It chairman, Mr Bola Babarinde, gave the commendation in a statement issued in Lagos on Thursday and enjoined the Federal Government to spend the funds on the provision of pivotal development projects.
Babarinde stated, however, that it was unconscionable of the Delta State government to want to claim the fund since it declared during trial that Ibori did not loot the state’s funds.
He said that the EFCC tried to prosecute Ibori soon after he left office as governor, but the then Delta State government refused to cooperate with the anti-corruption agency.
“Delta State frustrated the prosecution with the claim that Ibori was an innocent man and was being victimised.
“While he was able to escape an initial conviction in Nigeria, Ibori could not escape from the long arm of the British legal system.
“He was convicted on April 17, 2012 and sentenced to a 13-year jail term by the court,’’ he stated.
He said that Ibori did not complete his UK jail term as he was released early in December 2016.
Babarinde said that in spite of spending four years in a UK jail for crimes to which he pleaded guilty, Ibori got heroic welcome when he landed in Warri, Delta State.
“There was funfair, carnival and parties sponsored by the same people he deprived of their commonwealth.
“It will be a double standard for a state that received its `son of the soil’ with such elaborate welcome party with no interest in the case of fraud against their godfather, to now turn around that the recovered money belongs to it,’’ he stressed.
According to Babarinde, for Delta State to have any right to the funds, its government should provide records on how the money was stolen.
He recalled that Ibori’s political fan base vehemently declared that he was innocent and never stole money and that the Federal Government was just going after their “hero’’ for political reasons.
He said that it was a bit odd that now that the dogged resolution of the Federal Government to recover funds stolen by Ibori was about to yield fruit, the tune from Delta State government was changing.
“Now that the UK wants to return 4.2 million Pounds as part of the monies stolen by Ibori to the Federal Government, the Delta State government says the money rightfully belongs to it and not to the Federal Government.
“Given Delta State government’s previous stance that Ibori never stole money from the state’s coffers, the state government has no right now to lay claim to the funds,’’ he said.
Babarinde added that the British court also seized some of Ibori’s assets which included a house in Hampstead, North London, valued at 2.2 million Pounds and a property in Shaftesbury, Dorset, valued 311,000 Pounds.
“We support the Federal Government’s agreement with UK government to spend the returned money on pivotal projects that will benefit Nigerians and there should be monitoring to ensure that this is properly implemented.
“We also commend the Federal Government as it has been performing excellently in this regard.
“This is also an eye opener that Nigerians should desist from `my thieves are better than yours’ mentality.
“We should go after corrupt politicians and disgrace them because there are no benefits for the people when leaders are corrupt,’’ Babarinde said.
“It is immaterial where they come from; the effect of corruption brings misery, crime and even death, let us join hands to rid Nigeria of criminals at the top.
“When corruption is identified, state governments should work closely with anti-corruption agencies without any bias. Surely a clean person will be vindicated; that is the only way to help our fatherland,’’ he stated.
Ibori was governor of Delta State between May 29, 1999 and May 29, 2007.
Representatives of both the U.K. and the Nigerian government signed an agreement for the return of the money to Nigeria on Tuesday.
The signing of the agreement took place at the Federal Ministry of Justice, Abuja, under the auspices of the U.K.-Nigeria Memorandum of Understanding, which came into force in 2016.
The British High Commissioner in Nigeria, Catriona Laing, signed the agreement on behalf of the U.K. government, while the Attorney-General of the Federation, Abubakar Malami, signed it on behalf of the Nigerian government. (NAN)