Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami, says Nigeria is the victim of the crime committed by former Governor James Ibori of Delta State.
Last week, Daily Trust had reported how the United Kingdom and Nigeria signed an agreement on the return of £4.2 million recovered from Ibori.
Malami, who signed the agreement on behalf of the Federal Government, had announced the plan to spend the money on three projects outside Delta State.
He had listed the projects as the construction of the Lagos-Ibadan Expressway, Abuja-Kano Road and the Second Niger Bridge.
While Malami’s comment triggered different reactions, the government of Delta stated its intention to challenge the action of the Federal Government at the Supreme Court.
In an interview with Daily Trust, Malami explained why he is convinced that the money actually belongs to the federal government and not Delta.
“As far as international recovery is concerned, I am using international as an operating word, the position is clear. That it is a function of conflict of loss. When I talk of conflict of loss, I am talking of a situation where laws of different states of international jurisdiction are involved.
“Recoveries made from the United Kingdom are made from the UK to Nigeria. This by implication, brings about the law applicable in Nigeria and the law applicable in the UK, coming for the purpose of negotiations and repatriations of the funds.
“Where there is a conflict situation, the law operational, applicable and enforceable in Nigeria can’t be looked at as the exclusive source of a solution to the problem. Arising from the conflict of law situation, Nigeria and the UK agreed in line with international conventions that allows for certain negotiations on the repatriation of this money and the processes associated with terms and clauses. To the terms and clauses agreed upon by the two parties of interest, the money was agreed to be repatriated to Nigeria and not Delta State. Nigeria in this circumstance is a victim of crime. The money was taken from Nigeria to the UK, so Nigeria is a victim of crime within the context of that understanding.
“Within the context of international convention that allows for international engagement, the parties came to terms that the money should be returned to Nigeria and applied to certain projects. It is out of place to bring any subnational consideration into the repatriation and application of the money,” he said.
Malami wondered why the Delta government which at some point said Ibori did not loot the state are now making a U-turn that the recovered money should be handed over to them.
“The Delta State government had at a point filed court processes stating that no money was lost from its confers and stating that no money was lost in the proceedings associated with the criminal case. So, the Nigerian government at federal level came in to make a claim for this money as being a victim of crime, so where is the legitimacy of the claim associated with the state?
“That is the context Nigeria is adjudged to be the victim of crime and not Delta. Nigeria and the UK had committed to an understanding as to the repatriation of this money and its use,” he said.