The Lagos branch of Oghara Development Union (ODU) says the loot forfeited by the associates of James Ibori, former governor of Delta state, is £6.2 million — and not £4.2 million.
Ibori is from Oghara town in Ethiope West LGA of Delta.
On Tuesday, the UK signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU)with the Nigerian government to return £4.2 million recovered from Ibori and his associates.
But the union, in a statement by Sunday Agbofodoh, its general secretary, said it had followed the case “diligently” and knows that the forfeited sum was £6.2 million.
The union said Nigeria “should oppose UK’s hypocrisy” and insist that the entire sum be returned to the country.
It added that Ibori is innocent of the charges against him and that his forfeited assets were not bought with illicit funds.
“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,” the union said in the statement.
“Nigeria should also demand the interest on the £6.2 million since 2012 because the money would not have sat idly in the bank without attracting interest.”
IBORI ‘HAD SUBSTANTIAL WEALTH’ BEFORE PUBLIC SERVICE
The union said that all assets linked to Ibori were purchased using funds lawfully and properly obtained and some were bought before he became governor.
The statement read: “Ibori’s businesses and the monies that accrued to them were not hidden from the London and Nigerian “persecutors”. The London Police filed in court a paper which showed that one of Ibori’s companies, Mer Engineering, was earning over $7 million annually.
“The forfeited London house linked to the First Lady of Delta state when Ibori was Governor, the Hampstead property, is owned by a family trust. The property was purchased by the company, MER Engineering, which shareholding was held by his family trust.
“The second property belonged to Miss Udoamaka Okoronkwo, and was purchased for £249, 000 through mortgage. Miss Udoamaka is a successful businesswoman as can be seen from the facility letter dated 19 December 2005 from a bank in favour of her company, Sagicon Nig, Ltd for N121 million (£1.5 million).
“The third property, very modest, belonged to Ibori’s sister, a U.K resident, which she purchased for £140, 000. Her husband is a former Federal Permanent Secretary.
“As a court ordered that the buildings be forfeited, however unjustly, all the monies realised MUST return to Nigeria. It is on record that Ibori was a successful businessman before he became a Governor in May 1999, involved in oil logistics and trading. One of his companies, MER Engineering (Nig Ltd), was established in 1992, seven years before he became Governor. He was publisher of a national newspaper called “Diet”, now called “Daily Independent”.
“Also, Ibori had a consultancy job with the Federal Government, with a tripartite agreement between him, the FG and the law firm Washington Christian of USA from which he earned between US$ 3 million to US$ 5 million annually, after successfully reaching the specified goals.
“His bank statements with the Bank of Austria, the Citibank, Barclays Bank and the Meryl Lynch for those years will also show that he had substantial wealth of his own before he held public office for the first time in May 1999.”
DELTA Elders Forum, DEF, led by former Minister of Information, Senator Edwin Clark, opposed the plan of the Federal Government to use the 4.2 million pounds pinched from the state by a previous leader, which the British Government, recently, returned to complete roads in other parts of the country whereas federal roads in the state have all dilapidated.
Chief Clark, who spoke to Vanguard on phone, said the money belongs to the Delta state government and not the Federal Government, so it should not appropriate for the money.
The elder statesman indicated that Delta elders would take the federal government to court over the matter and asked the state government to follow suit, as it was the rightful owner.
“It was announced in one of the television stations that the British government has decided to return to the federal government the sum of 4.2 million pounds stolen from Delta state government in the past by a former governor.
“The federal government wants to use the money for the completion of Lagos-Ibadan expressway, Abuja-Kaduna-Kano road and the 2nd Niger Bridge in Onitsha, Anambra state
“I was shocked because the money does not belong to the federal government as was the case of General Abacha, which money was paid to the federal government by the American government and it was used by the federal government because it is their own money taken from the Central Bank of Nigeria.
“The case here is different, the money belongs to the Delta state government, so we are taking them to the court to explain why they are appropriating the money belonging to Delta.
“Roads in Niger Delta and Delta are bad, the condition of East-West Road in the Niger Delta, which is the most important economic road in Nigeria is pitiable.
“The federal government has not been able to repair or rehabilitate any of the federal roads in Niger Delta and Delta state. Take the Benin- Warri road, it has completely collapsed and even the partial work by the Delta government did not solve the problem. A journey of one hour now takes six hours or more.
“Sapele-Agbor road is a federal road that was awarded to a contractor by the federal government and it has been abandoned. Why does the federal government not want to use this 4.2 million pounds to rehabilitate the important Sapele-Agbor road via Eku and Abraka, we do not understand.
“We see it as a sign of deliberate oppression and provocation of our people, perhaps they are tired of Niger Delta, if that is the situation, let them go on since what they want is a problem in the Niger Delta. We cannot be taken for granted in our country.
“As I earlier said, we are ready to go to court on this money, it belongs to Delta and should be used in Delta state and we will not allow this oppression to continue,” he added.
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