Delta state government has formally come out to lay claim to ownership of the money and is seeking for a Federal High Court order to release the said money to its treasury.
The money was said to have been offered as bribe by Ibori in 2007 to the former chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, Mr. Nuhu Ribadu to compromise the probe of a fraud allegation against Ibori.
However, following the denial by Ibori that he did not offer the bribe, the money had since 2007 been kept in the custody of the Central Bank of Nigeria for safe keep.
In an application filed by the Delta state Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice, Charles Ajuyah, at the Federal High Court in Abuja, claimed that the money legitimately belonged to the Delta state government and that the court should order its return to its treasury since the money in dispute was allegedly offered by Ibori while he was in office as governor of the state.
In a 35-point affidavit in support of the application, Delta state asserted that Ibori was a governor of the state between May 29, 1999 and May 29, 2007, the period the money in dispute was allegedly offered by Ibori and on that basis, the state said that the $15 million is the exclusive property of the state and it is entitled to collect it as the bona fide owner.
The affidavit averred that any denial by Ibori in respect of the money cannot affect entitlement of the state to the amount.
The affidavit also indicated that the state did not formally apply for payment of the money in view of the pending appeals to the Supreme Court and the Court of Appeal because it did not want to prejudice the appeal cases.
It further claimed that all monies, assets and properties recovered from Mr. Joshua Dariye, former governor of Plateau state were returned to Plateau state just like those recovered from Diepreye Alamieyesigha of Bayelsa were returned to Bayelsa state.
With this precedence, there should be no legal basis to treat the case of Delta state any different from others and that it is in the interest of justice that the money should be released to Delta.
The Delta state government says the money, if released to the state, will enhance the developmental projects in the state.
The application would be argued before Justice Gabriel Kolawole on September 17, when the federal government’s motion on the same issue would come up for further hearing on who should be the rightful owner of the controversial money.
The Federal Government had on July 24, at a Federal High Court in Abuja obtained an interim order that the money be forfeited to it pending the time anyone who may lay bona fide claim shows cause of legitimate ownership at the court.