The payment of N50 million to convicted felon and former Delta State Governor, James Ibori, as pension has been condemned by some lawyers who described the payment as illegal and unconstitutional.
Mr. Ibori is currently serving a jail term in London, after he was convicted of laundering Delta State funds into the U.K. The former governor was sentenced to 13 years for laundering about $250 million (N37.5 billion) into the U.K.
The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission is also set to prosecute the former governor, in Nigeria for stealing Delta State funds, when he completes his jail term.
The Chairman of the Lagos Branch of the Nigerian Bar Association, Taiwo Taiwo, said the payment of pension to an ex-convict was not only insensitive and wrong, but also unconstitutional.
“This (payment of pension) is to me indeed an act of stupidity on the side of the Delta State Government,” Mr. Taiwo 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, who also agreed that it was wrong legally to pay Mr. Ibori pension, however disagreed that the benefit should be saved in a fixed deposit till after his jail term, pointing out that a man jailed for stealing and looting his state’s treasury should not be entitled to any such benefit.
“This is a man convicted over the criminal act of looting public fund now being paid pension that he was not due for. This is wrong, as it has created a legal lacuna in the system.” she lamented.
For Clement Onwuenwunor, the payment of pension to Mr. Ibori by the Delta Government could only be justified, “if it passes through the legal procedure”, adding: “It is immoral for the State Government to continue paying him pension when he is still serving a jail term for looting the treasury of his state.”
“Continuous payment of pension to Ibori‘s account should be barred, because it is criminality against the state. Delta State Government should justify the reason for paying such huge amount of money as pension to a convict,” he said.
Last Wednesday, the State Commissioner for Information, Chike Ogeah, said the N50 million paid into Mr. Ibori’s account was his pension entitlements and other benefits, adding that the money was paid to the former governor for the furnishing of his house and pension.
“No allegation of illegally was made against Delta State Government by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC.
“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,” the commissioner said
He said that this was in accordance with 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,” the commissioner said.