Urgent Plea for Britain to Expedite the Return of Ibori’s Ill-Gotten Wealth to Nigeria

James Ibori

British and Nigerian civil society organizations are jointly calling upon the British government to expedite the return of confiscated funds from Nigerian politician James Ibori, a convicted fraudster, to Nigeria in a transparent manner. The aim is to ensure that these funds can be used for the betterment of ordinary Nigerians.

In a letter addressed to the UK’s home and foreign affairs ministers, a coalition comprising nearly 50 NGOs has expressed concerns regarding the prolonged delay in the confiscation process. They argue that this delay has diminished the effectiveness of the strong anti-corruption message conveyed by Ibori’s conviction over a decade ago.

“The extensive disruptions and prolonged delays in recovering and repatriating these ill-gotten wealth have, thus far, rendered this anti-corruption message ineffective for the Nigerian populace,” stated the letter, which was made public on Thursday by one of its endorsing organizations, Spotlight on Corruption.

James Ibori, formerly the governor of Nigeria’s oil-producing Delta State, pleaded guilty to 10 counts of fraud and money laundering in a London court in 2012. He received a 13-year prison sentence, of which he served approximately half before being released.

Despite his conviction, Ibori retains significant influence in Nigeria, having held meetings with President Bola Tinubu in recent months and maintaining connections with powerful individuals.

The coalition of NGOs, including Transparency International and Africa Network for Environment and Economic Justice, insists that the confiscated funds from Ibori should be channeled into projects that benefit the people of Delta State. Furthermore, they emphasize the importance of civil society oversight in the implementation of these projects.

Efforts by British prosecutors to seize Ibori’s assets commenced in 2013 but have encountered numerous hurdles and delays within the London courts. In July, a judge ordered the confiscation of £101.5 million ($123.9 million) from him, marking one of the largest orders under Britain’s Proceeds of Crime Act 2002 since its enactment. Ibori has sought leave to appeal against this order, and the appeal process is currently in its preliminary stages.