The Attorney-General of the Federation, Abubakar Malami, explained on Tuesday why the loot recovered from former Delta State Governor, James Ibori will be used for federal projects.
Malami had, earlier on Tuesday with the British High Commissioner to Nigeria, Catriona Laing, announced the return of £4.2 million recovered from Mr. Ibori and his friends.
The United Kingdom signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) to return the sum of £4.2 million assets stolen by former Delta State Governor, James Ibori to Nigeria.
The British High Commissioner to Nigeria, Catriona Laing in Abuja, the nation’s capital at the signing of the MoU at the Conference Hall of the Ministry of Justice said the money was recovered from friends and family members of the former governor.
The funds, set to arrive in the country within two weeks, 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.
The minister said that in consonance with the existing framework or model engaged in the management of previous recoveries, the Federal Executive Council under the able 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 (NSIA).
“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 his appearance on a live tv broadcast in a private television on Tuesday.
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.”
Ibori was convicted by a UK court in 2012 after pleading guilty to 10 charges of fraud and money laundering.
But the negotiations for the repatriation of his looted assets lasted for over seven years, due to what Mr. Malami described as “judicial processes” which requires all appeals to be exhausted before final forfeiture is granted. “This hampered the speedy recovery of the looted assets,” he said.
Malami, said the government is pursuing the recovery of other looted assets, including more Ibori assets amounting to over £100 million.
Meanwhile, Laing warned that the UK will no longer be used as a destination for looters to siphon proceeds of crimes, saying that has affected the level of trust between the two countries.
Ibori, who was Delta State Governor from 1999 to 2007, was convicted by a UK court in 2012 and was sentenced to 13 years in jail.
He pleaded guilty to 10 charges of fraud and money-laundering in February 2012 and is the most prominent Nigerian politician to be successfully prosecuted for corruption. He was released in 2016 after serving a fraction of his term.