide safe and enabling environments for the treatment and care of people, improve the authorities’ ability to respond to COVID-19; reduce the risks to Nigerians and to public health.”

Last week, the Minister of Health, Dr Osagie Ehanire reportedly begged Nigerians to donate and temporarily make their buildings available as isolation centres.

According to him, more buildings would be needed; as the Nigeria Center for Disease Control (NCDC) aims to test two million people in the next three months.

This recent appeal by SERAP was signed by deputy director Kolawole Oluwadare.

The organization said: “While it is important to ramp-up testing for COVID-19 to prevent the spread of the virus, asking Nigerians to donate their buildings as isolation centres would be counter-productive, as it would put them at greater risk of contracting and spreading COVID-19.

“Rather than begging Nigerians to donate their buildings as isolation centres, the authorities should identify, publish and use confiscated assets as isolation centres, as a temporary measure.

“Using confiscated assets as isolation centres would be proportionate, necessary, and serve a legitimate objective, namely to protect public health and public order.”

According to SERAP, “The proposed measure would be lawful, and more effective; as it would be in the public interest. Using the confiscated assets as proposed would neither violate the accused’s right to property nor entail a duty to compensate. The proposal by the Minister of Health would pose unnecessary risks to public health.”

“Our recommendations, apart from being entirely compatible with Nigeria’s international anti-corruption obligations; including the UN Convention against Corruption, which has been ratified; would also enhance the ability of the authorities to effectively and satisfactorily respond to COVID-19.”

Copied in the appeal were: Mr Abukabar Malami; Dr Osagie Ehanire; Dr. Chikwe Ihekweazu, Director General, NCDC; Professor Bolaji Owasanoye, Chairman, ICPC; and Ibrahim Magu, Acting Chairman, EFCC.

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