Some senior lawyers have asked the Delta State Government to seek legal redress if it is not satisfied with the decision of the Federal Government to deploy the £4.2 million recovered Ibori’s loot on road projects. The lawyers while commenting on the issue could, however, not speak with one voice on the propriety of Federal Government’s decision. Speaking on the issue, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), Mr. Kunle Adegoke, was in support of the Federal Government’s decision. He said: “Before one comes to any conclusion on this issue, the source of the money must be established.
I mean where the money was looted from. It is in the public domain that Delta State has consistently insisted that its money was not lost. “That probably explains why the State did not take steps to recover the money but the Federal Government did.
“It is not in dispute that the money was looted from Nigeria. Nigeria then is in the position of a finder. I don’t support that the money be given to Delta State as the tendency is that it may end up in the hands of James Ibori or the money be relooted.
“In such circumstance, the Federal Government can retain the money but ensure that it is not relooted. It must be spent to provide infrastructure for the people of the country. Delta State can seek legal redress if unsatisfied.” Speaking in the same vein, Dr. Fassy Yusuf, was also in support of the Federal Government’s decision to spend the recovered loot on road projects. He urged the Delta State Government to seek legal redress on the issue.
“On the appropriation of the repatriated £4.2 million Ibori’s loot, the UK government has all along being dealing with the Federal Government and not Delta State Government. Though, I don’t know the basis for the release of the funds, but I believed the Federal Government would have given some undertaken or information as to how the funds will be utilised.
“To that extent, the Federal Government may be right in its decision. If unsatisfied with the Federal Government’s decision, Delta State can approach the Supreme Court for judicial intervention to determine the legality of the action,” he said. On his part, A Lagos-based lawyer, Chukwudi Enebeli, was, however, opposed to the Federal Government’s plan to spend the money on ongoing road projects. He opined that that the appropriate recipients of the sum are the people from which it was stolen – Delta State natives – notwithstanding a claim by a Delta State official that the money was not missing from the state’s coffers.
He said: “The starting point in analysing this issue would be to identify the owner of the monies stolen and siphoned by the ex-governor. Indeed, it is the owner of the stolen monies that is the victim of the theft and is entitled to the repatriated funds. “Another way to view the issue is to answer the question, Had the ex-governor not embezzled, stolen or siphoned the monies, who would have taken benefit of the monies? Certainly, the monies would have been available to the benefit of the people of Delta State exclusively.
“The victim of Ibori’s fraud were for all intents and purpose the Delta State Government and its citizens. The stolen monies belonged exclusively to the people of Delta State; it is they who were affected by the act of the ex-Governor of Delta State. “Delta State Government being the trustee of the state’s residents is entitled to the funds to hold same in trust for the people of Delta State.This point is made more poignant against the backdrop of the fact that the ex-governor has never served in any federal capacity.
“The natural justice of the case requires that the people of Delta State be afforded exclusive access to the monies by forwarding same to the Delta State Government immediately. “I advised the Delta State Government to approach the Supreme Court in furtherance of its rights under Section 232 (1) of the Constitution, should the Federal Government fail to transfer the money to the state.
“The earlier the Delta State Government acts, the better, because it has also been reported that the Honourable Attorney General of the Federation had stated that over £100 million pounds allegedly stolen by the ex-governor is still being expected.” Mr. Kabir Akingbolu was also not in support of Federal Government’s decision. He said: “The Federal Government has no power to appropriate the repatriated money stolen from a state.
It is highly ludicrous that money belonging to a state will be taken by the Federal Government of Nigeria and spent anyhow. “This is too bad and uncalled for. It is even against the principles of federalism, especially as practiced in Nigeria. “For crying out loud, this is the money that had been proven to be stolen by a former governor of Delta State. In law, one factor to establish stealing is that the thing must be owned and where the ownership is not proved the charge of stealing fails and the property reverts to the state. “But in this case, it has been abundantly established that the money belongs to Delta State, therefore, the Federal Government cannot appreciate it to any other thing than to return it to Delta State or better still, appreciate it to execute projects within Delta State and no more,” he said.