Saturday, June 19, 2021

Nigeria receives $5.8m looted to U.K by ex-governor James Ibori

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The federal government has finally received from the United Kingdom the £4.2million recovered from former Governor of Delta State, James Ibori’s associates and family members, Nigeria’s Attorney-General of the Federation, Abubakar Malami, said on Tuesday.

This comes about two weeks after Mr Malami said the payment of the money to Nigeria was being delayed by documentation processes in foreign banks.

He however said in a statement on Tuesday that the “naira equivalent value” of the total £4,214,017.66 “has been credited into the designated Federal Government account” since May 10.

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His spokesperson, Umar Gwandu, who issued the statement, did not disclose the actual naira equivalent paid into the Nigerian government’s account.

The calculation by PREMIMUM TIMES, however, puts the figure at about N2.4 billion at official exchange rate, and about N2.9billion at parallel market’s rate.

“Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami, SAN, signed Memorandum of Understanding for the repatriation of the Ibori loot on behalf of the Federal Government of Nigeria.

“The development, according to Malami, was a demonstration of the recognition of reputation Nigeria earns through records of management of recovered stolen Nigerian stolen in the execution of public oriented projects,” Mr Gwandu’s statement read in part.

Agreement

PREMIUM TIMES reported that the representatives of both the U.K. and Nigerian governments signed the agreement for the return of the money, which translates to about N2.4 billion, to Nigeria in Abuja on March 9.

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The signing of the agreement, which took place at theFederal Ministry of Justice, Abuja, was done under the auspices of the U.K.-Nigeria Memorandum of Understanding (MoU), which came into force in 2016.

The British High Commissioner, Catriona Laing, signed the agreement on behalf of the U.K. government while Mr Malami signed it on behalf of the Nigeria government.

Controversy

The arrival of the money in Nigeria is expected to reignite the ownership battle that first surfaced between the federal and Delta State governments when the agreement for the return of the money was announced in March.

While signing the agreement on behalf of the Nigerian government on March 9, the AGF said the fund would be ploughed into the construction of the Lagos-Ibadan Expressway, Abuja-Kano Road and the Second Niger Bridge.

He said the projects would boost economic growth and help alleviate poverty.

But the Delta State Government, in response, said the money should be returned to it as the victim of the looting perpetrated by Mr Ibori and his cronies.

The oil-rich state said it should be left to decide how to spend the money.

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It recalled that the funds and assets recovered from former Governor of Bayelsa State, the late Diepreye Alamieyeseigha, who was equally convicted of corruption charges in July 2007, were returned to the state’s coffers, so the Ibori loot should not be treated differently.

Conviction

Mr Ibori pleaded guilty to money laundering, conspiracy to defraud, and forgery in a U.K. court in February 2012.

He was sentenced to a total of 13 years in prison.

Some of his associates and family also received sentences for similar offences and were similarly sent to prison.

Mr Ibori, a man who stole millions from the suffering people of oil-rich Delta State and laundered the proceeds in the U.K., had earlier been set free of the charges by a Nigerian federal court.

He was later arrested in the United Arab Emirate (UAE) and extradited to the U.K where he was eventually jailed for the aspects of the crimes committed in the U.K.

The ex-convict, who was believed to retain his political influence in Delta State while serving his jail term in the U.K., returned to Nigeria in February 2017 after completing his imprisonment.

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