by Hauwa Gambo
Reactions have trailed the payment by the Delta government of N50 million into the account of James Ibori, who was former governor of the state.
It would be recalled that Ibori was convicted of stealing the state’s funds, and sentenced to 13 years in a United Kingdom jail for laundering about $250 million (N37.5 billion) into the U.K.
The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission is also set to prosecute him.
The chairman of the Lagos branch of the Nigerian Bar Association, Taiwo Taiwo, called the payment insensitive and unconstitutional.
“This (payment of pension) is to me indeed an act of stupidity on the side of the Delta State Government,” he said. “We have been turned to laughing stock in the face of the international community with the way and manner we handle our judiciary procedures in this country.
“Legally, the state government ought not to pay pension to somebody convicted or still serving a jail term. Rather, the money should have been put into a fixed deposit, pending when Ibori finishes his jail term,” he said.
Another lawyer, Helen Ibeji, also said it is wrong to pay such monies to a man jailed for looting the state’s treasury.
“This is a man convicted over the criminal act of looting public fund now being paid pension that he was not due for,” she said. This is wrong, as it has created a legal lacuna in the system.”
However, last week, the state’s Commissioner for Information, Chike Ogeah, insisted that the move was in order.
“No allegation of illegally was made against Delta State Government by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC,” he said. “The truth is that like every other elected governor, who had served the state, Ibori was paid his pension entitlement and other benefits alongside his deputy under the existing state’s law.”
According to him, this law is the Delta State Governor and Deputy Governor Pension Rights and Other Benefits Law, 2005 and the Delta State Governor and Deputy Governor Pension Rights and Other Benefits (Amendment) Law, 2009.
“As can be seen, there is no iota of illegality in the payments made to Ibori as it was made under approved budget and paid to the beneficiaries through their designated bank accounts in Nigeria after following due process,” he said.