British and Nigerian civil society groups have urged the British government to return over £101m of funds confiscated from Nigerian politician James Ibori, a convicted fraudster, to his country swiftly and transparently so the money can benefit ordinary Nigerians.
In a letter to Britain’s home and foreign affairs ministers, a coalition of close to 50 NGOs stated,
- “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.
The NGOs, which also included Transparency International and Africa Network for Environment and Economic Justice, emphasized that funds confiscated from him should go to projects benefitting the people of Delta State, and implementation should be subject to civil society monitoring.
Ibori’s confiscated funds
Efforts by British prosecutors to confiscate Ibori’s assets began in 2013 but have encountered repeated obstacles and delays in the London courts.
In July, a judge ordered the confiscation of 101.5 million pounds ($123.9 million) from him, one of the biggest orders under Britain’s Proceeds of Crime Act 2002 since it came into force.
- “He has applied for leave to appeal against the order, and his application is at the early stages of the appeal process.”
In 2021, the Nigerian government signed an agreement with its British counterpart to return £4.2 million Ibori loot to Nigeria.
The British earmarked the second Niger Bridge and the Lagos-Ibadan expressway as projects for which the funds will be channelled.
Who is James Ibori
A former governor of the oil-producing Delta State in southern Nigeria from 1999 to 2007, Ibori pleaded guilty in a London court in 2012 to 10 counts of fraud and money laundering and was handed a 13-year jail sentence, of which he served about half before going home.
Still influential in Nigeria, Ibori has had meetings with President Bola Tinubu who called him Chancellor of the Class of 1999.
His influence and political network transverse the length and breadth of Nigeria’s political environment.