Amid Ibori loot saga, EFCC boss, Bawa says states should get assets recovered from ex-governors



Abdulrasheed Bawa, chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), says it is the position of the law that recovered assets should be returned to the victims it was looted from.


A controversy on whether the state or federal government should be the recipient of repatriated loot sprung up after the United Kingdom made a commitment to return £4.2 million loot recovered from James Ibori, former governor of Delta state, to the federal government.


Abubakar Malami, attorney-general of the federation, said the recovered loot will be channelled into federal projects.


However, stakeholders including Femi Falana, human rights lawyer, argued that the Ibori loot in question should be returned to Delta since it was taken from the coffers of the state.


According to Falana, the federal government has no locus standi to decide how the recovered money is spent.


On his part, Ifeanyi Okowa, governor of Delta, said if the money cannot be sent to the state’s coffers, it should be spent on projects in the state.


However, speaking on the issue of asset recovery when he featured on One-on-One, a programme on Nigerian Television Authority (NTA), Bawa said the law states that assets recovered from former governors should be returned to the affected states.


 “When it comes to this issue of recovered assets, the provision of the law is very clear. There are victims of these crimes. Somebody has gotten somebody’s money fraudulently and assets are recovered from that individual. Of course, it will be returned to him (the victim),” Bawa was quoted as saying in EFCC ALERT.


“State government lost money through its former governor; assets are recovered from that former governor. Of course, it will be returned to the state. Other assets that are recovered for the federal government, it will be returned to the federal government.


“But there are stages. Issues of identification, tracing, and recovery of assets are there; all these are stages. Of course, before trial is concluded in court where matters are charged, those assets recovered through interim forfeiture are managed by us.


“And the EFCC has a full-fledged directorate of assets forfeiture and management that manages these assets. Normally, we engage estate managers to manage these assets, and proceeds from the rents are kept in an account with the Central Bank of Nigeria. And then at the end of the trial, after the pronouncement of the court, whosoever is the victim, needs to be restituted. And if what the law says is that it should be sold, then after the sale of the assets, the proceeds, if it is for the federal government, will be put in the consolidated revenue fund.”


Commenting on the delay in the prosecution of cases, Bawa said the creation of special courts will not serve as an absolute solution.


He explained that some of the issues that cause delay in the prosecution of cases, like “defence counsel trying to delay trials unnecessarily”, are unavoidable.


The anti-graft czar, however, suggested that the employment of new judges will help ease the task.


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