Delta State Government Blows Hot As Britain Repatriate's Ibori's Loot To FG

The Delta State Government will receive nothing out of the £4.2m (N2.2bn) seized from former Governor James Ibori which will be repatriated from the United Kingdom, a development which has been rejected by the state government, 247NNU has learnt.

The Attorney-General of the Federation, Abubakar Malami (SAN), while thanking the UK, said the money would be used for Federal Government projects such as the Lagos-Ibadan Expressway, the 2nd Niger Bridge and the Abuja-Kano rail, giving no indication that Delta State would receive a portion of the funds.

Malami said this while delivering his speech on Tuesday at the signing ceremony of the Memorandum of Understanding between Nigeria and the government of the UK regarding the return and management of stolen assets recovered from Ibori and associates.

He said, “In consonance with existing framework or model engaged in the management of previous recoveries, the Federal Executive Council under the leadership of President Muhammadu Buhari has directed that the instant repatriated funds should be deployed towards the completion of the following legacy projects: the Second Niger Bridge, Abuja – Kano expressway and the Lagos – Ibadan expressway under the coordination of the Nigeria Social Investment Authority.”

Speaking with The PUNCH, however, the Commissioner for Information in Delta State, Charles Aniagwu, described the development as the height of wickedness.

He said the Buhari regime could as well have spent the money on developing Ghana if it wished.

“Why should Delta State money be used in building Lagos-Ibadan Expressway or Abuja-Kano rail? Is the Federal Government saying it doesn’t know the origin of the money,” Aniagwu asked.

When asked if the state government would challenge the matter, he said, “I am not in a position to say right now. However, that money belongs to Delta State. We would have understood if the Federal Government had said it wanted to receive 20 per cent but to take all the money is wrong.”

Ibori, who ruled Delta State from 1999 to 2007, was convicted by a UK court in 2012 and was sentenced to 13 years in jail after admitting fraud of nearly £50m (N26.3bn), even though prosecutors say the actual amount stolen was about £250m (N131.7bn).

The former governor of Delta State pleaded guilty to 10 offences relating to conspiracy to launder funds from the state, substantive counts of money laundering and one count of obtaining money transfer by deception and fraud. He was released in 2016 after serving a fraction of his term.

The PUNCH had reported in 2016 that the Delta State Government would not receive any money once the UK repatriates the funds due to the refusal of the state government to cooperate with the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission during Ibori’s trial.

The Delta State Government had permanently forfeited $15m of the Ibori loot to the Federal Government for failing to cooperate with the EFCC to bring Ibori to justice. The state government had even challenged the EFCC’s right to probe Ibori in 2008, insisting that Ibori never stole.

Sources within the EFCC had told our correspondent that Delta State had done nothing to assist in the investigation and prosecution of Ibori and should thus not be entitled to any money.

‘UK still working on actual amount Ibori stole’

Meanwhile, speaking at the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding between the UK and Nigeria at the Ministry of Justice in Abuja, the British High Commissioner to Nigeria, Catriona Laing, said the Ibori case is complicated, adding that the British authorities were still working on the actual amount involved in the matter.

According to a statement from the British High Commission, Laing promised that more of such recoveries from the Ibori case would be returned to Nigeria in due course.

The diplomat said, “This agreement represents the culmination of many years of work by law enforcement authorities in the UK and Nigeria. The return of the assets to Nigeria has been subject to a number of hard-fought legal challenges by third parties which were defeated in the UK courts.

The high commissioner said the agreement demonstrates the UK’s commitment to recovering and returning corruptly-obtained assets, stressing that “money obtained through criminality or corruption is not welcome in the UK.”

The Executive Director, Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre, Mr Auwal RafSanjani, described the planned deployment of the fund to the federal projects as a violation of global assets recovery principle to which the FG was a signatory.

He argued that the fund should be returned to the Delta State Government and also advised the state to do everything legally and politically possible to recover the £4.2m and the other tranches that would be repatriated.

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