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$4.2m recovered Ibori loot

Gov. Okowa and Abuja politician game plan

When the Governor of Delta state, Senator Ifeanyi Okowa recently flew the kit that he was seeking a humongous loan of N150billion to drive his administration’s development programmes to its conclusion before leaving office, the announcement rang two unfamiliar bell sounds.

The first bed sounded like one of a town crier, conveying a bad news from the palace, about an impending invasion that would leave the kingdom eternally impoverished. The second bell which was not too different to a dirge, said something to the effect that the lost treasure of the kingdom that has been found, have been stolen by unknown person.

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But the most important and urgent issue  is the USD$4.2million recovered from Delta State former Governor, Olorogun James Ibori by the British Government; and which was paid into the coffers of the Federal Government of Nigeria in 2021.

Earlier this year, the where about of the recovered $4.2 million became unknown in May 2021, following the Houseof Reps Committee investigation on the status of recovered loots.  To put it succinctly, the money appeared to have disappeared between Gov. Okowa, the Attorney General of the Federation (AGF) Abubakar Malami, and the recently sacked Accountant General of the Federation (AGF), Ahmed Idris.

First, Malami said the money in question is for the use of the federal government and will not be returned to Delta State, from whose treasury the money was stolen. However, during an investigation hearing by the House of Reps, Idris on the other hand, said the money has been paid into the coffers of Delta State.

According to Malami, the money has been scheduled to fund the federal government three ongoing projects; namely, Lagos-Ibadan Expressway, Abuja-Kano road and Second Niger Bridge.

He explained that the agreement to return the money to Nigeria was done under the auspices of the UK- Nigeria Memorandum of Understanding (MoU), which purportedly agreed to tie the recovered loot to federal government projects.

Under cross examination, Idris on his part swore under oath that Delta State Government was in receipt of the money. He said “all recovered funds that belong to the respective states are paid directly to the states. Some recoveries are for state governments, I know there was a time recovery were made on behalf of Plateau State, there was one for Bayelsa, even Delta, such recoveries go to those states. ”

Chairman of the Committee, Honourable Adejoro Adeogun (APC, Ogun), asked Mr Idris specifically if the Ibori loot has been paid to Delta State, to which the latter (Idris) answered in the affirmative.

“It was paid to the state, it was paid to Delta State. Any recovery that is arising from any state goes to that state. State governors will not even allow it to fly; they will take the federal government to court. We pay them their money,” Mr. Idris reaffirmed.

But matters got very bad when Gov. Okowa denied receiving the fund. Strangely, the story of Gov. Okowa’s denial published in some online news medium have all been pulled down.  While Idris got sacked recently with ignominy on allegations of stealing and embezzlement, Malami participated actively in the recent presidential electoral expression of interest before suddenly withdrawing his intentions.

His marriage to the third daughter of President Muhammadu Buhari is still hanging heavy in public discussion by Nigerians. Malami’s marriage is however not as controversial as Gov. Okowa’s nomination as running mate to Atiku Abubakar, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) presidential flag bearer. It is rumoured that Okowa has made a most unexpected generous donation to the Abubakar presidential financial purse.

While Okowa face the gloomy prospect of been swapped for a more acceptable, more politically sagacious vice presidential candidate, his weak official demand for the $4.2 million is a quick reminder of the his feeble political fireworks, compared to his witty dispositions when it comes to determining the state of the government’s financial management ; and how much should go where; with a readymade  House of Assembly waiting to rubber stamp his decisions.

It is not only curious that Gov. Okowa could not bring that finesse to bear on the demand for the missing state fund; state actors have for too long taken citizens for granted that the time has come to demand from the trio, that is Okowa, Malami and Idris, what has become of the money.

Deltans are sick and tired of this monkey game that these political actors must come clean on the position of the money. While Idris have been sent packing for alleged financial maladministration, misappropriation and outright stealing on hundreds of millions of naira, there are indications he invested heavily in sundry business concerns including industrial parks, markets pavilions, financial supermarkets, educational sectors and water and mineral resources amongst others.

Malami has also been fingered in floating housing estate businesses, motor marts, hotels and hospitality ventures, educational sector, mining, etc .

Okowa is believed to have invested heavily in the healthcare and educational sector, construction and trading in general merchandise.

It is unacceptable for the federal government and these three office holders to treat the matter as a personal issue at their own leisure; or treat it in a behind-the-curtain manner as though they are discussing political caucus issue.

It is appalling that Okowa could sit quiet in his office, and treat this issue with an air of un-seriousness, especially given the backdrop of the fact that as commissioner of finance under Olorogun Ibori, he cannot claim to be innocent in the mismanagement of state funds; the recovered $4.2million being an example of the official negligence on his part, whilst he held forth as commissioner of finance.

This game of official swagger and arrogance in respect of the money must stop forthwith, and the federal government should prevail on the three affected offices to provide an update on the missing money.

The £4.2 million recovered from the former governor of Delta State, James Ibori, has been paid to the Delta State Government, the Accountant General of the Federation, Ahmed Idris, said on Tuesday.

The fund, which the federal government recently received from the United Kingdom, is part of the proceeds of crime seized from the ex-governor.

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