In a resounding call for justice, a coalition of over 50 British and Nigerian civil society groups has come together, urging the British government to take immediate action in returning funds seized from James Ibori, the former governor of Delta state, to the people of Nigeria.
This alliance, which includes prominent organizations like Transparency International and the Africa Network for Environment and Economic Justice, emphasizes the critical need for transparency and accountability in this process.
Addressing Britain’s home secretary, Suella Braverman, and foreign secretary, James Cleverly, the coalition stresses the significance of a swift and transparent return of the confiscated wealth.
They believe that such a step would not only serve as a beacon of hope but also deliver a clear message that Britain stands against corruption and its proceeds.
For more than a decade, the confiscation of these ill-gotten gains has faced disruptions and delays, leaving the Nigerian people in anticipation.
The coalition emphasizes that the long-awaited return of these assets is essential to give real weight to the conviction of Ibori over a decade ago.
In a landmark ruling in July 2023, the Southwark Crown Court ordered the confiscation of over £101 million from Ibori and an additional £28 million from his former solicitor and co-defendant Bhadresh Gohil.
This move was seen as a testament to the UK government’s commitment to combat corruption and money laundering.
However, the actual return of assets to Nigeria has been painfully slow. Shockingly, only £4.2 million, less than 3% of the total confiscated from Ibori and his associates, has been repatriated to Nigeria thus far.
The coalition makes a fervent plea to the UK government to redouble its efforts in ensuring the prompt, transparent, and accountable return of the remaining Ibori loot to the people of Delta State.
This action is not just a legal obligation but a moral responsibility to the Nigerian people.
James Ibori, once a powerful figure, was convicted in a London court in 2012 on 10 counts of fraud and money laundering.
Despite serving approximately half of his 13-year jail sentence, he remains influential in Nigerian politics, with ties to President Bola Tinubu.
To guarantee that the funds confiscated from Ibori truly benefit the people of Delta State, the coalition insists on their allocation to projects that directly impact the community.
Moreover, they advocate for robust civil society monitoring to ensure transparency throughout this critical process.
Despite the monumental confiscation order in July, the legal battle is far from over.
Ibori has applied for leave to appeal against the order, and the appeal process is currently in its early stages.