A former Deputy Director-General, Nigerian Law School, Prof. Ernest Ojukwu (SAN), has joined his voice in the argument about who is entitled to the £4.2million United Kingdom government seized from the former governor of Delta State, James Ibori, with the verdict that the state cannot claim the fund.
Ibori was prosecuted and convicted by the UK government in UK for money laundering in 2012.
According to the law teacher, the court ordered the money forfeited to the UK government and not Nigeria.
Ojukwu argued: “There is no court order from the UK making Nigeria or Delta State the beneficiary of that fund.
“Nigeria did not prosecute Ibori and Delta State did not prosecute Ibori in that case. Following diplomatic agreements, the UK government agreed to hand over the fund to Nigeria with a mandate to spend it on specially-agreed projects in Nigeria.
“At the point of this agreement, the money can only be regarded as mere income to Nigeria or income of a donor status. If the money is taken to be a mere income to Nigeria, it means that both the Federal Government and Delta State Government cannot claim the money for its appropriation.”
According to him, the money could only legitimately be paid into the federation account for sharing by federal, state, and local governments.
“But more correctly and because of the special agreement reached with the UK government, the fund is an income from donation to the federal government. It cannot be anything else.
“Donor fund must be utilised according to the donor instructions, otherwise the donee runs the risk of a refund or blacklist from future donations. At the time of the agreement with the Federal Government, £4.2million was not Nigeria’s money or Delta State money but UK money.
“Remember that it was forfeited to the UK government by court order. Nothing can change the status of the fund. The source right now is a UK fund donated to Nigeria with specific agreements on its use. That use happens to be to fund part of the budget of the Federal Government on some ongoing infrastructure development. Delta State cannot by any means claim a right over the fund.”
MEANWHILE, a group, Niger Delta Democratic Union (NDDU), has dragged Federal Government to court for allegedly declaring itself sole owner of the $4.2million.
In a statement, NDDU said: “Our action has been filed at the Federal High Court, Asaba to challenge this unprovoked onslaught and unrestrained belligerence against our constitution and the People of Delta State.”
Facilitator of the group, Dr. Akpo Mudiaga Odje, in the statement, described the decision of the Federal Government to spend the money as an act of financial terrorism and gluttony.
“We are appalled by the Federal Government’s unilateral decision to sequestrate and/or declare sole ownership of £4.2million by deciding how the same is to be put into use. The said usage is regrettably for developing areas outside Delta State, which is actually the real owner of the returned fund,” he said.