From Godwin Tsa, Abuja
The British Government is set to return £4.2 million being part of funds so far recovered from friends and family members of former Delta Governor, James Ibori, to the Nigerian government.
British High Commission to Nigeria, Ms. Catriona Laing, who disclosed this in Abuja, yesterday, said this was the first tranche of such planned returns.
Ibori, Delta State Governor from 1999 to 2007, was convicted by a UK court in 2012 and sentenced to 13 years in jail. He pleaded guilty to 10 charges of fraud and money-laundering in February 2012. He was released in 2016 after his term.
Laing, who spoke during 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. Based on the agreement signed, the £4.2million is to be returned in about two weeks from now.
Meanwhile, the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami, has announced that the money would be used for the construction of the second Niger Bridge, Abuja-Kano road and Lagos-Ibadan Express road under the coordination of the Nigeria Social Investment Authority (NSIA) to ensure 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. “
He boasted that the recovery of the looted fund was part of efforts of the current administration to fight corruption.
Malami described the event as another milestone in the nation’s determined quest to attain full recovery of all looted assets, prevent abuse of recovered assets and also to ensure optimal utilisation of such recovered assets for the benefit of our deserving citizens.
He noted that recoveries has again underscored the fact that international cooperation and mutual trust can yield great benefits for the citizenry in developing countries who are the direct victims of acts of corruption.
However, the Oghara Development Union (ODU) Lagos Branch, has called on the Federal Government to insist that every single penny that has been forfeited by Ibori’s associates in the London trial be returned to Nigeria. Ibori is from Oghara town in the Ethiope West Local Government Area of Delta State.
The union, in a statement by Sunday Agbofodoh, General Secretary: “ “As a court ordered that the buildings be forfeited, however unjustly, all the monies realised MUST return to Nigeria. It is on record that Ibori was a successful businessman before he became a Governor in May 1999, involved in oil logistics (Upstream) and trading (Downstream). One of his companies, MER Engineering (Nig Ltd), was established in 1992, seven years before he became Governor. He was publisher of a national newspaper called “Diet”, now called “Daily Independent.
Also Ibori had a consultancy job with the Federal Government, with a tripartite agreement between him, the FG and the law firm Washington Christian of USA from which he earned between US$ 3 million to US$ 5 million annually, after successfully reaching the specified goals. His bank statements with the Bank of Austria, the Citibank, Barclays Bank and the Meryl Lynch for those years will also show that he had substantial wealth of his own before he held public office for the first time in May 1999.”
For instance, on March 11, 1998, his Bank of Austria account contained $557,100.00. His Citibank account contained even more; over $1.5 million dollars in 1998.”