From Godwin Tsa, Abuja
The British Government has announced its readiness to return to Nigeria £4.2 million, being part of the funds so far recovered from friends and family members of former Delta Governor James Ibori.
British High Commissioner to Nigeria Ms Catriona Laing, who disclosed this on Tuesday in Abuja, said this was the first tranche of such planned returns.
Laing said what is currently being returned were retrieved from friends and family members of the ex-governor.
She noted that the Ibori case is complicated and that UK authorities were still working on the total actual amount involved in the case.
Laing, who spoke at a ceremony for the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between both countries in Abuja, assured that more of such recoveries from the Ibori case would be returned to Nigeria in due course.
Nigeria’s Attorney-General and Minister of Justice Abubakar Malami, who signed for the country, disclosed that President Muhammadu Buhari has directed that such recovered assets be deployed to the completion of the Second Niger Bridge, the Lagos-Ibadan Expressway and the Abuja-Kano Expressway projects.
Malami described the event as another milestone in the country’s determination to attain full recovery of all looted assets, prevent abuse of recovered assets and also to ensure the optimal use of such recovered assets for the benefit of Nigerian citizens.
He noted that such recoveries have underscored the fact that international cooperation and mutual trust can yield great benefits for citizens in developing countries who are the direct victims of acts of corruption.
‘Hence, the Governments of Nigeria and the United Kingdom have concluded negotiations for the return of £4.2 million to Nigeria pursuant to the Memorandum of Understanding earlier executed by the two governments in 2016,’ the Attorney-General stated.
‘It is to be recalled that the Nigerian Government had all along provided the required mutual assistance and back up to the British authorities while the prosecution of James 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.’
The minister expressed confidence that both the Nigerian and British governments remain committed to all affirmative actions to combat corruption/illicit financial flows, ensure that looters do not find comfort or save haven in our territories and also to guarantee that the forfeited or recovered proceeds of corruption are deployed to the benefit of the masses.
He disclosed 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) to ensure the integrity of the process while a reputable Civil Society Organisation has been engaged to monitor/supervise the expenditure of the recovered funds on the execution of these critical projects which are evenly spread across the country.’
Mr Malami said the Buhari’ administration has established a reputation of transparency and accountability in the use of recovered assets, adding that ‘these assets will in no way be different in terms of application.’
He ‘commended the sincerity of purpose of the British government as we look forward to similar assistance and cooperation in bringing to book all other persons and entities who at the moment are inequitably exploiting the system in the UK to shield themselves from justice.’