Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) Declared Wanted former Governor James Onanefe Ibori.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Former Delta state Governor, James Ibori

From Yemi Akinsuyi

Almost five months after the Federal High Court, Asaba, Delta State, cleared him of all charges of corruption, another round of travails may have begun for former Governor James Onanefe Ibori.

Yesterday, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) declared him wanted over a fresh N44 billion alleged fraud and other corruption charges.

But the former governor, in a swift reaction, said he was never at any time invited by the anti-graft agency.

He vowed to challenge what he called “political persecution” by EFCC.

However, he later acknowledged receipt of an invitation letter from EFCC which, according to him, was delivered late yesterday after his initial statement. The letter was dated March 22, 2010 and Ibori was asked to report to the commission on April 17, 2010, which is next Saturday. The former governor wondered why he should be declared wanted ahead of the appointed day.

EFCC said it declared the ex-governor wanted in connection with on-going investigation into some allegations of official corruption and money laundering.

Spokesman of the anti-graft agency Femi Babafemi said in a statement that “following persistent public enquiries over the status of the case involving the former governor, we will like the public to know that Chief James Ibori is wanted by the commission for interrogation.”

Babafemi said letters of invitation had been sent to Ibori’s known addresses in Lagos and Abuja while a court warrant has equally been obtained for his arrest.

THISDAY was told that EFCC operatives had been on the trail of the former Delta governor for over four weeks in order to get him arrested in connection with the fraud and other corrupt activities he allegedly perpetrated while in office.

Ibori, according to the agency, was playing a hide-and-seek game with its operatives.

But it was alleged that when it became obvious that he would not turn himself in, the anti-graft body finally declared him wanted yesterday.

The former Delta State governor described the claims by EFCC that letters of invitation had been sent to his Lagos and Abuja homes and that a warrant had been obtained for his arrest as “a wicked lie” as no letter was ever received by him.

Ibori in a statement by his Media Assistant, Mr. Tony Eluemunor, decried the tactics being employed on his matter by EFCC and vowed to contest it in court.

“This is political harassment that demands for vigorous legal challenge so that Nigeria is not ruled like a fiefdom – and that is what I will give,” he said.

He urged his supporters not to panic while challenging EFCC to mention the dates of those alleged invitations. Ibori said his counsel, Mr. J. B. Dauda (SAN), had written a petition to both the Attorney-General of the Federation and Chairman of EFCC, dated April 12, 2010, “over the unsubstantiated media reports of the past two weeks that (he) had been on the run from EFCC.”

Also, Ibori said he had instituted a suit against EFCC over this same issue.

Ibori said it was surprising that on receiving petitions and also learning that he had filed a suit against the agency in court, EFCC “applied its Gestapo tactics and rushed to the news media with the malicious falsehood that the agency had invited (him) for questioning.”

He said EFCC’s action was political and not criminal, and “shows that the arm-twisting that defaced the final years of the last administration has been allowed back into Nigeria as the country enters an election year.”

According to him, his lawyer made it clear in the petition to both the Attorney-General and EFCC that the matter in question had been thoroughly investigated in the past and the case rested.

“It is a matter of public record and judicial decisions that you have on behalf of the Attorney-General vigorously investigated every aspect of our client’s tenure as Governor of Delta State and failed to find any crime committed inclusive of allegations of conspiracy, official corruption, diversion and misappropriation of public funds, stealing and money laundering for the period 29th May, 1999 to 29th May, 2007. The said investigation covered among other issues the purchase of Wilbros by Ascot and the role of the Applicant in respect thereof,” Eluemunor stated, quoting from Ibori’s petition dated April 12, 2010.

In his petition to the AG and EFCC, Ibori had said: “It is also a matter of record that the head of the investigators, Yahaya Bello, and contained in his counter affidavit filed in Suit No. FHC/B/ CS/862/2007 AG Delta v. EFCC& Ords, admitted that all these facts have been investigated and the matter charged to court. In very simple elementary terms, what your organisation is doing is seeking to reinvestigate a matter you have already investigated and discharged (which in this instance amounts to an acquittal) amounts to not only a complete infraction of the Nigerian Constitution but a breach of our client’s fundamental human rights.

“Nowhere in the world except in of course in some notorious Banana Republics is the rule of law and the constitutionalism trampled upon so aggressively as you are doing in this instance.

“It is neither fair nor decent to criminalize our client on the pages of the newspapers without any formal invitation to clear his name, which the courts have already done for him.

“Take notice therefore that if there is any attempt to interfere with our client’s liberty merely because you control the coercive forces we shall have no option but to have recourse to judicial redress before the courts which is the last hope for the defenseless man such as our client.”

In an advertorial published in this newspaper today, a letter of invitation from EFCC dated March 22, 2010, was forwarded to the former governor, asking him to appear before the commission on April 17, 2010, in respect of investigations into a case where his name featured prominently.

Entitled “Investigation Activities: Letter of Investigation,” the letter read: “This commission is investigating a case in which your name featured prominently.

“In view of the above, your presence is kindly requested in my office for interview through Mr. Francis A. Idu of Economic Governance Unit. Date: 17th April 2010. Time: 1030 hrs prompt. Venue: Block C, No 5 Pomella Street, Off Adetokunbo Ademola Crescent, Wuse 11, Abuja.

“Your cooperation in this is highly anticipated please.”It was signed by one Zubairu Muazu on behalf of EFCC Chairman Farida Waziri.

Ibori was first arrested by EFCC under former Chairman Nuhu Ribadu on December 12, 2007 for alleged corruption and money laundering while in office

He was later arraigned at the Federal High Court sitting in Kaduna on a 103-count charge all bordering on concealment and money laundering EFCC later slammed another 26-count charge against the former governor.

Ibori was initially denied bail and spent the Christmas of 2007 and new year eve of 2008 in detention.

However, the former governor was later granted bail. Following an application by his lawyer for the transfer of the case to Delta State where the alleged offences were committed, the case was transferred to the Federal High Court in Asaba, Delta State.

Justice Marcel Awokul-ehin of the court on November 29, 2009, cleared Ibori of all charges of fraud and money laundering preferred against him by EFCC.


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