Just recently, precisely on Tuesday March 9, 2021, Delta state was in the news, but, this time around, not for a very good reason. On that day, at that time and in that place, Deltans remembered with nostalgic feeling what happened to them between May 1999 and May 2007, in the name of leadership. It was a day the United Kingdom (UK) government signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with Nigeria to return £4.2 million loot recovered from James Ibori, former governor of Delta state, and his associates.
Catriona Laing, British High Commissioner to Nigeria, who signed the MOU alongside Abubakar Malami, Attorney-General of the Federation, said the money which was recovered from Ibori’s family and friends will be returned to Nigeria in the coming weeks. Immediately the MOU was signed, the Federal government said the fund will be used to fund the Lagos-Ibadan Expressway, the second Niger Bridge, among other infrastructure projects.
To help our readers understand more fully the kernel of this commentary, Mr., James Ibori was the Executive Governor of Delta State between May 1999 and May 2007. Upon completion of his second term in office as Governor, he was accused of corruption, financial recklessness and money laundering. Due to the porous judicial system in Nigeria, he evaded arrests and was absolved of 170 count charges by a Federal High Court in Asaba, Delta State. He was subsequently arrested and convicted by a UK court in 2012 after pleading guilty to 10 charges of fraud and money laundering.
But the negotiations for the repatriation of his looted assets lasted for over seven years, due to what Mr. Malami described as “judicial processes” which requires all appeals to be exhausted before final forfeiture is granted. Against all known logic, the Federal Government 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 integrity of the process,”
While explaining during the television interview what informed the Federal Government decision, the 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 argued that the law that was alleged to have been breached by Ibori was a federal law and that the parties of interests involved in the repatriation of the funds were national and not sub-national governments.
The decision has however, generated more controversy than solution with many expressing the view that Malami stood logic on its head.
Take as an illustration, while Delta chieftain and leader of the South-South geo-political region, Chief Edwin Clark, has during an interview vowed to drag the Federal Government to court if it fails to relinquish the £4.2 million repatriated from the UK to Delta State within the next seven days, Barrister Femi Falana (SAN) urges FG to toe same line when it returned monies to Plateau, Bayelsa States under similar circumstance.
Their positions are not different from that of the House of Representative.
Going by media reports, The House of Representatives has directed the Federal Government to halt the spending plan of the recovered £4.2 million Ibori loot and ensure that the money once returned by the United Kingdom (UK) is handed over to Delta State. This was the resolution reached after a motion of urgent public importance jointly sponsored by all the 10 lawmakers from Delta State, was adopted at the plenary presided by the Deputy Speaker Ahmed Wase.
These eminent Nigerians cannot be wrong at the same time.
In view of this fact, Ika Weekly Newspaper urges the Federal Government to comply fully with the House of Representative’s directive as any public office holder that disobeys the House or ignores such directives is a threat to the very structures of government he pledged to protect, and may in civilized communities/societies be considered more corrupt than Ibori.