By ORJIME MOSES, Abuja
A former deputy governor of Kaduna State, James Bawa Magaji yesterday said that returning the £4.2 million looted by James Ibori to Delta State would encourage corruption.
The United Kingdom had signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with Nigeria to return the sum of £4.2 million assets stolen by former Delta State governor, James Ibori.
There has been debate over the ownership of the money. While the federal government has announced plans on how the money will be spent, the Delta State government said it would claim the money in court. The House of Representatives has also asked the executive to put on hold the proposed spending of the money.
But adding his voice into the debate yesterday, Magaji, said he supports the federal government’s plan to invest the Ibori looted funds and other expected stolen funds to be repatriated to the country.
The former deputy governor said the money doesn’t belong to Delta State, “because it was long lost, and I doubt if any government after Ibori lodged a formal complaint with EFCC, the police or any of the security agencies.
“Returning the money to Delta State will encourage corruption and make a laughing stock of our fight against corruption. Seizing of the money will improve our electoral process especially at state level by discouraging the practice whereby outgoing governors, by hook or crook, impose successors, whom they believe will cover their ‘back’ after they leave office,” he said.
Magaji further said there is no guarantee that the money if returned to Delta State will not go the same way as before or worst still, find its way back to the culprit.
“Nothing is impossible. This is Nigeria! Consequently, let’s please allow common sense prevail over the current heated agitations and rhetoric. It is impossible to wake up from nowhere and lay claim to what you never reported missing, for a period as long as 14 years. And as lawyers will argue, the matter is ‘Statute barred’. Besides this will serve as deterrent to other succeeding officials whom rather than report corruption as discovered become accomplices through concealment
of crime,” Magaji added.