By Soni Daniel, Northern Region Editor
Although former Delta Governor, James Onanefe Ibori, is about to serve out his prison term, the United Kingdom says it will investigate claims that his prosecution and conviction was supported with funds made available by the Department for International Development, DfID.
That notwithstanding, the U.K’s Minister for International Development, Mr. James Wharton, said last night that his country was unaware of what had been reported in the Nigerian media against the DfiD and Ibori’s trial and conviction.
Wharton told Vanguard in an interview in Abuja that anyone who committed any wrongdoing in the corruption trial will be made to face the full weight of the law.
The minister said: “It is very important that any individual who is engaged in corrupt practices, particularly that which directly affect the people who live in a country that is in need of development assistance like Nigeria, are held to account for the actions they take.
“I don’t know the details of the specific allegations that have been made in Nigeria against the United Kingdom and its DfID but I want you to know that that the UK is very clear of the commitment that we make that those who do wrong are held to account and that is very important.
“If funds have been wrongly taken from where they should be used, I cannot comment on the allegations being made about the UK in the Nigerian press since I don’t have the details. We are the best country in the G7 and we will do the best to keep the right thing to ensure that those who have breached the laws are penalized adequately.
Wharton said he would not say anything on the Ibori matter until he was properly briefed on the issues but promised that the right thing would be done in the matter.
Turning to the effort by the UK to assist Nigeria rehabilitate the Northeast battered by the Boko Haram terrorists, Wharton said the government of the United Kingdom wants to help Nigeria solve those challenges in interest of both nations.
Wharton said that the U.K was fully aware of the serious nature of the crisis in the northeast and had mobilized efforts to provide the needed succour to those adversely affected by the violence in the region.
“There are institutional challenges as well and we will try to assist in strengthening the government institutions and civil societies in this regard. We believe Nigeria has a very bright and positive future and the U.K has a role to play in bringing that into reality.
“The U.K. Spends nearly £500 million a year in support of Nigeria in different ways ranging from technical assistance and expertise to the strengthening of institutions and security assistance given to the northeast and that is a very serious commitment by the government of the U.K by the taxpayers and the people of the U.K.
” In my role I want to ensure that the assistance is well targeted and well spent to make the required difference in the lives of the people here in Nigeria. But we want to continue to work with Nigeria as a friend and international partner to see that Nigeria overcomes some of the challenges it faces and grow as a significant trade partner with the U.K.
“In specific terms the UK has made tremendous contributions to the security in the northeast is also helping to train its armed forces and providing humanitarian support.
I want to assure that the United Kingdom will continue to play and strengthen its leading role in drawing partners from across the world to support those badly affected in the northeastern part of Nigeria as a result of terrorism.
We will review and do what is needed to be done to assist the northeast people in Nigeria and those displaced by terrorism. The United Kingdom wants to be very clear that it clearly recognises the scale of the humanitarian challenges in the northeast and is committed to supporting Nigeria significantly and we want to step up our role in encouraging other international partners to contribute to the solution to the situation.
The U.K. is also keen in ending the Niger Delta crisis because of its implications for the economy and we are in discussion with those currently trying to bring solutions to the crisis and ensure that things are done in the right way.
Wharton confirmed that the UK had signed a deal with Nigeria for the repatriation of stolen funds between the two nations.
“My colleague was here this week and a memo of understanding was signed between UK and Nigeria and we are committed to ensuring that if funds are to be seized, we would follow the right judicial process for that to be done,” the minister said.