THE United Kingdom on Sunday said its primary goal for the return of $9.6million (N3.5b) recovered from ex-Delta State Governor James Ibori is judicious use for the benefits of the poor.
It said it does not want the cash re-looted but ruled out direct talks with Delta State Government or any group on the cash.
The British will keep to the terms of the 2016 Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between it and the Nigerian governments on asset recovery.
The British High Commission made the clarifications in a mail response to an enquiry by The Nation on the repatriation of the N3.5billion.
The response by the Senior Press and Public Affairs Officer, British High Commission, Abuja, Mr. Christopher Olaoluwa Ogunmodede, said: “The 2016 asset recovery MoU signed between the UK and Nigerian governments provides the legal instrument for returning stolen assets to Nigeria. This document, consistent with international legal norms, envisages a government to government framework for discussions: it does not set out a role for any subnational bodies.
“But, we would encourage direct communications between the Federal Government and Delta State Government in the interest of openness and transparency.
“The primary objective of the UK government is ensuring that these funds, once returned, are not re-looted and are used to benefit the poorest Nigerians.”
A group, Delta State Civil Society Roundtable on Grand Corruption (DCSRGC), had accused the Federal Government of keeping the state in the dark on how to use the cash.
It faulted the Federal Government for submitting three projects to the UK Government, which the N3.5billion will be used for, without the input of Delta State Government.
It asked both the UK and the Federal Government to be transparent on the transfer of Ibori assets.
In a statement by its chairman, Pastor Innocent A. Adjenughure, DCSRGC, it said the looted funds recovered from Ibori should be used to develop Delta State and no other part of the country.
The statement said: “Information reaching us at Delta State Civil Society Roundtable on Grand Corruption ( DCSRGC) is that the UK Government is in the process of returning $9.6m of Ibori money to Nigeria. Unfortunately, the FG is not sharing this information with Delta State Government on how to use the money.
“We are happy to work with the Delta State Government to set up a framework to convince the UK Government to use the money for sustainable development projects in Delta State.
“The Federal Government has submitted three project proposals to the UK Government which will not benefit Delta State people and without the knowledge of Delta State who are the beneficial owners of the said money. We will vehemently resist this injustice as the money belongs to Delta State.”
DCSRGC however gave some suggestions on how to manage the recovered funds.
It added: “We urge Delta State Government to consult and collaborate with the Federal Government of Nigeria to set up a transparent and accountable framework for the utilization of all recoverable stolen assets from UK and other jurisdictions.
“DCSRGC is calling on both UK and Nigeria Government to be transparent on the transfer of Ibori assets to Nigeria. We urge the UK Government to honour their International commitment on the Global Forum on Asset Recovery (GFAR) Principles and the MOU signed with Nigerian Government on Asset Recovery.
“We call on the Attorney-General of the Federation to invite the Delta State Government to discuss how to use the Ibori assets from UK Government immediately.
“The said Ibori looted assets can and should be used for Social Investment Program as part of Nigeria and UK support for Sustainable Development Goal 16.4 to help the poor of the poorest in Delta State who are the true beneficial owners of the money.” (Nation)