Ernest Ojukwu My reaction to the raging controversy surrounding the ownership of the £4.2million promised to be returned by the UK Government is simply that Delta State cannot claim the fund.
The background to the controversial money is that Chief James Ibori , the former Governor of Delta State was prosecuted and convicted by the UK Government in the UK for money laundering in 2012. The court ordered the money forfeited to UK Government.
There is no court order from UK making Nigeria or Delta State the beneficiary of that fund. Nigeria did not prosecute Ibori and Delta State did not prosecute Ibori in that case. Following diplomatic agreements, the UK Government now agreed to hand over the fund to Nigeria with a mandate to spend it on specially agreed projects of Nigeria.
At the point of this agreement, the money can only be regarded as mere income to Nigeria or income of a donor status. If the money is taken to be a mere income to Nigeria, it means that both the Federal Government and the Delta State Government cannot claim the money for its appropriation.
It can only legitimately be paid into the Federation account for distribution to the Federal, State and LGAs.
But more correctly and because of the special agreement reached with the UK Government, the fund is an income from donation to the Federal Government. It cannot be anything else.
Donor fund must be utilised according to the donor instructions otherwise the donee runs the risk of a refund or blacklist from future donations.
At the time of the agreement with the Federal Government, the £4.2million was not Nigeria’s money or Delta State money but UK money. Remember that it was forfeited to the UK Government by Court Order. Nothing can change that status of the fund.
The source of the funds right now is UK fund donated to Nigeria with specific agreements on its use.
That use happens to be to fund part of the budget of the Federal Government of Nigeria on some ongoing infrastructure development. This agreement is the only thing that has taken the fund out of a mere income for Nigeria and out of the requirement to pay it into the Federation account.
Delta State cannot by any means claim a right over the fund. In 2020 prosecutors asked a judge to confiscate another £117.7million as well as over ten properties around the World traced to James Ibori.
If Delta State leaders honestly want to benefit from the wealth stolen by their former governor, they should begin tracing and co-operating with UK Government and other countries and get those funds donated for their use.
They should also look towards home and recover some of the loots still locked up in Nigeria to their knowledge rather than shedding crocodile tears.