…Delta elders reject FG’s bid to spend £4.2m refund by Britain
…Threaten court action
By Emma Amaize & Ikechukwu Nnochiri
Delta Elders Forum, led by South-South leader, Chief Edwin Clark, yesterday, opposed plans by the Federal Government to use the £4.2 million pounds taken from the state and seized by a former governor to complete roads and other infrastructure projects in other parts of the country when federal roads in the state are in dilapidated condition.
They also threatened to go to court should the Federal Government go ahead to appropriate the money.
The British government has promised to repatriate the money which the Federal Government specifically wants to spend on Lagos-Ibadan expressway, Abuja-Kano Road and Second Niger Bridge.
Chief Clark, who spoke to Vanguard on phone, said the money belongs to Delta State government and not the Federal Government.
He said that Delta elders will take the Federal Government to court over the matter and asked the state government to follow suit, since it is the rightful owner of the money the British government was refunding.
It will be recalled that the Federal Government and the United Kingdom, yesterday, concluded
negotiations for the return of the sum of £4.2million recovered from a former governor and his associates.
Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Mr Abubakar Malami, SAN, had disclosed that the Federal Government has decided that the returned money would be channeled into three legacy projects — the Lagos-Ibadan Expressway, Abuja-Kano Road and the Second Niger Bridge.
Reacting to the development, Clark said: “It was announced on one of the television stations that the British government has decided to return to the Federal Government the sum of 4.2 million pounds taken from Delta State government in the past by a former governor.
“The Federal Government wants to use the money for the completion of Lagos-Ibadan expressway, Abuja-Kaduna-Kano road and the 2nd Niger Bridge in Onitsha, Anambra State
“I was shocked because the money does not belong to the Federal Government as was the case of General Sani Abacha, which money was paid to the Federal Government by the American government and it was used by government because it is their money taken from the Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN.
“The case here is different, the money belongs to the Delta State government, so we are taking them to court to explain why they are appropriating the money belonging to Delta State.
“Roads in Niger Delta and Delta State are bad, the condition of East-West Road in the Niger Delta, which is the most important economic road in Nigeria, is pitiable.
“The Federal Government has not been able to repair or rehabilitate any of the federal roads in Niger Delta and Delta State. Take the Benin-Warri Road, it has completely collapsed and even the partial work by Delta State government did not solve the problem. A journey of one hour now takes six hours or more.
“Sapele-Agbor road is a federal road that was awarded to a contractor by the Federal Government and it has been abandoned. Why the Federal Government not want to use this £4.2 million pounds to rehabilitate the important Sapele-Agbor road, via Eku and Abraka, we do not understand.
“We see it as a sign of deliberate oppression and provocation of our people. Perhaps they are tired of Niger Delta. If that is the situation, let them go on since what they want is a problem in the Niger Delta. We cannot be taken for granted in our country.
“As I earlier said, we are ready to go to court over this money. It belongs to Delta State and should be used in Delta State and we will not allow this oppression to continue.”
Demand £6.8m —Oghara Development Union
Meanwhile, Oghara Development Union, ODU, Lagos branch, has called on the Federal Government to demand for refund of £6.8 million pounds and accruing interests since 2012 and not just the £4.2 million the British government was offering as funds forfeited by associates of an ex-governor of Delta State.
The union said in a statement by General Secretary, Sunday Agbofodoh: “We stand squarely with our son in maintaining his innocence, and so without conceding that he was guilty as charged, and specifying that the forfeited houses were not bought with illicit funds, we nevertheless call on Nigeria to insist that the full worth of the three buildings seized through a court order, be repatriated to Nigeria.
“We have followed the case diligently and know that the sum forfeited was £6.2 million and not £4.2 million. Nigeria should oppose UK’s hypocrisy and insist that the entire sum be returned to Nigeria, or UK would have engaged in witch-hunting our son for profit, by withholding two million pounds sterling
“Nigeria should also demand for the interest on the £6.2 million since 2012 because the money would not have sat idly in the bank without attracting interest.
“All assets linked to him were purchased using funds lawfully and properly obtained and some were bought before he became governor.
“His businesses and the monies that accrued to them were not hidden from the London and Nigerian ‘persecutors’.
“The London Police filed in court a paper which showed that one of his companies, MER Engineering, was earning over $7 million annually.
“The forfeited London house linked to the First Lady of Delta state when he was governor, the Hampstead property, is owned by a family trust. The property was purchased by the company, MER Engineering, which shareholding was held by his family trust. MER had obtained facility loan from NNB, a Nigerian bank. The value of this property at the time of its purchase was £2.1 million, which was covered by the NNB facility of well over £3 million meant for working capital and financing of assets.
“The second property belonged to Miss Udoamaka Okoronkwo, and was purchased for £249,000 through mortgage. Miss Udoamaka is a successful business woman as can be seen from the facility letter dated December 19, 2005, from a bank in favour of her company, Sagicon Nig, Ltd for N121 million (£1.5 million).
“The third property, very modest, belonged to his sister, a UK resident, which she purchased for £140, 000. Her husband is a former federal permanent secretary.
“As a court ordered that the buildings be forfeited, however, unjustly, all the monies realised must return to Nigeria. It is on record that he was a successful businessman before he became a governor in May 1999, involved in oil logistics (upstream) and trading (downstream).
“One of his companies, MER Engineering (Nig Ltd), was established in 1992, seven years before he became governor. He was publisher of a national newspaper.”
Money is FG’s, law broken is federal —Malami
Countering the Delta elders yesterday, Attorney-General of the Federation, Abubakar Malami, said the money should go to the federal government and not the state.
Speaking when he featured on a Channels Television programme, Malami said the law the governor breached was a federal law, and not that of Delta State.
“The major consideration to who is entitled to a fraction or perhaps the money in its entirety is a function of law and international diplomacy, among others.
“It is a function of law, in the sense that the law in contention that was alleged to have been breached is a federal law. That is the starting point.
“In dealing with international community and international diplomacy, the parties of interest are the state parties (referring to sovereign countries), and not sub-national governments that are involved.”