Who should be the custodian of the £4.2 million recovered from friends and family members of former Delta State Governor James Ibori to be returned to Nigeria by the United Kingdom government?
The Federal Government said the cash considered as recovered loot, belongs to it. It promptly deployed it for critical infrastructure development.
Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice Abubakar Malami said: “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.”
He added: “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 the sub-national,” Speaking on Channels Television last night.
But the Delta State Government rejected the takeover of the cash by the Federal Government.
It described the action as unjust and “smacks of impunity”, vowing to use all legal means to get the money back into the Delta State coffers.
Commissioner for Information Charles Aniagwu described the presidential directive as “provocative and condemnable”.
According to him, the state government would not “hesitate to take all necessary legal action”.
He said the state was not at loggerheads with any state or the federal to warrant any punitive action.
The commissioner said: “We condemn it. It is a decision that speaks volumes of injustice…what the federal government intends to do amounts to impunity.
“I don’t even know how to classify this behaviour of the federal government. Maybe President Muhammadu Buhari is not aware of what Malami is up to….I assume that those making those statements are showing their ignorance of the structure of our federation and the need to be equitable in decision making.”
Governor Ifeanyi Okowa’s Chief Press Secretary Olisa Ifeajika insisted that: “The money belongs to Delta government. If it’s being returned, it should come to Delta State. Chief James Ibori was not a federal minister; neither was he a federal permanent secretary; he was never a federal official. He operated in Delta State as a governor.
“So, if there is any window for the money to be brought back, it should, naturally, come to Delta State. And if for any reason, that the Federal Government has a different plan, there should be a discussion with the state government.
“Not consulting with the government and planning to spend the cash on projects outside the state is impunity and disrespect for the rule of law.”
Yesterday, a socio-cultural group, Oghara Development Union, (ODU) Lagos Branch, urged the Federal Government to stop what it called UK hypocrisy by insisting on the repatriation of £6.2 million and £4.2 million.
It accused the UK of witch-hunting Ibori for profit by withholding £2 million.
The group said it had followed the case diligently and knows that the sum the women forfeited was £6.2 million and not £4.2 million.
The group urged the federal government to ensure every single kobo forfeited by Chief James Onanefe Ibori’s associates in the London trial be returned to Nigeria.
Ibori hails from Oghara in the Ethiope West LGA, Delta State.
The union said in a statement signed by General Secretary Sunday Agbofodoh, said: “The Oghara Development Union stands squarely with Chief Ibori in maintaining his innocence, and so without conceding that Ibori was guilty as charged, and specifying that the forfeited houses were not bought with illicit funds, we nevertheless, call on Nigeria to insist that the full worth of the three buildings seized through a court order, be repatriated to Nigeria.”