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Ibori (right) with current governor Okowa

The UK is still withholding Ibori’s millions

5 September 2018

The current edition of Private Eye, a UK investigative journalism magazine reports how, despite prime minister Theresa May’s posturing in Abuja, Nigeria last week on helping Nigeria combat some of its ills, her country was still keeping assets seized from some of Nigeria’s “fantastically corrupt” politicians.

The magazine states: Visiting Abuja last week, prime minister Theresa May won some favourable headlines with a promise of £10.5m for Nigeria to fight the scourges of terrorism and trafficking.  But it is a pin-prick next to the fortunes that have left the country through Britain’s financial system – and still not returned.

Conservative estimates for the illicit Nigerian fortunes stashed in the UK run into the hundreds of millions of pounds.  A 2017 assessment by the National Crime Agency’s International Corruption Unit (ICU) showed that it had frozen £177m assets “chiefly from two ongoing Nigerian cases”.

One of those cases is that of former Delta State governor James Ibori. He was governor for eight years from 1999 and installed his cousin Emmanuel Uduaghan as his successor, who also governed for eight years.  Oil-rich Delta State is reportedly still under Ibori’s grip, with the current governor Ifeanyi Okowa nominally in charge.

The magazine continued: Yet of that £177m, the under-resourced ICU admitted that a grand total of £1.1m had been returned to whence it came.  This means that Ibori, who was handed a 13-year sentence, has returned home long before the money he stole ever will.

Ibori was convicted at Southwark Crown Court in London in 2012 and released in December 2016.  He returned to Nigeria shortly afterwards.

Private Eye magazine noted that they have been asking the Home Office for an updated total under freedom of information laws since May, but the PM’s old department refuses to answer.  Whatever the latest initiative achieves, Nigerians would be better served by the UK government getting a grip on the plunder back home.  


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