LEADING people’s lawyer, Mr Femi Falana isn’t happy the central government is trying to reap where it didn’t sow, by appropriating looted fund, recovered from former Delta State governor, James Ibori.
On Sunday, in a lengthy OpEd, the senior advocate of Nigeria said, “It is on record that the Federal Government openly opposed the trial of Chief Ibori in the United Kingdom. In fact, in utter breach of the provisions of the Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty between Nigeria and the then UK Attorney-General of the Federation, Chief Michael Aondoakaa rejected the request to make relevant documents available for the trial in the UK on the grounds of sovereignty.
“In particular, Chief Aondoakaar refused to entertain the request of the UK Metropolitan Police and made under bilateral mutual assistance to Nigeria on the ground that the request was not made by the Home Office.
“The request was to question Chief Ibori about his involvement in corruption and money laundering that occurred in UK.”
Aondoakaa said: “I think Nigeria, as a sovereign nation, deserves some respect. They [the Metropolitan Police] knew they were wrong, otherwise why did they write through the Home Office requesting mutual assistance to quiz a prominent Nigerian? I cannot compromise the sovereignty of this country, if they make incompetent requests, I will turn them down 20 times. Any request from Metropolitan Police would be refused by this office, period.
“From the foregoing, it is undoubtedly clear that the huge success recorded in the prosecution of the case was anchored on the collaboration between the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) and the Metropolitan Police. To that extent, the Federal Government which had set out to frustrate the trial of Chief Ibori cannot turn round to lay claim to the fund confiscated on the orders of the British courts.”
The Silk also lambasted the immediate administration of Delta State which denied any revenue loss, a submission being clawed at, by the central government, to justify appropriating the recovered loot.
“In opposing my position on the legitimate right of the people of Delta State to the sum of £4.2 million confiscated and recovered from the Ibori loot, some colleagues have argued that the fund should be forfeited to the Federal Government on the ground that the Uduagban regime had said that no money was missing from the coffers of the state government.”
He said, “No doubt, the former Delta State government had denied any loss of money during the proceedings of the Federal High Court for the confiscation of the $15 million bribe given to Mr Nuhu Ribadu by Chief James Ibori. Hence, the presiding judge, Kolawole J. (now JCA) directed that the fund be paid into the Federation Account for distribution in line with the provisions of the Revenue Allocation Act. But the Delta State Government never said that the over £100 million confiscated from Chief Ibori in the London trial did not belong to the people of Delta State.
“Finally, no doubt, the former Delta State government was irresponsible to have denied that Chief Ibori looted the treasury of the state at the material time, but such denial cannot be a justification for the confiscation of the Ibori loot of over £100 million that is expected to be repatriated to Nigeria by the British Government.
“After all, before his assumption of office as President in May 2015, General Muhammadu Buhari had repeatedly maintained that the late General Sani Abacha did not steal a dime from the account of the Federal Government. But the Federal Government under the President’s watch, has continued to recover the remaining Abacha loot and no one has suggested that such recovered loot be paid to the account of the United Nations (UN) or African Union on moral grounds.”
Knocking some of his colleagues for saying the UK was doing Nigeria a favour by returning the looted fund, Falana argued that, “The British Government is releasing the stolen money to Nigeria in strict compliance with international law and not out sheer generosity as erroneously argued by some lawyers.
“But out of sheer colonial mentality, some lawyers are asking the Nigerian people to clap for the British Government for returning £4.2 million out of Ibori loot of over £100 million warehoused illegally in the UK in defiance of the money laundering laws of that country.
“It is interesting to note that many Nigerian lawyers are not aware that banks and other financial institutions in the UK have recently been ordered to pay hundreds of millions of dollars as damages for aiding and abetting corrupt public officials and drug barons who live in foreign countries.”