Right of Reply By Tony Eluemunor.
Why would Olusegun Adeniyi disdain the variegated and controversial aspects of the $15 million bribery allegation Mr. Nuhu Ribadu levelled against Chief James Onanefe Ibori in his September 20, 2012 column, entitled “Strictly Confidential: Can I Trust You?” Why did he paper over the several contradictory stories Ribadu himself made up about that self-same alleged bribe – in two police statements, two books, not to dwell on countless media interviews? Why did Segun refuse to let the ways in which Mr. Ibrahim Lamorde and James Garba and even Senator Andy Uba implied that Ribadu lied – as their police statements and Uba’s press release contradicted Ribadu? How come Segun’s moralistic article never considered the “419” fraud Ribadu would have been guilty of if Ibori never actually bribed him? And what strange, if not sinister, forces held him in thrall, such that he repudiated the sensible way of ever analyzing Justice Marcel Awokulehin’s judgement that freed Ibori of the charges the EFCC had brought against him at the Federal High, Asaba? Instead, he excoriated both the Judge and Federal High Court system, for throwing out that bribery allegation, without ever pointing out the merit – or lack of it - of the highly publicized judgement, or even how the Judge may have erred? At least, the bribery allegation wasn’t among the charges Ibori pleaded guilty to in London! So, based on nothing, Segun whimsically and maliciously criminalized the Judge.
On contradictions: From Ribadu’s book, “My Story; My Vision” …”we met at one of his friend’s house in Abuja. I had brought several of my colleagues from the EFCC. They witnessed Ibori handing over to me a bag containing $15m in cash, as a pay off which I pretended to treat as restitution for the monies he stole from his state”. (Does it really matter how Ribadu would pretend to treat an alleged bribe, whether as restitution or not? What should matter is what the alleged giver told Ribadu the money was meant for). But from “A Paradise of Maggots” comes this: “Ribadu claimed that Ibori brought along a bribe of $15m in cash, ‘in two bags’, “Ribadu then called Ibrahim Lamorde, Ibrahim Magu and five other officers through the mobile phone to come to Uba’s house to pick up the bribe. (The author called it bribe, not restitution!) Lamorde and his team took the two bags containing the money and drove straight to the Central Bank of Nigeria, to keep as exhibit.” Two books, two versions of the EFCC operatives present when the alleged bribery was given, two versions of the number of bags, two versions of what the money was meant for –bribe or restitution – from Ribadu!
Next, Ribadu’s Abuja statement of 12th December 2007: “Mr. James Ibori, the former Governor of Delta State … informed me that he had fifteen million dollars for us (the EFCC) to collect (so was the “bribe” for Ribadu or the entire EFCC staff or the agency? If it was a bribe given to Ribadu, why did he use the collective noun, “us”?) He said that it can be collected at Dr. Andy Uba’s residence. I therefore requested the Director of Operations of EFCC Mr. Ibrahiom Lamorde to first arrange in the Central Bank of Nigeria for safe keeping of the money and proceed inform (sic) his officer to receive the money. The money was collected in my presence at Dr. Andy Uba’s house on the 26/4/07 by Lamorde and his officers and deposited in the CBN Abuja branch on the same day”.
Yet, in the London statement of August 26, 2009, Ribadu claimed: “On that day...my staff on that occasion would have included EFCC Head of Operations, Ibrahim Lamorde and EFCC Officer James Garba (now it is no longer the seven officers mentioned in the book as quoted above but just two EFCC operatives). James (Ibori) was there and his servant or driver brought out the money from the house, in two (2) massive sacks containing U.S. $100 dollar bills. The bribe was made on 26th April 2007”. Ribadu’s 2007 Police statement claimed the date was 25/4/07, not 26th.
On who handed out the alleged bribe money to the EFCC, and those present at the occasion, it is contradictions galore as Lamorde further contradicted Ribadu: on “25th April” Ribadu told him that “there was the sum of $15 million (USD) in cash given to him and the Commission by James Ibori.” (So Ribadu told Lamorde the money was for Ribadu and the Commission. Why?). Garba supported this version saying that the money was there in Uba’s house on the 25th April 2007, and Lamorde directed him to collect the sum and deposit at the CBN, so he wrote an authorising letter which Lamorde signed - for Garba to deposit the money that same 25th April 2007. Garba said: “but I could not make the deposit that day because it was already late”. Lamorde, also contradicting Ribadu, maintained that the money was already in Uba’s residence on 25/4/07 and Ribadu “directed that I should make arrangement to collect it. So on 26 -04-07, myself and Mr. James Garba, (just two operatives, not seven as Ribadu claimed, and obviously excluding Ibrahim Magu) accompanied by Police escort proceeded to Mr. Uba’s residence. We collected the money”. So, from Lamorde’s statement, Ribadu and Ibori were not there.
Still on contradictions: about Ibori’s presence in Uba’s house when EFCC collected the alleged bribe, Garba contradicted Ribadu; “In the compound, I saw Mr. Andy Uba and he directed some men, to carry a brownish long bag, very heavy, into the booth of the Director’s (Lamorde) car. This happened after the Director and Uba had exchanged greetings on our arrival to Uba’s house”. Important, the Ibori who was present in Ribadu’s London statement was absent, and Ibori’s driver or servant who allegedly brought out the money from Ibori’s car curiously turned into “some men (not one) to carry the long heavy bag” into Lamorde’s car. Lamorde and Garba agreed that neither Ibori nor Ribadu was there. So, how many versions of truth should there be about a single event?
