Lauretta Onochie, a Personal Assistant to the President on New Media, has stated that the Federal Government has not returned the recently repatriated £4.2 million Ibori loot from the Federal Government.
Onochie’s statement in a Facebook post on Wednesday is contrary to information provided by another government official a day earlier.
Ahmed Idris, the Accountant-General of the Federation, had while appearing before the House of Representatives’ Ad hoc Committee on Assessment and Status of All Recovered Loots Movable and Immovable Assets from 2002 to 2020 in Abuja on Tuesday, said the Federal Government has returned the £4.2 million loot repatriated from the United Kingdom to the Delta State government.
But reacting, Onochie said “we know what we heard” but insisted that the money has not been returned to the South-South state.
According to her, the money cannot be returned because one of the conditions for the repatriation of the money by the British government is that the funds must be managed by the Federal Government.
She stated that Nigeria cannot afford to renege on its part of the agreement with the British government, saying the country if the country messes up on “getting this chicken amount”, it may be at a risk of losing “the elephant amount of money that is coming”.
The presidential aide urged Nigerians to “pause their admonishing, praising and decamping”, noting that President Muhammadu Buhari runs an open government and that Abubakar Malami, the Attorney-General of the Federation, who has publicly insisted that the returned money would not be given to Delta State, is an active member of the administration.
The Federal Government had on March 9, 2021, signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the UK on the return of the Ibori loot.
But at the signing ceremony, Malami stated that the recovered funds will be held and used by the Federal Government, citing the purported non-cooperation of the state government during the investigation of the former governor.
Malami’s statement generated heated controversy, with some persons agreeing with the Federal Government’s stance while others argued that the funds should be returned to Delta State.
The minister announced on 18 May that the Federal Government had received £4,214,017.66 of the loot associated with Ibori.
James Ibori, who governed Delta State from 1999 to 2007, was convicted by a UK court in 2012 and was sentenced to 13 years in jail after admitting fraud of nearly £50 million (N26.3 billion), even though prosecutors say the actual amount stolen was about £250 million (N131.7 billion).
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