The Delta State government in Nigeria on Tuesday faulted the decision of the federal government to spend the £4.2 million forfeited by associates of a former governor of the state, Chief James Ibori, 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).
Delta Elders’ Forum (DEF), led by a former Minister of Information, Chief Edwin Clark, also opposed the plan of the federal government to use the funds to complete roads in other states when federal roads in the state are in deplorable condition.
The forum found as unacceptable the argument of the Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Mr. Abubakar Malami, that the federal government is appropriating the funds because the offenders committed a federal offence, contending that in the similar case of forfeiture by former governor of Bayelsa State, Chief Dieprieye Alamieyeseigha, the repatriated funds went to the state.
Clark served notice that his group 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 added.
Also Read: Malami says £4.2m Ibori loot return by UK not returning to Delta state
But speaking Tuesday night on a national private television, the Delta State Commissioner for Information, Mr. Charles Aniagwu, kicked against the federal government’s decision.
He 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.
The House of Representatives on Wednesday called on the Federal Government to ensure that the £4.2million Ibori loot be returned to Delta State.
The lawmakers insisted that the funds were stolen from Delta State and as such should rightly be returned to the state. They added that the funds are needed for the infrastructural development of the state.
This was the resolution reached after a motion of urgent public importance which was sponsored by all the lawmakers from Delta State.
Meanwhile, the lawmakers said the total money is £6.2 million and not £4.2 million as is being reported.
Reacting to plans to return the £4.2 million forfeited by three female associates of Ibori in the London case, the Oghara Development Union (ODU) in a statement issued by the General-Secretary, Mr. Sunday Agbofodoh said as the United Kingdom claimed to be acting without ulterior motives on Nigeria’s behalf, that 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.
It said Nigeria should oppose UK’s hypocrisy and insist that the entire sum be returned to Nigeria or UK would have been engaged in witch-hunting Ibori for profit, by withholding £2 million.
The union also urged Nigeria to demand the interest on the £6.2 million since 2012 because the money would not have sat idly in the bank without attracting interest.
The House also asked the Federal Ministry of Finance to direct the Attorney General of Federation, Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami, and give the House all particulars relating to the recovered money.
Following criticisms on why the loot is not returned to Delta State, Malami in an interview on a national private television insisted that it will be used for federal projects and not returned to the Delta State Government where it was pilfered from.
“The major consideration relating to who is entitled to a fraction or perhaps the money in its entirety is a function of law and international diplomacy,” Mr. Malami said during the interview.
He argued that the law that was alleged to have been breached by Ibori was a federal law and that the parties of interests involved in the repatriation of the funds were national and not sub-national governments.
“All the processes associated with the recovery were consummated by the federal government and the federal government is, indeed, the victim of crime and not sub-national,” he said.
When pressed on whether the British government had insisted that the money be spent on certain projects, Mr. Malami said it was not “a matter of insistence but a matter of negotiation between two sovereign states.”
It would be recalled that Ibori, in 2012, had pleaded guilty to money laundering and other charges in a UK court and was consequently sentenced to 13 years imprisonment. Some of his associates were also convicted and sentenced to prison over similar charges. The United Kingdom is now set to return the £4.2 million recovered from associates of Ibori to Nigeria.