Published On: Wed, Mar 10th, 2021

Falana, Delta State govt, Others Fault FG On Ownership Of £4.2m Ibori Loot

LAGOS MARCH 10TH (URHOBOTODAY)-As the federal government expects the return of £4.2 million stolen by former governor of Delta State, Mr. James Ibori and his associates, a disagreement has ensued as to whether the federal or Delta State government is the owner of the money.
It would be recalled that the UK said yesterday agreed to return £4.2 million stolen by Ibori who served a jail term in London for fraud.
The attorney general of the federation and minister of justice, Mr. Abubakar Malami who signed an agreement with the UK high commissioner to return the recovered funds said they would be used on key infrastructure and building works.
“As it is we have succeeded in recovering £4.2m from the UK. We are still pursuing other assets even as it relates to the Ibori assets.
“The quantum of the amount involved was within the region of over £100 million (N2.2 billion) and it is out of it that we have succeeded in recovering a fraction of £4.2 million and we are still pursuing an additional sum within the region of £100 million (N527 billion) and that will be a function of conviction and subsequent recovery process.”
He stirred up the debate when he said the money would not be handed over to the government of Delta State because the crime that led to the diversion of the funds was a federal one.
He further argued that one of the conditions for the UK repatriating the Ibori loot was that the money must be tied to certain federal projects which include the Lagos-Ibadan Expressway, the Abuja-Kano rail and the Second Niger Bridge adding that a memorandum of understanding had been signed between the two parties.
But constitutional lawyer and human rights campaigner, Mr. Femi Falana faulted Malami’s position saying the money belongs to Delta State.
He contended that precedents had been set in the cases of funds stolen from the coffers of Bayelsa and Plateau states respectively where late Diepreye Alamieyeseigha (Bayelsa) and Mr. Joshua Dariye (Plateau, currently serving a jail term) were convicted.
He said giving the Ibori loot to the federal government negates the provision of Section 162 of the constitution.
“The £4.2m does not belong to the federal government. The money confiscated from Governor Joshua Dariye in the United Kingdom was recovered by the federal government, repatriated to Nigeria and returned to the Plateau State government.
“The money confiscated from Governor DSP Alamieyeseigha in the UK was recovered by the federal government, repatriated to Nigeria and remitted to the account of Bayelsa State government.
“Since what is sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander the sum of £4.2 million confiscated from Governor James Ibori in the United Kingdom and recovered by the federal government has to be remitted to the account of the Delta State government,” Falana said.
He said the memorandum of understanding signed by the representatives of the British government and the federal government cannot supersede the constitution which has prohibited any form of discrimination in the country.
Similarly, Delta State government yesterday faulted the federal government’s decision to spend the money on the completion of the Second Niger Bridge, Abuja-Kano Expressway and the Lagos-Ibadan Expressway under the coordination of the Nigeria Social Investment Authority (NSIA).
The commissioner for information, Mr. Charles Aniagwu, stated that roads in Delta State were also in deplorable condition, adding that the federal government should know that the roads also needed attention.
“Federal roads in Delta State are bad. Benin-Warri road has collapsed. Sapele-Agbor road is a federal road and it has been abandoned. The federal government can use the money to rehabilitate the Sapele-Agbor road,” he said.
Also, the Delta Elders’ Forum (DEF), led by a former minister of information, Mr. Edwin Clark, opposed the federal government’s plan when federal roads in Delta are in terrible shape.
Clark said the forum would challenge the federal government’s decision in court as the money belongs to Delta State.
“We see it as a sign of deliberate oppression and provocation of our people. Perhaps, they are tired of Niger Delta. If that is the situation, let them go on since what they want is a problem in the Niger Delta. We cannot be taken for granted in our country.
“As I earlier said, we are ready to go to court on this money. It belongs to Delta and should be used in Delta State and we will not allow this oppression to continue,” he said.
However, the Oghara Development Union, (ODU) Lagos Branch, called on the federal government to ensure the return to Nigeria of all the funds recovered from Ibori’s associates in the London trial.
The union said in a statement yesterday by the general secretary, Sunday Agbofodoh, that the union stands with Ibori in maintaining his innocence, “and so without conceding that Ibori was guilty as charged, and specifying that the forfeited houses were not bought with illicit funds, we nevertheless call on Nigeria to insist that the full worth of the three buildings seized through a court order, be repatriated to Nigeria.”
Reacting to plans to return the £4.2 million forfeited by three female associates of Ibori in the London case, the union said as the United Kingdom claimed to be acting without ulterior motives on Nigeria’s behalf, all the monies forfeited should be returned to Nigeria.
The union said it had followed the case diligently and was aware that the sum the women forfeited was £6.2 million and not £4.2 million.

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