|[FILES] Delta state. Photo; IDONSABI|
• Clark gives FG seven-day ultimatum to hand over money
• Falana urges FG to toe same line when it returned monies to Plateau, Bayelsa
• SERAP seeks clarification over planned use of Ibori loot, says over $600m Abacha loot was earmarked for same projects
• Pay returned money to Delta varsity students, Sowore says
The House of Representatives, yesterday, 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.
The lawmakers insisted that the funds were stolen from Delta State and as such should rightly be returned to the state. They added that the funds are needed for the infrastructural development of the state.
In effect, the House urged the Federal Ministry of Finance to stop forthwith further appropriation/and or disbursement of the recovered looted fund pending the final determination of the matter by the House.
The lawmakers also directed the Federal Ministry of Finance and Attorney General of the Federation to furnish the House with all particulars relating to the recovered money. The House thereby directed its Committees on Finance, Justice and Loans and Recovered Funds to probe into the issue and revert to the House within two weeks.
The House Minority leader, Mr Ndudi Elumelu, while moving the motion, faulted the decision to transfer the money to the coffers of the Federal Government for appropriation without recourse to the Delta State Government.
Elumelu argued that if the Federal Government is allowed to appropriate the funds without recourse to the Delta State Government, the people of the state would be shortchanged and deprived of legitimate resources to improve on the economy of the state, as well as provide the requisite infrastructural development for their benefit.
Elumelu added that he was privy to information that the actual money is £6.2 million and not £4.2 million as claimed.
The UK had on Tuesday signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) to return the sum of £4.2 million stolen by former Delta State Governor, James Ibori, to Nigeria. The Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami, said the recovery of the stolen fund is part of efforts of the current administration to fight corruption and that the money will be used for the construction of the second Niger Bridge, Abuja-Kano road, and Lagos-Ibadan expressway.
Following criticisms on why the loot is not returned to Delta, Malami in an interview had insisted that it will be used for federal projects and will not be returned to the state where it was pilfered.
“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,” Malami said during the television interview. 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.
“All the processes associated with the recovery were consummated by the Federal Government and the Federal Government is, indeed, the victim of crime and not sub-national,” he said.
HOWEVER, Delta chieftain and leader of the South-South geo-political region, Chief Edwin Clark, has 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.
Speaking to The Guardian yesterday, the fiery elder statesman also urged the Delta State government to file legal actions against the government for attempting to rob the state of its funds. According to him, the elders of the state should rise against any attempt by the government of the day to make Delta a conquered territory.
Clark recalled his roles in ensuring that the money allegedly stolen by the former governor was recovered through the Nigerian court before Ibori was let off the hook.
He said: “I was among the people that said that Ibori was corrupt. The Federal Government charged him to court and later, the court freed him from all the 170 charges.
“We petitioned again in another matter and he was declared wanted. He tried to run away but was taken to England and charged to court where he pleaded guilty. He was convicted alongside his wife, sister and a friend.
“With all the allegations we made, the Federal Government knew that the money belonged to Delta State government. So, it is very provocative, unconstitutional and irregular to listen to the Attorney General saying that the money belongs to the Federal Government.
“To worsen the situation, you want to use money belonging to Delta to complete Lagos-Ibadan expressway, Second Niger Bridge and Abuja-Kaduna-Kano road. This is very offensive.”
Also, human rights lawyer, Mr Femi Falana (SAN), has said the loot recovered from Ibori belongs to the state and not the Federal Government. Falana, in a statement, said: “The £4.2m does not belong to the Federal Government. The money confiscated from Governor Joshua Dariye in the UK was recovered by the Federal Government, repatriated to Nigeria and returned to the Plateau State Government.
“The money confiscated from Governor Diepreye Alamieyesigha in the UK was recovered by the Federal Government, repatriated to Nigeria and remitted to the account of Bayelsa State Government. Since what is sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander, the sum of £4.2 million confiscated from ex-Governor James Ibori in the UK and recovered by the Federal Government has to be remitted to the account of the Delta State Government.”
MEANWHILE, a Lagos-based rights group, the Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP), yesterday, urged the Federal Government to urgently clarify why the £4.2 million Ibori loot would be used for the construction of Lagos-Ibadan Expressway, Abuja-Kano road, and the Second Niger Bridge, despite telling citizens last year that the Abacha loot of over $600 million was earmarked for the same projects.
The group said it was worried that the Federal Government had in March 2020, in response to its Freedom of Information request, told SERAP that the $322 million Abacha loot recovered from Switzerland and the $308 million recovered from the Island of Jersey would be used for the construction of Lagos-Ibadan Expressway; Abuja-Kano Expressway and Second Niger Bridge.
SERAP’s deputy director, Kolawole Oluwadare, called on the Federal Government to urgently clarify how much of the Abacha recovered loot from Switzerland and the Island of Jersey has been spent on Lagos-Ibadan Expressway and the Second Niger Bridge, and to provide details of the outstanding work on the two projects.
It also urged the Federal Government to urgently publish details of the spending plan of the £4.2 million on the road projects, and whether there is any money remaining from the Abacha loot reportedly spent on the same projects.
Oluwadare stressed that explaining exactly the total budget for Lagos-Ibadan Expressway and the Second Niger Bridge, and whether the Abacha loot earlier earmarked for the same projects is not enough to complete them would ensure transparency and accountability in the spending of the Ibori loot.
According to him, SERAP has consistently called for transparency and accountability in the spending of recovered public assets and it will be issuing a Freedom of Information request to seek details on the status of spending of Abacha loot on Lagos-Ibadan Expressway and the Second Niger Bridge.
Former presidential candidate of the African Action Congress (AAC), Omoyele Sowore, has, however, asked students in Delta State to demand that the looted money be spent on schools in the state and not on Federal Government projects.
Sowore in a post on his Twitter page said: “The recovered loot should be used to pay students of higher institutions in Delta. They must demand that the £4.2 million Ibori loot being repatriated from the UK be spent on schools in the state instead of accepting to pay exorbitant school fees like the N150,000 being charged at Delta State University. It is your money.”
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