UK set to return £4.2 million Ibori loot to Nigeria
The United Kingdom government is set to return to Nigerian government, over £4.2 million pounds ($5.84m) recovered from a former Governor of Delta State, James Ibori, who was convicted of corruption charges in the U.K. in 2012.
James Ibori, who was the governor of southern Nigeria’s oil-producing Delta state from 1999 to 2007, pleaded guilty at London’s Southwark Crown Court in 2012 to 10 counts of fraud and money-laundering.
He received a 13-year jail sentence and spent four years behind bars for using public funds to buy luxury homes, top-of-the-range cars and a private jet.
Representatives of both the U.K. and Nigerian governments signed an agreement for the return of the money to Nigeria in Abuja on Tuesday.
The signing of the agreement, which took place at the Federal Ministry of Justice, Abuja, was done under the auspices of the U.K.-Nigeria Memorandum of Understanding (MoU), which came into force in 2016. The British High Commissioner, Catriona Laing, signed the agreement on behalf of the U.K. government while the Attorney-General of the Federation, Abubakar Malami, signed it on behalf of the Nigeria government.
The British High Commissioner to Nigeria, Ms. Catriona Laing, said this was the first tranche of such a planned refund. She noted that the Ibori case is complicated and the United Kingdom authorities were still working on the total and actual amount involved in the case. Malami, who disclosed this during the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between the British and Nigerian Governments, added that the money would also impact significantly on the Lagos-Ibadan and the Abuja-Kano expressway projects.
Reacting, the Commissioner for Information in Delta State, Charles Aniagwu, described the plan by the Federal Government to appropriate the recovered fund as the height of wickedness. “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, Chief Press Secretary Governor Ifeanyi Okowa, Mr. Olise Ifeajika, said 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, 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.