Posted by By YINKA FABOWALE on
Perhaps, none of the former state governors has attracted such national and international attention since quitting office on May 29, this year, as erstwhile Delta State chief executive, Chief James Ibori.
Perhaps, none of the former state governors has attracted such national and international attention since quitting office on May 29, this year, as erstwhile Delta State chief executive, Chief James Ibori. He has been in the news and in trouble over charges of corrupt enrichment and money laundering he allegedly perpetrated while he served as governor of the oil-rich state.
His accusers are the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) and the London Metropolitan Police who want him to explain how he came about his vast assets both at home and abroad, valued at billions of Naira.
Owing to corruption allegation, a court in the United Kingdom froze the ex-governor’s assets in the country valued at 17 million pounds or ($35 million) in August, following an application by the Metropolitan Police that Ibori’s stupendous wealth could not be reconciled with his legitimate earnings.
His wife, Nkoyo, was also arrested at Heathrow Airport last month in connection with the probe of her husband’s assets.
Although the Southwark Court later reversed itself by lifting the order freezing Ibori’s assets, following a letter purportedly written by Nigeria’s Justice Minister and Attorney General of the Federation, Mr Mike Aondoakaa (SAN), which gave him a clean bill of health, the Appeal Court in the European country recently restored the order, which it declared should not have been revoked in the first place.
On the home front, the Ibori saga is seen as a major source of dilemma for the Umaru Yar’Adua government, which claims to be fighting graft, as he is believed to be enjoying undue protection against investigation and prosecution.
Observers’ suspicion is that this special privilege may not be unconnected with the fact that Ibori was one of the biggest backers of the election of the President.
But his arrest by the EFCC in Abuja on Wednesday seemed to have disproved this, or at least, betrayed the administration’s helplessness or reluctance to continue to shield him in the face of mounting and embarrassing public criticisms and outrage.
The EFCC recently won a major legal victory against the embattled former governor when a Federal High Court in Benin, Edo State quashed a case by the Delta State government by declining jurisdiction in the case.
The effect of that ruling is that Justice Gloria Okeke, who had previously granted a controversial order barring the anti-graft agency from arresting Ibori and other former Delta State government officials implicated in the large scale looting, invalidated her order.
It was, in fact, this that has probably emboldened and given EFCC the freedom to arrest the ex-governor.
Government appeared to have been left with no choice, but to back out from its alleged protection of Ibori, to save itself from obvious embarrassment following vociferous tongue lashing.
Before now, various pressure groups, including the opposition Action Congress (AC) and Afenifere, the Pan-Yoruba socio-political group, had flayed the regime’s apparent paternalism on the Ibori case.
They observed that Aondoakaa’s attitude did not show that the government was fully committed to its much-vaunted fight against graft.
The groups demanded that Ibori be charged to court and made to feel the full weight of the law, if found guilty.
Also acting under the auspices of Concerned Elders and Citizens of Delta State, some leaders of the state have asked the EFCC to probe alleged misappropriation of funds under Ibori’s tenure.
With the elusive governor now in EFCC’s net, his day of reckoning may have arrived.
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