Anti-Graft: AGF Malami breaking his own law on repatriated Delta UK fund

Buhari in Dilema
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By: Ifeanyi Izeze

When Catriona Laing, the British High Commissioner to Nigeria, On Tuesday March 9 2021, made the announcement at the Ministry of Justice’s Conference Hall in Abuja, that the UK Government has signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the Federal Government to return £4.2m, a meagre part of the funds recovered from friends and family members of the former Delta State governor, James Ibori, she must have expected a wide applause for her country but obviously not from Delta people as mattar no add up at all and area no de ever dull!

If the British authourities expected applause, they must have been grossly disappointed because the announcement thus far has generated more questions and controversies than commendations.

As she said, the funds will be used to build the second Niger Bridge, the Abuja-Kano and the Lagos-Ibadan Express road. Curiously, should the British High Commissioner in Nigeria have been the right person to announce the projects the repatriated fragment of the actual fund will be used for?

Was funding of these projects part of the understanding reached before the British government agreed to repatriate the fund? There is something awkward about that announcement. Anyway, this is an aside.

Collaborating the announcement by the British High Commissioner, the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami, also stated that “the recovery of the stolen funds is part of the current administration’s anti-corruption efforts.” This is another awkward declaration.

In the words of the Global Initiative for Sustainable Development, “this directive by President Buhari and his Attorney General is defective, null and void and dead on arrival going by laws regarding Asset Tracing, Recovery And Management Regulations 2019 issued by none other than this same Abubakar Malami on 24 October 2019.”

Did the AGF forget that his 2019 Act replaced the previously existing “Proceeds of Crime Regulation 2012,” with effect from 31 October 2019 on illegally acquired assets and proceeds of crime?

Among other things, the 2019 Regulation stated: “That all proceeds from the disposal of final forfeited assets must be paid into the federal government’s asset recovery account with the Central Bank of Nigeria.

“That all funds relating to forfeited assets which belong to other tiers of government (i.e state or local governments, as opposed to the federal government) must be paid into the interim forfeiture recovery account with the Central Bank of Nigeria.

“That the Attorney General’s Office and the Ministry of Finance are to negotiate no less than 30 percent of any funds recovered on behalf of other tiers of government as administrative charges of the Federal Government.

“That within 45 days of being informed that funds which belong to another tier of government have been deposited into the interim forfeiture recovery account, the finance minister must arrange for the proceeds to be transferred to the relevant tier of government.

Rationalizing this attempt to rob Delta people of their money by the Federal Government on the premise that Delta State government initially denied the loot is neither here nor there.

Can anybody contend that the victims of the perpetrated fraud for all intents and purpose were the Delta State Government and its citizens? So if the stolen monies belonged exclusively to the people of Delta State as it is they who were affected by the act, why the decision to expend the recovered money on projects across the country excluding the victim state and its people?

How else can anybody describe the federal government’s unilateral decision to expend the Delta State recovered funds without recourse to due process of negotiating with the state government, if not to say that the thinking is evil and another in this government’s serial progress in error?

Commendably, the Federal House of Representatives toed the right and just path by its resolution instructing the AGF, to perfect documentations for the remittance of the repatriated funds to the rightful owner, Delta state government.

 

It is indeed a thing of concern and has become characteristic of the present Government to operate lawlessly tramping upon the rule of law and due process with bandit impunity.

Was the attention of the UK Government drawn to our existing laws with regard to the powers of the National Assembly to make appropriation?

We will like to know if this was part of the bilateral agreements with regard to the repatriation; and if so, can such bilateral agreements run foul of municipal laws?

This fund was originally a statutory allocation to the Delta State government during the tenure of James Ibori as governor. Does anybody need to be a SAN to know that since the money left the coffers of the Delta State government, the money should be returned to the Delta State government?

Under the law, when proceeds of corrupt crimes are recovered, the funds in question are returned to the victims. In this case, the victims are the people of Delta State. Then it is the responsibility of the people of Delta State not the federal government to ensure that the money, if returned to the state, is not diverted or rather re-looted.

These were funds already in the coffers and custody of the Delta State government before they were moved, according to British government, and it is only fair in the eyes of the law and in accordance with law of equity, natural justice and good conscience, for the Buhari administration to deduct cost of litigation and other known expenses and then remit the balance to Delta State government account with the Central Bank of Nigeria.

There is existing precedence to this Ibori’s case where looted funds by Governors Joshua Dariye and Diepreye Alamieyeseigha, were returned to the state governments of Plateau and Bayelsa, respectively. Why should Delta’s own be different?

How do you explain that the AGF and the Presidency unilaterally decided on how Delta money should be diverted to projects in other states, when as a matter of fact there are federal dilapidated infrastructure and abandoned federal projects including badly damaged Trunk ‘A’ Roads begging for attention all over the place in Delta State?

Even the idea of using the recovered funds of Delta state for projects outside the state, is nothing but abuse of power and privileged and outright insult and provocation of the people of Delta. How can this be allowed in a government that claims to be righting the wrongs in our country?

Those arguing that the money belongs to the federal government as Delta state government sometimes ago denied that monies were taken away from its coffers by the former governor are only being mischievous and deliberately trying to muddle issues and violently set the state against the federal government and this will sure happen if there is no rethink on this move by the federal government. God bless Nigeria!

  • Izeze is a Columnist with National Daily and can be reached on Email: [email protected]; SMS: 234-8033043009)

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