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THE POLL: Should Ibori loot be returned to FG or Delta state?

THE POLL: Should Ibori loot be returned to FG or Delta state?
March 09
21:10 2021

Before the street protests begin, let us have a civil conversation about it. On Tuesday, the UK government signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with Nigeria to return £4.2 million loot recovered from James Ibori, former governor of Delta state, and his associates.

Catriona Laing, British high commissioner to Nigeria, who signed the MOU alongside Abubakar Malami, attorney-general of the federation, said the money which was recovered from Ibori’s family and friends will be returned to Nigeria in the coming weeks.

Immediately the MOU was signed, the federal government said the funds will be used to fix the Lagos-Ibadan expressway, the second Niger bridge, among other infrastructure projects.

“In consonance with existing framework or model engaged in the management of previous recoveries, the Federal Executive Council under the able leadership of President Muhammadu Buhari has directed that the instant repatriated funds should be deployed towards the completion of the following legacy projects: the Second Niger Bridge, Abuja – Kano expressway and the Lagos – Ibadan expressway under the coordination of the Nigeria Social Investment Authority (NSIA) to ensure integrity of the process,” Malami said.

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This immediately leads to the question: should the money go to the federal government or the state government where the funds are suspected to have originally come from.

According to the attorney general, the law breached by Ibori was a federal law and not state law. Also, the victim of the crime committed is Nigeria and not Delta state.

Malami added that the deal for the repatriation was also consummated by national governments and not sub-national entities like Delta.

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He concluded that the money will go to the federal government, and “whether Delta state government will benefit from it or not, is a function of local law”.

DID IBORI LOOT FROM THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT?

Ibori convicted in the UK after escaping EFCC

James Ibori was the governor of Delta state from May 29, 1999 to May 29, 2007. Before then, he had attempted to join the federal house of representatives on the platform of National Republican Convention (NRC) in 1991 but lost to the Social Democratic Party (SDP).

He did not come into electoral public office until 1999 and has not worked in public office since he left in 2007. He was accused of bankrolling the Umar Musa Yar’Adua presidential bid in 2007 on the promise that he would be made the vice-president.

Ibori lost the VP slot, had cases to settle with the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) bothering on the theft of public funds, abuse of office, and money laundering. He fled the country in 2010, was arrested in Dubai and landed in the UK where he was jailed for fraud.

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The UK court jailed Ibori for “13 years for fraud totalling nearly £50m ($77m)”. According to the BBC, one of the counts Ibori admitted related to “a $37m (£23m) fraud pertaining to the sale of Delta State’s share in Nigerian privatised phone company V Mobile”.

Based on the judgement by the Southwark court, Ibori looted the state coffers — not federal government funds.

BUT MOST STATE FUNDS COME FROM FG?

Only two states in Nigeria have consistently generated more funds internally than they get in from the federation account. The states are Lagos and Ogun. This means Delta state gets most of its funds from Federation Accounts Allocation Committee (FAAC).

Hence, most of the funds in the state coffers during Ibori’s tenure as governor came from the federation account. But does that make it federal government funds? Perhaps not.

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When the states and federal government share money from FAAC, 52.68 percent goes to FG, 26.72 percent to the states and 20.60 percent to the LGAs. This means, FG’s portion of the funds have been removed when the monies were shared every month from 1999 to 2007.

Therefore, the funds in the state coffers — ‘stolen’ by Ibori — belong to the people of Delta and not the federal government.

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LIKE ABACHA LOOT, SHOULD THE FUND GO TO FG?

Abacha loot has used to fund numerous FG projects

This is where the conversations get some more clarity. As head of state supervising the entire country, Sani Abacha looted the national treasury. Hence, the return of his funds has been made to the national government and used to fund national projects.

This is not the case with the Ibori loot. Ibori supervised and stole from a state government, if the same logic is employed, the funds belong to Delta state and should be returned to Ifeanyi Okowa and the people of state.

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The MOU may, however, be the game-changer. The UK is returning the funds based on an agreement signed with the representative of the federal government.

Some may refer to the Paris Club refund, which went to states. But here’s a summary: In 2005, former president Olusegun Obasanjo paid $12bn from federation account to offset our debt to the Paris Club. The debts were owed by the three tiers of government.

However, some states owed more than the other, and some did not owe at all. So the Paris refund was a calculation of what each tier and each state should pay so that the burden can be shared equitably. That is how states started getting refunded. In fact, most of the debts were owed by FG. So the Paris Club refund does not count here.

The agreement made with the UK on Ibori loot is expected to have some rules of engagement, which may channel the funds to the FG and not the state — since the general source of all the funds cannot be certified correctly.

What do you think? Should the funds go to the state or the federal government?

Should Ibori loot be returned to FG or Delta state?

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2 Comments

  1. Esquire
    Esquire March 10, 07:16

    I feel the money should be returned to Delta state and not Federal government, my opinion.

    Reply to this comment
  2. Sangi
    Sangi March 10, 10:43

    The money belong to delta state,because abacha is the head of state when he looted Nigerians,from federal pause ,ibori in othe hand was delta state governmen @that time when he looted the state money which has been allocated to the delta state ,that makes the money delta state money ,so wth imidiately effect that money is delta state money ,pleas mallami don’t play tricks here if u lyk garnish it any how u like ,even the UK government by has said the money belong to delta state

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