Why transfer of £4.2 million Ibori loot to Nigeria is delayed – Malami

Nigeria’s Attorney-General of the Federation (AGF) Abubakar Malami, said on Monday that the 4.2 million (about N2.4 billion) recovered from associates of the convicted former Governor of Delta State, James Ibori, in the United Kingdom (U.K.), would soon be transferred to Nigeria.

Mr Malami’s spokesperson, Umar Gwandu, said in a statement that the delay in the repatriation of the fund since the March 2021 agreement between the Nigerian and U.K. governments was partly caused by documentations in foreign banks.

“Documentations with the banks in different countries often take longer than anticipated. We anticipated two weeks but we are not in control of the banks,” the statement said.

The statement noted that sometimes, when a country transfers funds, it may take more than the expected time due to some documentations.

It added that the government was “working assiduously” to ensure that the fund was repatriated to Nigeria soon.

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

The signing of the agreement, which took place at the Federal 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.

‘Fund will get to Nigeria soon’

Mr Malami, who is also the Minister of Justice, said the federal government, “is in touch with the government of the United Kingdom on the matter.”

“There is neither complacency nor any delay as efforts are being made to ensure successful transfer of the looted funds,” the ministerial spokesperson said.

“To this end, Malami said any moment from now, Nigeria expects the return of £4.2m seized from the associates of convicted former Governor of Delta State, James Ibori,” the statement added.

It added that the AGF office and other relevant government agencies would keep the general public informed once the Ibori loot were received and confirmed.

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Controversy over looted fund

The issue of how the recovered fund will be expended when finally returned to Nigeria has been a matter of intense battle between the federal and Delta State governments.

The federal government, through the AGF, has said the fund would be ploughed into the construction of the Lagos-Ibadan Expressway, Abuja-Kano Road and the Second Niger Bridge, which he said would boost economic growth and help alleviate poverty.

But the Delta State Government said the money should be returned to it and it should be left to decide how to spend the funds since its people are the victims of the looting by their former governor.

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.

The return of the Ibori loot to Nigeria is bound to reignite the battle between the federal government and the Delta State Government once the £4.2 million loot hits Nigeria’s account.

Ibori’s conviction

About £4.2 million was recovered from Mr Ibori’s associates and relatives.

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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