The founder of the Niger Delta Initiative Austria, Nyherovwo Ochuko Eriema has said the intention of the Nigerian government to spend funds looted by a former Delta State Governor, James Ibori, which are to be recovered on federal projects outside the state is both corrupt and oppressive.
It was a small fraction of the almost £160 million allegedly laundered by a former Governor of Delta State, James Ibori, and his associates, according to an analysis by Spotlight on Corruption, a UK anti-corruption charity
There has been a debate on how to spend the funds stolen by the ex-Governor since the United Kingdom promised to repatriate it to Nigeria.
After signing on Tuesday a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the UK to return the sum of £4.2 million stolen by Ibori to the country, the Nigerian government, through the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami, said the recovery of the stolen fund would be used for the construction of the second Niger Bridge, Abuja-Kano Road, and Lagos-Ibadan Expressway.
This has attracted many comments from individuals and institutions, including a human rights lawyer, Femi Falana (SAN), Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project, and the House Representatives all supporting that the recovered fund should be returned to the state where it was plundered.
Speaking on the matter through a statement made available to SaharaReporters on Monday, Eriema said, “We want to appeal very strongly to the Federal Government to use this money to compensate victims of pollution and political violence and to use it to fund federal projects in Delta state only.”
He also gave a vivid account of how Ibori, the first governor after the military rule in 1999 has replicated himself by handpicking those who became his successors to cover up his corruption after leaving office.
The use of political thugs and coercion to rule people who have defrauded the Delta State resources and making it one of the economically-backward states was also discussed by Eriema.
“Nothing in recent times has caused so much contention in the Nigeria social media space like the Ibori loot that will soon be repatriated back to Nigeria by the Government of Great Britain.
“James Onenefe Ibori was governor of the oil-rich Delta state from 1999-2007. He supervised the huge resources from that state. History has it that Ibori imposed himself on the people of the state through his thuggery style of politics. He introduced, legalised, and advanced thuggery and violence into Nigerian politics.
“James Ibori who is paternally Urhobo and maternally Itsekiri dealt a huge blow to the political advancement of the Urhobo people who are the majority tribe in Delta state and are also the ones who almost singlehandedly fought for the creation of the state whose capital was later cited in a region that ought not to be part of Delta state.
“The powerful former governor and now power broker in the state is responsible for the many evil that is disconcerting the state today. He singlehandedly imposed his maternal first cousin, Dr. Emmanuel Uduaghan as governor at the end of his tenure to cover up his bulky looting of the state’s commonwealth.
“He and his cronies imposed another of his political son, Dr. Ifeanyi Okowa who is now dishing sand on the garri of the Urhobos to be governor after the tenure of his hand-picked cousin. Since 1999 till date, the government in Delta State has been the government of Ibori, by Ibori and for Ibori.
“Ibori was responsible for the demise of many politicians and young people who opposed his thuggery and extremely violent style of politics. He initiated a mechanism to keep the state perpetually under his firm grip as well as in a perpetual squalor state.
“James Onanefe Ibori escaped justice in Nigeria but was later to face that same justice in the United Kingdom where he laundered most of his loots. During his trial in the UK, the Delta State Government was uncooperative with the UK prosecutors. The state denied that Delta state money was missing even as Ibori was coerced to enter a ‘nolo contendere’ for lesser sentencing.”
Eriema appealed to the Nigerian government to halt its decision on expending the stolen fund from Delta State on projects in parts of the country outside Delta. He advocated that the money should be used primarily to better the lives of Deltans by financing the developments in the state.
“Last week, the United Kingdom signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) to return the sum of £4.2 million being part of stolen assets by the Former Delta State Governor, James Ibori. The Nigerian Government had said the recovered loots would be used to fund the Lagos-Ibadan Road, Abuja-Kano Road, and the Second Niger Bridge.
“This decision by the Nigerian government to divert this fund that was stolen from Delta state for projects outside the state is not only fraudulent but also very unthoughtful and callous.
“While we do not support the handling of the money and others to come to the Delta State Government, we want to appeal very strongly to the Federal Government to use this money to compensate victims of pollution and political violence and to use it to fund Federal projects in Delta state only.
“Delta State is one of the oil-producing states in the South-south region but it is underdeveloped and backward because of the high level of corrupt practices initiated by Ibori and his cronies, and also because of the unscrupulous policies of the Federal Government towards the oil-producing states.
“Diverting this fund that was stolen from the state to other parts of the country to fund projects while the state is underdeveloped, is not only corrupt but also very oppressive.
“We hereby use this medium to call on well-meaning Delta state indigenes and civil society organisations to put maximum pressure on the Nigerian and British governments to stop this broad-day robbing of the Ibori loot from the Delta state people and to do the needful.”
SaharaReporters, New York