Delta State had demanded the money.
A Federal High Court in Abuja on Friday ruled that the $15 million a former Delta State Governor, James Ibori, allegedly used to bribe an anti-corruption chief be handed over to the Federal Government.
The judge, Gabriel Kolawole, berated the Delta State Government for demanding that the money be returned to the state without providing evidence that Mr. Ibori did steal the money from the state.
“With utmost sense of responsibility as a judicial officer, to view the stiff resistance mounted by the Delta state government and its official as one which border on the state’s acquiesce in the looting of its own fund or at best, as that of collaborators with its erstwhile governor on issue of $15 million allegedly offered to former EFCC chairman, Nuhu Ribadu as bribe,” Mr. Kolawole said
Mr. Kolawole ordered that the money be immediately paid to the coffers of the appropriate authority of the Federal Government of Nigeria where earnings such as this are kept in the ordinary course of official business.
He also said that the forfeited money be captured in the federal government’s 2012 – 2013 earnings to address specific needs of the Nigerian people.
“The applicant’s application to make a final forfeiture order succeeds and the said sum of $15 million dollars is hereby forfeited to the first applicant that is the federal government who shall take steps to capture in its earnings of the Federal Government of Nigeria in its 2012/2013 fiscal year and shall administer the funds to address specific needs that will be beneficial to a greater number of the citizenry,” he said.
The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, had in July 2012 requested that the court give a final order forfeiting the $15 million Ibori bribe, which had been lying in the vaults of the Central Bank of Nigeria for more than five years, to the Federal Government as unclaimed proceed of bribe offered to Nuhu Ribadu, then chairman of EFCC, by Mr. Ibori to enable him escape investigation by the commission.
The Delta State Government challenged the application as the state government laid claim to the said amount.
The money was deposited at the Central Bank by Mr. Ribadu who wanted to use it as evidence against Mr. Ibori, then governor, during his corruption trial after he leaves office.
The counsel to the prosecutor, Rotimi Jacobs, had also told the court that it was too late for the Delta State Government to lay claim to the money because of the actions which the state government instituted against the EFCC on the ground that the governor should not be investigated.
Mr. Ibori is currently serving a jail term in the U.K. for money laundering, although he is yet to be convicted by any Nigerian court for corruption.
The former Delta governor (1999-2007), who wielded a lot of influence in Nigeria during the late Umaru Yar’Adua presidency, evaded arrest when the EFCC tried to re-arrest him to face trial in Delta State.
A judge, Mercel Awokulehin, had freed Mr. Ibori when the EFCC first filed corruption charges against him after he left office and lost his constitutionally guaranteed immunity as governor in 2007.
U.K. authorities are also seeking to make the former governor forfeit property worth tens of millions of dollars in the U.K., described as proceeds of corruption.