NIGERIA’S House of Representatives has urged the federal government not to touch the £4.2m James Ibori loot about to be returned to the country by the UK as the money legitimately belongs to the Delta State government despite its defence of the ex-governor.
Former Delta State governor Chief James Ibori who admitted to stealing more than $250m was sentenced to 13 years in jail in 2012 after he pleaded guilty to money laundering and corruption. He has since served his term and has returned to Nigeria where he remains among the power brokers in Delta State but the court is yet to determine what happens to his UK assets.
Yesterday, Catriona Laing, the British high commissioner to Nigeria, said that $42m would be handed back to the country very soon as the first tranche of planned returns. In a swift response, Abubakar Malami, Nigeria’s attorney-general, said President Muhammadu Buhari had directed the returned loot be deployed towards the completion of the second Niger Bridge, the Lagos-to-Ibadan expressway and the Abuja-to-Kano expressway projects.
However, the Delta State government is claiming the money does not belong to the federal government, so it has no right to spend it. This is despite the fact that the Delta State government has backed Chief Ibori throughout his travails and accorded him a hero’s welcome when he returned home from the UK.
This morning, Nigeria’s House of Representatives asked the federal government through the finance ministry to immediately stop the disbursement of the money recovered from the former governor. It passed a motion sponsored by nine members of the House from Delta State led by minority leader Hon Ndidi Elumelu.
In addition, the House requested that the Federal Ministry of Finance and the attorney-general of federation furnish it with all particulars relating to the recovered money. Hon Elumelu argued that similar circumstances had happened where looted funds were returned to Abia and Bayelsa states, adding that the money will be used for infrastructural developments in Delta State.
Hon Elumelu added: “The sum of £4.2m being proceeds of looted funds recovered from a former governor of Delta State Chief James Ibori is being transferred to the coffers of the Federal Government of Nigeria for appropriation without recourse to the Delta State government and or parliament in two weeks time. The said recovered looted funds belong to the good people of Delta State and as such ought to be refunded to the coffers of the Delta State government for developmental purposes.
“The House is aware that assets seized by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) from states were returned to such states. Also, the House is worried that if the federal government is allowed to appropriate the funds without recourse to the Delta State government, the people of Delta State will be short-changed and deprived of their legitimate resources to improve on the economy of the State as well as provide the requisite infrastructural development for their benefit.
“All indications and information available to Delta State indicates that the actual money is £6.2m and the federal government should ensure that the total of £6.2m is credited not £4.2m as stated. The House believes that unless it halts the Federal Government of Nigeria from further dealing/tampering with the said funds immediately, the recovered loot may not be accounted for and or have any direct bearing or benefit to the people of Delta State in terms of infrastructures or people-oriented projects.”