Echoing wrongheadedness and injustice, the House of Representatives has called on the Federal Government to ensure that the £4.2million monies confiscated from former Delta State Governor, James Ibori is returned to the state.
Also, the lawmakers disclosed that the total money to be returned is £6.2 million and not £4.2 million as is being reported
Earlier, the Delta State Government, human rights groups and other prominent Nigerians have opposed the return of the looted funds to the Federal Government, insisting that the money belongs to the state.
The Attorney General and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami had earlier on Tuesday with the British High Commissioner to Nigeria, Catriona Laing, announced the return of £4.2 million recovered from Ibori and his friends.
According to the minister, the funds which would be returned to the country within 14 days , are expected to be used for the construction of the second Niger Bridge, Abuja-Kano road, and Lagos-Ibadan Express road and not returned to the Delta State Government where it was pilfered from.
However, in a swift reaction to the development, the legislators insisted that the funds must be returned to Delta State since it was looted from there. They added that the funds were needed for the infrastructural development of the state.
Earlier while reacting to the issue, the Delta State Commissioner for Information , Charles Aniagwu, described the move by the Federal Government to corner the recovered fund as the height of wickedness.
He queried: “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? The money belongs to Delta State. We would have understood if the Federal Government had said it wants to receive 20 per cent, but to take all the money is wrong.”
Also, Mr. Olise Ifeajika, Chief Press Secretary Governor Ifeanyi Okowa, collaborated Aniagwu’s position , saying that the N2.2 billion to be refunded by UK Government belongs to Delta State, and so it should be transferred to the state as soon as possible. “We want the money, it is for the state, Ibori was never a Federal Minister, but the governor of Delta State”.
According to the governor’s spokesman, THE Federal Government has no business handling the money or spending it for any projects whatsoever without consulting the state, because the money is for the state. Even, the project they are talking about is not in Delta State.
Also, Prof. Itse Sagay, the Chairman, Presidential Advisory Committee Against Corruption (PACAC), affirmed the state government’s stance. He told The Guardian yesterday: “The money is Delta State money and must be returned to Delta State. Federal Government cannot appropriate it for any reason whatsoever. Delta State should officially demand it, failing which the court can be activated for a judicial pronouncement in that regard.”
Also, a non-governmental advocacy body, the Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre (CISLAC), while hailing the return of the looted funds to the country, said “the funds should be utilized to compensate
victims of corruption in Delta State from whom it was stolen.
“By signing up to Global Forum on Asset Recovery (GFAR) as parts of efforts to fight corruption, the Federal Government committed to responsible asset return and citizens of Delta are clearly the victims here.”
Human rights lawyer, Mr. Femi Falana (SAN), noted that the recovered funds ought to be handed over to the people of Delta State.
Delta State-based lawyer, Chief Albert Akpomudje SAN, said: “It is unfair. Unless the source of funds has to do with the Federal Government they cannot do what they want with it. Therefore, the right thing to be done was to send the money to be used to develop the state. To now spread it like largesse for everybody as if it is federal money is not fair at all.
“I think that it is a matter that the Attorney General of the state can pursue in court. I don’t expect them to allow it to lie low. They should challenge it in court. You can only distribute funds that you can claim ownership of. Delta should own the money. It is as simple as that. They have already decided how to distribute the funds without considering the state from where the money was taken.”
Also, a constitutional lawyer Chief Sebastine Hon (SAN), added: “The issue is that Nigeria practices federalism. The truth of the matter is that the money belongs to Delta State and should be given to them. The only responsibility of the government is to relate with the UK government in respect of the fund’s transfer because it was an intercontinental matter. Aside from that, the money belongs to Delta.
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 £50 million, even though prosecutors say the actual amount stolen was about £250 million. He was released in 2016 after serving a fraction of his term.
Also in 2016, it was reported 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 (EFCC) during Ibori’s trial, thereby permanently forfeiting $15 million of the Ibori loot to the Federal Government.
While ruling on the case of the EFCC vs the Delta State Government regarding the ownership of the $15 million, which Ibori allegedly wanted to use in bribing a former Chairman of the EFCC, Nuhu Ribadu, Justice Gabriel Kolawole, had accused the state government of protecting Ibori. The judge ruled that money recovered from Ibori must be paid into the Federation Account and not the Delta State coffers.