Former Speaker of Delta State House of Assembly, Rt, Hon Olisa Imegwu, has said that former governor of Delta State, Chief James Ibori, was insincerely treated in the 4.2 million pounds affair between the United Kingdom and Nigeria governments.
“Chief James Ibori has been unfairly treated, after all, he has paid his dues to the society having served his prison sentence. It is looking more and more as political persecution to cut him down to size by some unseen hands for an imaginary political mileage come 2023,” Imegwu said in a statement made available to Vanguard in Asaba.
He also faulted the submission of Chief Femi Falana, SAN and Chukwudi Enebeli, Esq. that the fund belongs to the Delta state government and, therefore, it was unjust or wrong action for the Federal Government to spend the returned Ibori’s confiscated fund, saying that it had not conclusively proven that the funds belong to the state.
His words: “If as it is alleged that the 4.2 million pounds belong to three women and no $15 million was missing from Delta state, why the episodic haranguing of his name at suspicious intervals? I suggest that we hold our peace until the issue is finally resolved by the Federal Government and the United Kingdom.
“Meanwhile, we should worry more about the vindictive and oppressive politicians who stole and are still stealing billions and trillions of naira and are yet to be arrested. They use it to victimize and oppress us. Justice can be defeated only when those who have not been injured by it are as much outraged by it.
“Chief James Ibori having paid his dues, I find him blameless. And for Ibori’s kinsmen, you are losing the public relations and propaganda war waged against him when you continue to vouch for his innocence.
“You really do not need to, he has paid his dues to society. You would be doing him better in public relations by talking about the good things he had done, is doing and will do in the future. But if you sincerely believe in his innocence, appeal the judgment. I stand to be corrected. With the dearth of funds to execute its ‘Smart Agenda’, I will feel pained if Delta state government is deceived to hire SANs and waste time and additional millions or billions pursuing a case that it cannot win,” he said.
Imegwu contended: “Chief Femi Falana, SAN and Chukwudi Enebeli, Esq. concluded that it would be an unjust or wrong action for the Federal Government to spend the returned Ibori’s confiscated fund. Both hold that the funds belong to Delta state from where they were looted and being the victim, justice demands that it be returned to the state.”
“To buttress this point, Chukwudi Enebeli, Esq cited the case of Nwude vs. Federal Republic of Nigeria & Ors (2016) wherein he defined ‘Restitution as an act of giving back to a person something that was lost or stolen or paying him for the loss’.
“The above position or stance is utterly misguided for two reasons. First, Sunday Agbofodoh, General Secretary of Oghara Development Association (ODU), Lagos branch, on behalf of Chief James Ibori’s kinsmen, was categorical as to who owns the fund so confiscated, to wit: three women, Chief Ibori’s sister, the wife and one established legal resident of the UK, Udoamaka Okoronkwo.
“Second, back in 2009, it is alleged by EFCC that ‘the state government did everything possible to frustrate the Federal Government’s efforts and even went to court to challenge the EFCC’. They claimed that Ibori never stole. It was on this basis that Justice Gabriel Kolawole ruled that the recovered money be paid into the Federation Account and not to the Delta State coffers. In either case, it is conclusive that the funds belong to legal residents of the UK or not to the Delta State Government.
“The legal and factual situation becomes much more complicated when you square the Delta state inaction as stated above with the assertions of Chief Ibori’s kinsmen in London. They were very emphatic in their defence of Chief Ibori that having followed the London case diligently, that the money £4.2m in question belongs to Ibori’s sister, wife and Udoamaka Okoronkwo, who were all legal residents, who know, citizens of UK.
“Third, ODU assets that before Chief Ibori’s foray into politics in 1999, he was by 1992 a wealthy man whose businesses and assets include Mer Engineering, Hampstead Property, Publisher of Daily Independent, Consultancy, maintains several bank accounts in Europe etc. This shows that Chief James Ibori was a legitimate businessman who made his money mostly in Europe and not in Nigeria.
“If that is proven to be true, funds in question must be subjected to the jurisdiction and scrutiny of UK, otherwise, at this stage, it would not be late for Delta state government to challenge it as an interested party. With this assertion, I am in sympathy with Chief James Ibori as he appears to be a victim of home-made blackmail.
“Note again that in all these, Chief Ibori’s kinsmen never asked that the said fund be returned to Delta state government. In their own words, ‘…Ibori was not guilty as charged …the forfeited houses were never bought with illicit funds …all monies forfeited should be returned to Nigeria … and Nigeria should oppose UK’s hypocrisy and insist that the entire sum be returned to Nigeria …Nigeria should also demand the interest…’
“It follows that the Nwude case is not applicable here since no money was stolen from the state, the issue of restitution does, therefore, not arise. Not only that Nwude’s authority is inapplicable, but the plank of my learned friend argument is also anchored on speculation, which in law is untenable. “Thus, the issue of justice or wrong being done to Delta state cannot arise. Why cry more than the bereaved. Justice can only be done when those who cry for justice have also pursued justice for themselves and did not sleep over it and letting others labour and win it.
“Chief James Ibori, I think, is the proper and fit person to cry for justice having paid his due to the society when he served his prison sentence.
“The real legal issues involved here are (1) the true ownership of the £4.2, namely: the sister, wife and Udoamaka Okoronkwo and (2) by the operation of Section 12(1) of the 1999 Constitution as amended, assuming and not admitting that the money belongs to Delta state, Nigeria is not exonerated from international liability for non-compliance with any treaty or agreement she willingly signed with another country.
“The funds being alleged to be Chief Ibori’s, clearly is stated to belong to his sisters, wife and one Udoamaka Okoronkwo, all legal residents of UK. In his kinsmen’s words, ‘…that Nigeria and Britain signed an MoU on £4.2M forfeited by the three women …, that is to say, these women being legal residents of Britain, made their money in the UK and until the contrary is proved, you cannot by any stretch of imagination attribute the funds to Delta state government or even be talking about the MoU as being governed by International treaty obligations.
“Second, by the purport of Section 12(1) of the Constitution, since Nigeria cannot escape liability for non-compliance with a treaty or agreement it willingly signed with the UK, it must fulfil its obligation by formalizing it by the process of domestication.
“My learned friends and my good self may do the public a lot of good if we can approach the ODU, kinsmen of Chief Ibori who claimed to have followed the case diligently and get the details of the processes culminating in the judgment and the MoU signed by Nigeria and British Government.
“Again, what has not been discussed thus far from all indications is the $100m or $200m still under investigation. In our jurisprudence and acceptable worldwide, the Delta state government may not lay claim to the fund until the evidence shows that the fund belongs to it. If the contrary is the case, the Federal Government and the UK are at liberty to enter into any MoU or treaty as to how the fund can be used,” he said.