Mr James Ibori
The Delta State Government has formally asked the Federal Government to release to it the $15 million (about N2.4 billion) allegedly given by the former governor of the state, Chief James Ibori, to a former Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Malam Nuhu Ribadu.
The state's Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice, Mr. Charles Ajuyah (SAN), yesterday asked a Federal High Court in Abuja to order that the alleged bribe money be paid to the government and people of Delta State.
Only recently, the court ordered that the money be temporarily forfeited to the Federal Government and would be finally forfeited if within 14 days after the publication of an advertorial pertaining to the interim order, no one came forward to claim ownership of the money.
Ajuyah also asked the court to declare that the $15 million alleged bribe which has been in the custody of the third respondent, Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), since April, 2007 is the property of the government of Delta State and its people.
He further prayed the court to hold that any application or order granting the money to any other entity other than the government and people of Delta State would be improper. He asked the court to order the CBN to hand over the money to Delta State.
In an affidavit attached to the application, the state said that the money which was alleged to have been sent to EFCC by Ibori to compromise its investigation is not different from that of Plateau and Bayelsa States where such monies recovered from their former governors, Chief Joshua Dariye and Diepreye Alamieyeseigha, were returned to their respective states.
The Delta State attorney general also told the court that neither Dariye nor Alamieyeseigha was subjected to another trial (aside from the criminal charges brought against them by the EFCC) before the recovered sums were returned to their respective states.
He prayed the court to order CBN to return the said sum to the coffers of the Delta State government since the money lawfully belonged to the government and people of Delta State.
Ajuyah also noted that the charge filed against Ibori at the trial court in Delta State was quashed on December 17, 2009.
Besides, he stated that there was no reason not to return the money to Delta State, adding that the Appeal Court was yet to determine the appeal filed against Ibori in respect of the criminal charge that was quashed.
He also prayed the court to order the Attorney General of the Federation (AGF), the EFCC and the CBN to return the money to the government and people of Delta State.
He also asked for a declaration that the $15 million alleged bribe became the property of the government and people of Delta State when Ibori was convicted and sentenced to prison in the United Kingdom.
He said that the Delta people would be prejudiced if the money is taken by the Federal Government.
He said that if the court awarded the money to the Federal Government, it would be paid to the Federation Account and would be shared by the 36 states of the federation.
A lawyer, Timipa Okponipere, had earlier filed an application asking that the $15 million be paid to the government and people of Delta State.
Okponipere said that he had filed the application “for and on behalf of the government and people of Delta State”.
It is not clear if he was briefed by the Delta State government, neither could it be ascertained how he came about the mandate to file the suit on behalf of the people of Delta State.
In an affidavit that he personally deposed to, he said: “In filing this application, I am acting in the public interest.
“I believe as a lawyer, no section of Nigeria should be denied their fundamental rights.”
He prayed the court to declare that as of April 25, 2007 when Ibori allegedly offered the bribe of $15 million to the EFCC, he was still the governor of Delta State with all the rights and privileges attached to the office.
He also asked the court to declare that, “the $15 million alleged bribe money which has been in the custody of the third respondent (Central Bank of Nigeria) since April, 2007 is the property belonging to government of Delta State and its people.”
He urged the court to hold that any application or order granting the money to any other entity other than the government and people of Delta State as illegal and of no effect.
He asked the court to order the AGF, the EFCC and the CBN to return the money to the government and people of Delta State.