From Godwin Tsa, Abuja
The Attorney General of the Federation (AGF) and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami (SAN), has said Nigerians should expect the return of £4.2 million seized from associates of former governor of Delta State, James Ibori, soon.
This was contained in a statement by Umar Gwandu, media aide in the office of the AGF, yesterday.
He said the Federal Government was in touch with the government of the United Kingdom on the matter.
“Documentations with the banks in different countries often take longer than anticipated. We anticipated two weeks but we are not in control of the banks,” he said.
He maintained that the Federal Government is working to make sure the transfer goes through successfully.
“There is neither complacency nor any delay as efforts are being made to ensure successful transfer of the looted funds,” he said.
The Federal Government had announced that the funds would be used for the completion of ongoing work on the 2nd Niger Bridge, Abuja-Kano and Lagos-Ibadan expressways, which were already being funded by the recovered $311 million Abacha loot III.
The AGF said a reputable civil society organisation has been incorporated to monitor the use of the funds for the ongoing projects under the management of the Nigerian Sovereign Investment Authority (NSIA).
“It is to be recalled that the Nigerian government had all along provided the required mutual assistance and backup to the British authorities while the prosecution of Ibori lasted in London and today, we are rightfully taking benefit of that cooperation.
“I cannot but observe that what we are witnessing today is a glaring manifestation of the agelong national ties between the Federal Republic of Nigeria and the United Kingdom,” he said.
The British High Commissioner to Nigeria, Catriona Laing, said the first tranche of the funds was a culmination of many years of legal battle.
Also, an official of the High Commission, Andrew Clowes, pledged the UK’s determination to cooperate with Nigeria in the fight against corruption and illicit financial flows, adding that the $10 billion quoted to leave Nigeria annually equates to stealing $50 from every citizen of Nigeria every year.
The Nigerian government had signed an Memorandum of Understanding with the UK in 2016 for the repatriation of the funds recovered from family and associates of Ibori laundered to the UK.
Ibori, who was governor between 1999 and 2007, in 2012 pleaded guilty in a UK court to charges of money laundering, conspiracy to defraud and forgery. He was sentenced to an aggregate 13 years jail term.
The position of the Federal Government has generated controversy with the Delta State government indicating interest to challenge the use of the funds for the proposed federal government projects.