Asset Recovery and Management Watchdog, the Africa Network for Environment and Economic Justice (ANEEJ) has called on the United Kingdom and Nigerian governments to review the recently signed annex to the 2016 MoU on £4.2 million Chief James Onanefe Ibori assets for its return to Delta State.
The Executive Director of ANEEJ and head of Transparency and Accountability in Management of Returned Assets, (MANTRA) project, Rev David Ugolor who briefed press men after a marathon hybrid meeting of the group in Benin City today wondered why returned asset of people of Delta State is to be used to finance Federal infrastructural projects viz: The Second Niger Bridge, Abuja-Kano Road and the Lagos-Ibadan road as announced by the Attorney-General and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami (SAN) at the MoU Annex signing ceremony in Abuja.
“We are alarmed at the annex of an MoU signed between our Federal Government and the UK government on returned £4.2million former Delta State Governor’s assets. Their action is in obvious breach of the Global Forum on Asset Recovery (GFAR) and the United Nations Convention Against Corruption (UNCAC) principles as well as the Federal Government Gazette on Asset Tracing, Recovery and Management (2019).
“I call on both governments to take a second look at the annex of the MoU signed today and deliver justice to the poor people of Delta State who should receive such returned asset and not the federal government as stated in the executed MoU,” Ugolor and the CSOs demanded.
Ugolor pointed that the vexatious “MoU is in clear contradiction of Section B, Sub-section 6 of the Asset Tracing, Recovery, and Management Regulations, Gazette of the Federal Government of Nigeria (2019) which states: “ Where the funds belongs to other tiers of government, the Honourable Minister responsible with the office of the Minister of Finance shall within 45 days of being informed of funds in the Central Bank of Nigeria cause the proceeds to be transferred to the relevant tier of government.”
The anti-graft campaigners further noted that there was already a precedence in Plateau state of Nigeria, where looted assets of former Governor Joshua Dariye was returned to Plateau State for the victims of corruption in that state. “Why should the returned Ibori assets be confiscated by the Federal Government for the federal government?” Ugolor queried.
“Whereas the British High Commissioner, Catriona Laing disclosed at the MoU Annex signing ceremony that £ 4.2 million was returned, we demand to know the exact amount seized from Ibori and his associates in the UK and our government in the spirit of transparency and accountability should disclose to the public how much it received from the UK government,” the group demanded.
Ugolor called on the Attorney-General and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami to immediately intervene and ensure a reversal of the controversial MoU to ensure that justice is served the real victims of corruption—in this case, the people of Delta State.
“With all due respect to my friend and Honourable Attorney-General of the Federation, Abubakar Malami (SAN), this annex to the 2016 MoU on returned Ibori assets should be urgently reviewed, as I am sure he understands our position on this matter, ”Ugolor stated.