By Unini Chioma
The Federal High Court sitting in Warri, Delta State has slammed a N31,000.00 fine on the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Mr. Abubakar Malami (SAN) over delay in responding to preliminary summon to the suit seeking the release of the repatriated £4.2 million also referred to as Ibori loot.
The court presided over by Justice Abang held that the Attorney General who is the first defendant in the suit, filed his reply on the summon 31 days outside the stipulated 30 days.
The court held that the delay was a breach on the Rule of Court, and directed the defense counsel to make adequate calculation based on paragraph 48 Rule 1c of the Rule of Court and pay the default fee accordingly.
Adjourning hearing in the matter to December 7, 2021, Justice Abang promised to give accelerated hearing to the matter, and ordered that a fresh hearing notice be serve to the Attorney General of the Federation
The plaintiffs, the Ijaw Progressive Union of Aborigines had dragged both the Federal Government and the Delta State Government to the court, seeking among others, the release of the £4.2 million to the government of Delta State and the utilisation of same to execute projects in the oil bearing communities of the state.
Joined in the suit with number FHC/WR/05/85/2021 are the Attorney General and Minister of Justice of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (first respondent), the Attorney General and Commissioner of Justice, Delta State (second respondent) and the Accountant General of the Federation (third respondent).
Secretary to the Ijaw Progressive Union of Aborigines, Mr. Philip Grade-one Clark said the matter was instituted to ensure that the repatriated funds were appropriately utilised.
He said: “Initially the Federal Government said the money belong to them because the money was returned to them and that they will use it to do whatever they want but people protested and at the end of the day the now said ooh we are going to return the money to Delta state.
“So we now heard that the money was returned, but later, the Accountant General of the state now said that the money was not returned in full and we were hoping that more explanation will be done about the money but that never happened.
“The matter was being swept under the carpet, and that was why our body, fully registered as an NGO came up and said we want to find out and if that money had been returned, let the state government use it to develop oil bearing communities because they are so neglected, whether Urhobo, Isoko, Ijaw, Itsekiri or even Ndokwa oil bearing communities, they are all neglected.”
Meanwhile, Commissioner for Information in Delta State, Charles Aniagwu told a press conference on Monday in Asaba that the money had not be returned to the state.
“You will recall when that repatriation was announced, the FG outlined a number of projects across the country, we kicked and said no, you can’t rob Peter to pay Paul.
“There were a number of conditions, all those we are trying to smoothen so that the fund would be returned to us. We have not received it but we are very hopeful the money would be returned to us for us to execute a number of projects,” Aniagwu said.