Minister of Justice and the Attorney- General of the Federation, Abubakar Malami, has explained why the loot recovered from former Governor of Delta State, James Ibori, should go to the federal government and not the state.
The United Kingdom(U.K) has promised to return £4.2 million loot recovered from Ibori to the federal government.
Catriona Laing, British high commissioner to Nigeria, signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) to that effect with Malami in Abuja,yesterday.
Speaking when he featured on a Channels Television programme, Malami said the law which Ibori breached was a federal law, and not that of Delta state.
“The major consideration to who is entitled to a fraction or perhaps the money in its entirety is a function of law and international diplomacy, among others,” he said.
“It is a function of law, in the sense that the law in contention that was alleged to have been breached is a federal law. That is the starting point.
“In dealing with international community and international diplomacy, the parties of interest are the state parties (referring to sovereign countries), and not sub-national governments that are involved.”
Malami also said that the federal government is the “victim”, adding that Delta State was not involved in the recovery of the funds.
“With those backgrounds in mind, all the processes associated with the recovery are processes consummated by the federal government. The federal government is indeed the victim of crime and not sub-national,” he said.
“The law is a federal law that was alleged to have been breached, and then, the parties are nationals and not sub-nationals — the UK government where the money was eventually looted to, and then the Nigerian government that had pursued the recovery of such money.
“Whether Delta state government will benefit from it or not, is a function of local law, but certainly, the agreement as consummated for the parties is for the benefit of the Nigerian state as a victim of crime, and not the Delta State government as sub-national.”
Malami added that the recoverd loot would be used for the construction of the second Niger Bridge, Abuja-Kano road, and Lagos-Ibadan Express road.
Addressing journalists at the signing ceremony, Catriona Laing said the money was recovered from friends and family members of the former governor.
She lamented that many Nigerians were in the habit of siphoning money from the country to the UK, saying that has also affected the level of trust between both countries.
Laing, however, warned that the UK will no longer be used as a destination for looters to siphon proceeds of crimes.
The agreement was signed at the Conference Hall of the Ministry of Justice.
Laing, the British High Commissioner to Nigeria, stressed ill-gotten money is not welcome in the UK.
“The return of these assets to Nigeria has been subject to a number of hard fought legal challenges by third parties which were defeated in the UK courts.
“We will ensure the full weight of law enforcement to crack down those who use, move or hide their proceed of crime in the UK,” Laing said.
In February 2012, Ibori pleaded guilty in a UK court to money laundering, conspiracy to defraud and forgery and was sentenced to 13 years in prison.
Some of his associates and family members were also sentenced for similar offences.