Transparency International, Africa Network for Environment and Economic Justice, and no fewer than 50 Non-Governmental Agencies from Nigeria and the United Kingdom have called on the British government to return looted funds confiscated from former Delta State Governor James Ibori to Nigeria.
They believe the looted funds, when returned, would help ordinary Nigerians deal with the high living costs that have pushed more than 140 million Nigerians into extreme poverty.
Reuters, who viewed the letter sent to Britain’s home and foreign affairs ministers, said the long-delayed confiscation process had undermined the strong anti-corruption message sent by Ibori’s conviction over a decade ago.
“The years of disruption and delay in recovering and returning these stolen assets means this message has so far rung hollow for the Nigerian people,” said the letter, made public on Thursday by one of its signatories, Spotlight on Corruption.
Ibori, who served six years and some months from the 13-year jail sentence over the 10 counts of fraud and money-laundering charged handed him by a London court in 2012, was a very influential politician who enriched himself and his associates with money gotten from oil revenues.
The former Delta State politician is still very popular and influential in Nigerian political circles and in the past.
These NGOs have proposed that the funds seized from James Ibori should be directed towards projects benefiting the people of Delta State.
They recommend that the implementation of these projects be subject to oversight by civil society groups. British authorities initiated efforts to confiscate Ibori’s assets back in 2013, but these efforts faced multiple obstacles and court delays in London.
In July, a judge ordered the confiscation of £101.5 million ($123.9 million) from him, marking one of the largest orders under Britain’s Proceeds of Crime Act 2002.
Ibori has sought permission to appeal this order, which is currently in the early stages of the appeal process.