President Muhammadu Buhari has directed that the £4.2 million recovered from friends and family members of Delta State Governor James Ibori by the British Government be used to complete the Second Niger Bridge, and the Lagos-Ibadan Expressway and the Abuja-Kano Highway.
British High Commissioner to Nigeria Catriona Laing said in Abuja on Tuesday that the £4.2 million was the first to be returned from the UK under a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) signed with Nigeria in 2016.
According to her, the Ibori case is complicated and the authorities were working on the actual amount involved.
The High Commissioner said the delay in returning the loot was to ensure due process and allow interested parties to exhaust their right of appeal.
According to her, the recovered funds will hit Nigeria’s account in three weeks.
The envoy, who spoke in Abuja at the signing of an MoU between both countries, assured that more of such recoveries from the Ibori case would be returned shortly.
On Ibori, she said: “He was trusted by the people of Delta State to be their governor for two terms. Sadly, he did not deliver on his mandate. He stole money – money that should have been for roads, for hospitals and other developmental purposes.”
She said the agreement further demonstrated that the UK was no longer a haven for stolen funds.
The UK, she added, would ensure that the full weight of law enforcement is brought upon those who like to use, move or hide their proceeds of crime there.
“It is vitally important that this agreement makes strong provision for transparency, monitoring and accountability.
“It is a guiding principle of both the UK and Nigerian governments that stolen assets should be used for projects that benefit Nigeria’s poor.”
Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice Abubakar Malami (SAN), who signed for Nigeria, described the event as “another major milestone in our determined quest as a nation to attain full recovery of all looted assets”.
The minister spoke on the need to “prevent abuse of recovered assets and also to ensure optimal utilisation of such recovered assets for the benefit of our deserving citizens.
“I am confident that both the Nigerian and British governments remain committed to all affirmative actions to combat corruption/illicit financial flows, ensure that looters do not find comfort or safe haven in our territories and also to guarantee that the forfeited or recovered proceeds of corruption are deployed to the benefit of the masses.”
Malami said in line with the existing framework for the management of previous recoveries, the Federal Executive Council (FEC) has directed that the instant repatriated funds should be deployed towards the completion of the Second Niger Bridge, Abuja – Kano expressway and the Lagos – Ibadan expressway under the coordination of the Nigeria Social Investment Authority (NSIA).
Malami said the decision was to ensure the integrity of the process, adding that a reputable civil society organisation (CSO) had been engaged to monitor/supervise the expenditure of the recovered funds on the execution of these critical projects which are evenly spread across the country.
On why is recovery was also being spent on the three projects to which the Abacha loot had been committed, Malami said Abacha loot was not sufficient to complete the projects, hence the decision to deploy this to the same projects.
“This is to further consolidate on what has been achieved in respect of the three projects. It is intended to ensure timely completion,” Malami said.
Ibori in 2012 pleaded guilty to money laundering and other charges in a UK court and was sentenced to 13 years imprisonment.
Some of his family members and associates were also convicted and sentenced.
But back home in Asaba, the Delta State capital, a Federal High Court, had acquitted the former governor of all 170 count charges.
Justice Anselem Awokulehin acquitted Ibori after the state government argued that no fund was missing from its coffers.