By Femi Falana

The decision of the Federal Government to convert the recovered sum of $4.2 million belonging to the Delta State Government cannot be justified under local and international law. In fact, the controversy surrounding the disbursement of the fund is totally unnecessary having regards to the precedent that has been established in the country.

Factually, from 1999-2003, the Delta State Government collected statutory allocations from the Federation Account pursuant to section 162 of the Constitution. Part of the money was diverted from the account of the Delta State Government by Chief James Ibori. The fund was confiscated during the trial of Chief Ibori, his banker and lawyer in the United Kingdom. Since the confiscated fund has been recovered it has to be remitted to the Account of the Delta State Government.

In AG Lagos State v AGF it was held that the Federal Government lacks the vires to confiscate or seize the fund payable to the local governments in Lagos State from the Federation Account. Since it is not in doubt that the £4.2 million belongs to Delta State the Federal Government cannot, under any law, seize the fund and use it to fix Kano-Abuja road and Lagos-Ibadan road. Why not Warri-Asaba road?

It is on record that the money confiscated from Governor Joshua Dariye in the United Kingdom, recovered by the Federal Government and repatriated to Nigeria was returned to the Account of the Plateau State Government. The money confiscated from Governor DSP Alamieyesigha in the United Kingdom, recovered by the Federal Government and repatriated to Nigeria was remitted to the Account of Bayelsa State Government.

The memorandum of understanding signed by the representatives of the British Government and the Federal Government on the disbursement of the recovered fund cannot supercede the Constitution which has prohibited any form of discrimination in the country. In other words, by virtue of section 42 of the Constitution the governments and people of Plateau, Bayelsa and Delta States are entitled to equal rights and opportunities. Since what is good for the goose is good for the gander the sum of £4.2 million confiscated from Governor James Ibori in the United Kingdom and recovered by the Federal Government has to be repatriated and remitted to the Account of the Delta State Government.

Even under international law the recovered fund has to be paid to the victims of the corrupt practice in Delta State in accordance with Article 35 of the United Nations Convention Against Corruption which states as follows:

“Each State Party shall take such measures as may be necessary, in accordance with principles of its domestic law, to ensure that entities or persons who
have suffered damage as a result of an act of corruption have the right to initiate legal proceedings against those responsible for that damage in order to obtain compensation.”

It is interesting to note that some concerned citizens and the Delta State Government have decided to join issues with the Federal Government over the seized fund. Otherwise, another sum of £100 million which will soon be recovered and repatriated from the confiscated fund will also be claimed by the Federal Government on very shaky legal grounds.