THE Delta State government is eagerly waiting for the British government to fulfil its promise to return to the people the money and assets it seized from the former governor of the state, James Onanefe Ibori.
Ibori had on Monday pleaded before a British court that he was guilty of all the 10-count charge of money laundering and theft of public funds.
The former governor will be sentenced by the court on April 16, 2012.
The court said since the stolen money belonged to the people, the loot should be returned to them for the provision of health and other facilities.
Information Commissioner, Mr. Chike Ogeah, said yesterday that the state government would demand that the loot be returned immediately to the state’s treasury as ordered by the court.
Ogeah explained that since the laundered money by Ibori, who ruled the state between 1999 and 2007, rightly belonged to the state government as declared by the court, the government would set machinery in motion to ensure that the assets are retrieved.
British police had accused him of stealing $250 million (about N38.75 billion at the exchange rate of $1 to N155) over eight years that he was governor.
Meanwhile, the state branch of the Democratic Peoples Party (DPP) has hailed the trial of Ibori at the Southwark Crown Court, London.
Speaking in Asaba, the state capital yesterday, the DPP chairman, Tony Ezeagwu, said it was very wise of the court to order that the billions of naira stolen by the former governor be returned to the coffers of the state government.
He said that by Ibori’s admission of guilt in the trial, the party’s governorship candidate in the last election, Chief Ovadje Great Ogboru, had been vindicated in his long-held beliefthat the former governor was corrupt, adding that it was clear that Ogboru’s struggle to liberate Delta was never a misplacement.
According to him, it is a cause for great concern that the then Federal High Court, Asaba Judge, Marcel Awokulehin, dismissed all the 70-count charge levelled against Ibori. “But ironically, the former governor pleaded guilty to the same charges in far away London in the celebrated case.”
He said the people should be happy as their wealth, which was fraudulently taken from them, will be sent back for the benefit and development of Delta people.
The DPP boss said: “Ogboru fought for the former convict case for nearly four years at the Nigerian judiciary but Ibori was not convicted. Thanks to the British Southwark Court handling the case of corruption concerning James Ibori. That same Ibori in far away United Kingdom (UK) has pleaded guilty.”
Ezeagwu urged the National Judicial Council (NJC) to revisit Awokulehin’s verdict with a view to ensuring that some people do not ridicule the judiciary.
Also, a civil society group and a cleric have called for the overhaul of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) to enable it prosecute corrupt Nigerians.
While consciously celebrating the legal victory against Ibori, the Executive Director of Institute of Human Rights and Humanitarian Law (IHRHL), Mr. Anyakwee Nsirimovu, said the revamping of the EFCC was imperative.
The reform, Nsirimovu believed, would enable the anti-graft body prosecute corrupt officers without interference.
The Senior Pastor of First Love Assembly, Simeon Afolabi, has blamed the corruption in Nigeria on the government’s inability to bring criminals to book.
“We arrived at the present level of corruption and insecurity because people commit crimes and get away with them, that alone can spur some other persons to steal and will say after all, those who stole yesterday, what happened to them?” Afolabi asked.
Afolabi in an interview with The Guardian yesterday maintained that the Nigerian economy would only thrive when there is a transparent leader who would lead by example.
Anyakwee while praising the London Court, in a statement issued in Port Harcourt, frowned at the Nigerian judiciary, which failed to live up to its responsibility due to corruption.
He called on the Federal Government to work out a transparent mechanism upon which the stolen and laundered funds, when repatriated should be meaningfully reinvested in the interest of the impoverished people of Delta State.