Nigerians panic as UK enacts new property law

A new law in the UK has caused panic among Nigerians who own properties in the country.

The UK last week introduced a law that requires foreigners who own properties in the country to explain the source of their funds, or risk forfeiting them to the government.

According to the new law, the Unexplained Wealth Orders (UWO) could be obtained on any property or combination of properties valued at 50,000 pounds ( N25 million) or more, for which the owner was unable to explain a legal source of its funding.

Consequently, Nigerian owners of properties in the UK have been inundating their home Ministry of Finance’s Voluntary Assets and Income Declaration Scheme (VAIDS) with calls, causing the hotlines to crash.

Extension of time

Investigation shows that the lines in Abuja crashed on Friday because of the heavy traffic from the UK.

VAIDs office in Abuja was receiving frantic requests from taxpayers based in the UK, asking for extension of time to enable them complete their declaration forms.

The data already in the possession of the VAIDS office in the Federal Ministry of Finance revealed that many UK property owners had underpaid their taxes before transferring funds abroad.

“Concerted efforts are ongoing to restore the hotlines following the crash.

Company executives

“Most of the calls received are from high net worth individuals, including company executives, bankers and even a governor.

“All seem to be in panic over the prospect of losing their investments,” said a source within the VAIDS office.

The official said that some of the apprehensive Nigerian investors had even visited the Federal Ministry of Finance requesting to see the minister or the head of the VAIDS office.

Declared income

The source explained that most of them sought assurance that the Nigerian government and the VAIDs programme would protect them from potential asset forfeiture.

Others requested to know if their names had appeared on the lists the VAIDS office had obtained from overseas.

VAIDS allows Nigerian taxpayers to restate their income and assets without limit and thus could potentially allow those who own properties that cannot be explained by their previously declared income to regularise by declaring and paying the correct taxes.

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