Senator James Manager, Mike Ozekhome and other prominent Nigerian owners of real estate in Dubai

DATA gleaned from Dubai’s land registry has helped unveil prominent Nigerian investors, especially politicians, senior government officials, businessmen and their families who are currently taking a slice of Dubai’s lucrative real estate market.

The list features notable Nigerians such as Mike Ozekhome, SAN, a lawyer and human rights activist, and James Ebiowou Manager, a senator in the 9th Assembly currently serving his 5th term.

A trove of data obtained by the The ICIR from the Center for Advanced Defense Studies, C4ADS, a US-based nonprofit, also showed that over 800 Dubai properties estimated at N146 billion are linked to Nigerians.

This amount could fund two-thirds of the Nigerian Army’s annual budget and is three times more than the annual budget of the country’s electoral body the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, according to a Carnegie report.

Mike Ozekhome, SAN

In 1987, Ozekhome co-founded the Civil Liberties Organization (CLO), arguably the first human rights organisation in Nigeria, where he was the pioneer director of Legal Services and member of its governing board.

Records by The ICIR show that Ozekhome owns three apartments/flats at the Lago Vista C, one of the three residential tower buildings in the Lago Vista complex, and located in Dubai Production City.

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A standard studio flat for rent at Lago Vista costs between $8,167 to $10,890 per annum while a 2-bedroom apartment is available for rent at $17,696 annually, according to Bayut, an apartment rental agency based in Dubai.

Ozekhome built his reputation as a human rights lawyer, having worked with the late Gani Fawehinmi, who was branded as the “Peoples Lawyer”, first as a junior counsel before rising through the ranks as a senior counsel and to the Deputy Head of Chambers of Gani Fawehinmi, Chambers.

In 2010, he was one of 19 senior legal practitioners conferred with the rank of Senior Advocate of Nigeria, SAN, but his astute reputation as an activist lawyer suffered a blow when he started representing politically exposed persons who were being prosecuted by Nigeria’s anti-corruption agencies.

Ozekhome is a counsel to former First Lady, Patience Jonathan, former Senate President, Bukola Saraki, and Ayodele Fayose, former Governor of Ekiti State, all who have faced corruption charges in court.

In 2018, protesters mobbed Ozekhome and tried to stop him from mounting the podium to speak at the 14th Gani Fawehinmi Annual Lecture as they accused him of defending corrupt individuals in court and shielding them from justice.

James Ebiowou Manager

In 2003, Manager was first elected to the Senate on the platform of the People’s Democratic Party, PDP, representing Delta South Senatorial District where he was appointed to the Works Committee, Niger Delta Committee, Judiciary, Human Rights and Legal Matters Committee.

He has been re-elected for four terms consecutively since then. However, Manager’s name was also listed as a property owner in Dubai, which has been referred to as the ‘Money Laundering Paradise’ according to a published C4ADS report named Sandcastles.

Manager was listed to be the owner of two apartments/flats at the First Central Hotel, Dubai, reputed to be equipped with 524 modern apartments that boast contemporary finishes and an enticing cosy ambience which was stated on the hotel’s website.

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In May 2009, he raised the issue of the damage caused by the continued military bombardment of communities in the oil-rich Gbaramatu clan, Warri South Local Government Area of Delta State, leading to a senate resolution urging the Committee on Defence and Army to take action.

Osita Ben Chidoka and wife, Chidinma Imaga Chidoka

Chidoka was appointed Corps Marshall of the Federal Road Safety Corps, FRSC, in 2007 where he spearheaded the agency’s good fortunes until he was appointed Minister of Aviation in July 2014 by former President Goodluck Jonathan.

The ICIR records show that Chidoka owns two apartments/flats at Azizi Feirouz, a mid-rise residential building by Azizi Developments in Al Furjan, Dubai.

The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) in 2018 questioned Chidoka over his alleged involvement in a N3.9 billion fraud where part of the contract sum was fraudulently diverted to shady companies rather than to execute the project under his watch as a minister.

Investigations by the anti graft agency revealed that various payments were made to the former minister and some of his family members, including his younger brother, Obinna Chidoka, who is a member of the House of Representatives.

Chidoka was also accused of diverting part of the contract sum for the use of the company and his cronies rather than the execution of the project.

Chidinma is currently the Chief Executive Officer, CEO, of Images Nigeria, a photography agency where, according to her LinkedIn Page,  she leads a dynamic team who “love the idea of taking a story, retelling it in pictures and making it part of history”.

A lawyer, she graduated from the University of Ibadan and the Nigerian Law School before delving into the business after her study at the Harvard Business School.

Osita Responds

In an interview with The ICIR, Chidoka explained that he did not buy the properties while he was in office.

“I started the project with my partners in 2015 and completed it in 2018 after I had left office. It was our desire to hedge foreign exchange fall that we had anticipated,” he said.

“I don’t mind the story because the properties were bought in my name and my wife’s name but your story has to be factually correct. I would have provided definitive proof of the land documents but I am currently out of the country. If I can’t get them I’ll refer you to Dubai’s registry which is open to the public,” he said.

    The former minister also told The ICIR that the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) had wrongfully invited him for questions in 2018 because he did not play any role in the disbursement of the alleged sum of N3.9 billion fraudulently diverted by the aviation ministry to shady companies.

    “I went to the office of the EFCC because I was invited, the case was dismissed because I was not in office when the monies were disbursed. In 2015, while I was leaving office because we didn’t win the election I put every contract on hold until my successor took office, so I was not charged to court by the EFFC neither was I detained,” he said.

    He said he voluntarily presented himself to the EFCC for interrogation after he was invited by the anti-graft agency for his alleged involvement with the procurement and installation of sensitive security cameras/ infrastructure in five international airports.

    NOTE: The ICIR previously reported that Chidoka and his wife own six properties. A further check revealed that the couple only owns two-properties on the third and the tenth floor at Azizi Feirouz building, Dubai.
    Ozekhome owns three, not seven properties while Manager owns two, and not four properties.
    The error is regretted. 

    Amos Abba is a journalist with the International Center for Investigative Reporting, ICIR, who believes that courageous investigative reporting is the key to social justice and accountability in the society.

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