British High Commissioner to Nigeria, Ms. Catriona Laing, said on Tuesday, that the United Kingdom Government will not allow the country to be a safe haven for ill-gotten wealth.
Laing said this was why the UK is set to return over recovered from a former governor of Delta State, Chief James Ibori and his family members.
She spoke in Abuja at the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between UK and Nigeria for the return of assets seized from Ibori in the UK.
“The return of these assets to Nigeria has been subject to a number of hard fought legal challenges by third parties which were defeated in the UK courts. We will ensure the full weight of law enforcement to crack down those who use, move or hide proceeds of crime in the UK”.
Laing emphasized that a transparent asset recovery is priority for both the UK and Nigerian Governments.
“It is vital that this agreement makes strong provision for transparency, monitoring and accountability. It is a guiding principle of both UK and Nigerian governments that stolen assets should be used for projects that benefit Nigeria’s poor”.
In his remarks, Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami, SAN, gave assurance that the Federal Government was committed to a transparent management of all recovered assets.
“The assets returned will support and assist in expediting the construction of three major infrastructure projects across Nigeria. The projects are the Lagos-Ibadan expressway, Abuja Kano road and the second Niger Bridge that are being executed under the supervision of the Nigerian Sovereign Investment Authority”, Malami said.
He added, “The project will boost economic growth and help alleviate poverty by connecting people and supply chains from the East to the West and to the Northern part of Nigeria”.
Recall that Ibori had pleaded guilty to charges of money laundering, conspiracy to commit fraud and forgery, when he was docked at a UK court in February, 2012, during which he was convicted and was sentenced to 13 years in prison.