The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, on January 10, 2013, told the Federal High Court sitting in Abuja why the $15 million (Fifteen Million Dollars) ex- governor James Ibori bribe money should not be returned to the Delta State Government.
Presiding Justice Gabriel Kolawole had on July 24, 2012 granted an interim order of forfeiture of an unclaimed $15m Ibori bribe to the federal government following an application by the EFCC. In granting the order, the judge upheld the federal government’s claim that the money “If left untouched and unspent in the state it was kept in the strong room (of the CBN) since April 2007, may eventually be destroyed, defaced, mutilated and become useless.”
But the Delta state government had approached the court asking that the money belonged to the state government and should therefore be returned to the state.
In a 29 paragraph counter affidavit in opposition to the claimants affidavit, the EFCC through its counsel, Rotimi Jacobs, SAN, said that the said sum of $15 Million was given as bribe by an undisclosed agent of James Ibori but neither the said James Ibori nor any other person ever admitted giving the said amount to the EFCC or to any person whatsoever.
“That the Delta State Government did not petition the EFCC either before or after the filing of the charge against the said James Ibori complaining that the sum of $15 million or any other sum was missing in the account of the state or that any fund belonging to Delta State was stolen by James Ibori or any of his associates”.
While attaching a copy of the Originating Summons filed by the Attorney General of the Delta State at Federal High Court, Benin City as Exhibit RJ 01, the EFCC said “that when the Delta State Government got to know that the EFCC was about to prefer criminal charges against James Ibori, the state government through its Attorney General and three others, approached the Federal High Court, Benin City, challenging the power of the EFCC to interfere in any matter involving or pertaining to the affairs of the State while James Ibori was the Governor of the State”. Adding that even the said James Ibori who allegedly sent the bribe denied ever giving or authorizing the giving of the bribe at anytime.
The EFCC further said that “that the said sum of $15 Million cannot be traced to any account owned or being operated by the Delta State Government or any of its agencies and officials”.
Justice Gabriel Kolawole had on Friday November 23, 2012 dismissed a similar application brought by Mr. Olalekan Bayode seeking to be admitted as a party in the $15 million Ibori bribe forfeiture matter. Kolawole while striking out the application noted that it was completely at variance with the interim order of court inviting interested parties to show cause why the money should not be forfeited to the federal government.
Further proceedings have been adjourned till January 28, 2013.