The Federal High Court, Abuja, has set 20 September for judgment in a suit filed by the Delta State Government against the Federal Government over ownership of $15 million (N2.4 billion).
The money is alleged to be bribe offered former Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Nuhu Ribadu, by convicted former Delta governor, James Ibori.
Justice Gabriel Kolawole gave the date on Wednesday after counsel to the parties adopted their addresses.
The respondents in the suit are the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) and Central Bank of Nigeria.
Justice Kolawole said the parties had 21 days within which to file the addresses while the plaintiff (Delta State Government) had another 14 days to respond to issues bordering on point of law.
“In the circumstance, therefore, the judgment is reserved for September 20,’’ he said.
The Delta State government had approached the court to claim ownership of the $15 million.
Adopting his address, Charles Ajuyah, the Attorney General of Delta, submitted that the idle money belonged to the state.
He said the state had sought the return of the money because “Ibori took the money from the coffers of the state government, while serving as governor of the state.’’
Mr. Ajuyah argued that the plaintiff had reflected, in its affidavit, possible sources where the money could have been taken from.
“My Lord, the money belongs to Delta government; the state still pays Ibori pension for serving the state in the capacity of governor.
“He took the money while serving as governor of the state.
“My Lord, precedence has been set by the decisions of several courts at various times when monies recovered from former governors of Plateau and Bayelsa states, Joshua Dariye and D.S.P Alameseigha, were repatriated to the respective states.
“In fact, the EFCC and the Federal Government are not in court to claim the money because the respondents are aware that the money belongs to Ibori and by extension, Delta.
“My Lord, we are taken aback that the money, which is a source of controversy, was not listed as exhibit and placed before the court,’’ he said.
In adopting his address, Rotimi Jacob, the counsel to the EFCC, said the plaintiff failed to trace the source of the money to the state.
Mr Jacob submitted that the allusion made to the recovered Plateau and Bayelsa states’ stolen monies by Mr Ajuyah was wrong, because the two states were able to convince the court and the sources of those monies were traced.
“In the case of Delta, no convincing traces have either been captured in their affidavit or orally presented before the court.
“It is our conviction that the plaintiff has no proof of ownership and therefore must be denied access to the money.
“It will interest the court to note that the office of the Attorney General of Delta, sometime in 2008, barred the EFCC from investigating the accounting records of the state by an order of court.
“The state government has not complained of any missing money just as it has failed to prosecute the former governor for embezzlement of state funds.
“It will be recalled that the plaintiff did transferred the sum of N50 million meant for the building of a four bedroom duplex for the office of the governor to Ibori’s account abroad in 2008.
“Similar budget was proposed and approved for the same project in 2009 and the money sent to the ex-governor to prosecute his money laundering case in the UK.
“The state does not qualify to access this money as a similar episode may play out.
Arguing on a point of law, Mr. Ajuyah urged the court to dismiss the argument canvassed by counsel to the EFCC, saying that Delta had the powers to “deploy its resources to the benefit of the indigenes of the state.’’
“The EFCC and the Federal Government cannot claim ownership of the money; the money belongs to Delta and we humbly urge the court to grant us access,’’ he said.