The Federal High Court sitting in Abuja has awarded to the federal government ownership of the $15 million allegedly offered by a former Delta state governor, James Ibori, as bribe to the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, to stave-off arrest and prosecution.
Justice Gabriel Kolawole averred that the Delta state government failed to prove beyond reasonable doubt that the money belongs to it.
The EFCC had in July 2012 approached the court through an ex- parte application, requesting for an order forfeiting the Ibori bribe which had been lying in the vaults of the Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN, for more than five years to the federal government as unclaimed proceed of crime.
In a motion filed by its lawyer, Rotimi Jacobs, the EFCC urged the court to dismiss the claim by the Delta State government to the alleged bribe and order the final forfeiture of the sum to the federal government in line with the provisions of Section 17 of the Advance Fee Fraud and Other Related Offences Act, 2006.
Counsel to the Delta State government, Timipa Okponipere, had asked the court not to give the money to the federal government, maintaining that as at April 25, 2007 when Ibori allegedly offered the bribe of $15m bribe to the EFCC, he was still the governor of the state, with all rights and privileges attached to the office.
He asked the court to declare that the $15m is property belonging to government of Delta State and its people.
Okponipere further asked the court to hold that any application or order granting the money to any other entity other than the government and people of Delta State was illegal and of no effect.
The court, however, disagreed with the Delta State government’s counsel and ruled that the money be awarded to the federal government.