by Ayodele Oluwafemi
Femi Falana, a senior advocate of Nigeria (SAN), says the loot recovered from James Ibori, former governor of Delta, should be returned to the source, which is the state.
Falana stated this when he featured on a Channels Television programme on Wednesday.
Commenting on the position of Abubakar Malami, attorney-general of the federation, who had said the recovered loot will be channelled into federal projects, Falana said the money should go to Delta, since it was meant for the development of the state.
On Tuesday, the United Kingdom made a commitment to return £4.2 million loot recovered from Ibori to the federal government.
Catriona Laing, British high commissioner to Nigeria, signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) to that effect with Malami.
But speaking on Wednesday, Falana argued that since the Ibori loot in question left the coffers of Delta state, the federal government has no locus standi to decide how the recovered money is spent.
“Having acknowledged the role of the federal government, the fund has to return to the source. Factually, between 1999 and 2003, the Delta state government like other state governments in Nigeria received its statutory allocation on a monthly basis and paid same into the account of the government. From that account, some amount was alleged to have been diverted and taken to the United Kingdom,” he said.
“As the honourable attorney-general had said, the money is over £100 million. What has been released now is the first tranche of £4.2 million. Since the money left the coffers of the Delta state government, it has to be returned once this fund is recovered.
“The federal government has no locus standi with respect to how the money is spent. That is left for the people of Delta state to monitor the government of that state to ensure that the fund is not relooted.
“In fact, the memorandum of understanding referred to by the attorney-general signed in London, smacks of colonialism. Britain cannot decide on how recovered loot should be spent.
“What I expect the attorney-general or the federal government — in the circumstance — is to collaborate with the Delta state government to ensure that the banks that housed the looted wealth of Delta state or the banks involved, are made to pay collosal damages and interests for denying the people of Delta state the opportunity to use the money for development.”