Was Segun justified in the insult he lobbed at a Judge? He wrote: “This kind of desperation, also festered by greed, says so much about the judgement of Justice Marcel Awokulehin whose kangaroo court in Asaba was specially created to clear Ibori of the 170-count charges preferred against him by EFCC”!
Justice Awokulehin ruled on “Count 66” against Ibori: “The evidence in respect of this charge are the witness statements of NUHU RIBADU, IBRAHIM LAMORDE and JAMES GARUBA. Their statements are to the effect that the money was collected from one DR. ANDY UBA in his residence and not from the Accused/Applicant. It is shocking that there is no witness statement from the said DR. ANDY UBA who can say whether or not the 1st Accused gave him money and the purpose for which the money was given and to whom he delivered the money. Section 15 of the Money Laundering (Prohibition) Act, 2004 under which the charge is brought provides as follows: “15(1) without prejudice to the penalties provided for illicit traffic in narcotic drugs, psychotropic substances, the laundering of drug money or the proceeds of a crime or an illicit act, a person who; (d) makes or accepts cash payments exceeding the amount authorized under this Act, (e) fails to report an intentional transfer of funds or securities required to be reported under this Act, or (f) being a director or employee of a financial institution contravenes the provision of Sections 2,3,4,5,6,7,8 or 10 of this Act, Commits an offence under this Act. 2. There is no correlation between the evidence in the proof in respect of this Count and the essential ingredient of the offence charged. I find that the Proof of Evidence has failed to disclose any prima facie case against the 1st Accused/Applicant to justify his being put on trial in respect of this charge. Accordingly, I hereby quash Count 66 of the Further Amended Charges”.
I challenge Segun to say specifically on this how the Judge erred. Then, Segun made another reckless statement: “But the moral is: If a man was ready to surrender such a humongous amount of money either for “restitution” or as “bribe”, then only God (and the London Metropolitan Police) knows how much such a person would have hidden elsewhere” (especially as he had implied elsewhere that Ibori had no other sources of income except his salary as Delta Governor).
Now, did the London trial prove the Asaba High Court wrong about Ibori’s sources of income? Hardly! May we please consider the 44-page paper filed by the London Metropolitan Police, in court: “R versus James Ibori. Opening Note For Sentence”. Page 14 item 81, dealing with MER Engineering says: “MER was a company that was incorporated in Nigeria in 1990... After Ibori was elected Govrenor of Delta state, MER became operational. It built houseboats, which were rented out to oil workers in the Delta. It was Ibori who was able to influence the contracts with Chevron and Shell and the NNPC. Ibori shamelessly took advantage of his political position in order to provide business to MER. The contracts between MER and the various oil companies operating in the Delta were corrupt”. Item 83: “It was MER money that paid for the Ibori property in Hampstead, Westover Hill: Count 5. Item 84, “It was MER money that paid for the house Ibori bought in Houston Texas. Item 85, “it was MER money that paid for the deposit for the $20 million Challenger Jet airplane that Mr. Ibori was in the process of buying when his monies were restrained by the UK courts”.
Well, if the London Police found legitimate sources of Ibori’s extra funds, why then did Ibori plead guilty? Only Ibori or those who persecuted him could proffer that answer – Ribadu had accused some oil majors of laundering money for Ibori in the guise of business payments in the Financial Times of London in Sept. 2007, and even Saharareporters.com published a story: “How Ibori Bought A Private Jet” – all lies that were known as lies when they were told. Why? Answer: Politics runs through Ibori’s travails.
--Eluemunor, award-winning journalist, was spokesman to Ibori
RE: Tinubu Should Watch It!
By Sunday Dare
Olusegun Adeniyi’s capsule piece of advice last Thursday October 25th, 2012 is no doubt a veiled attack on the person of Asiwaju Tinubu and to some extent some of the ideals the man has stood and fought for in the last two decades. Segun’s piece though couched in the form of an advice is a vicious attempt to portray Tinubu as a power grabbing and implacable individual in the eyes of the public. This portrayal of Tinubu we know is not true. And for Segun, It is a role he is not well suited for. It is also an attack in bad taste and devoid of logical reasoning. My friend, perhaps in order to swim with the tide and join the tribe of Tinubu bashers and haters made some outrageous assertions and reached some questionable conclusions that hold no water. In the end, the advice he sought to offer became muddled in the obfuscation of facts and pandering evident in his piece.
While Segun is well within his right to offer his opinion on developments around the Ondo elections and other issues for that matter, his liberty to falsify the truth, demonize others and clothe others yet in the garb of saints within the evolving south west politics can indeed be questioned. His feeble attempt to prop up the likes of Ayo Adebanjo, Olu Falae and even Olu Agunloye as authentic leaders of the Yoruba people is laughable and challengeable. In a spirited attempt to paint Tinubu and the people he calls his henchmen as intolerant of political opposition, Segun fails the minimum test of objectivity. The same characters he is in a hurry to defend and find a soft landing for have been known to hurl all kind of insults and allegations against Tinubu, Bisi Akande and other Action Congress Chieftains. They have been known to work against the interest of the Yoruba people. They are the ones the Yoruba like to describe as “Arije ninu madaru”, that is scavengers in the corridor of power who hover around ready to profit from any crisis. Yes, these may once-upon-a-time have been respected political leaders. But they are clearly stuck in the past and have refused to adjust to changing times. In 2003, these leaders publicly endorsed all Governors of the Alliance for Democracy (AD) for re-election except Tinubu in Lagos.
Yet, at the end of the PDP blietzkrieg in the South West, all the Governors supported by the Afenifere leaders were vanquished by the PDP. Tinubu remained the only man standing. Despite the atrocities that took place during the Gbenga Daniel Administration in Ogun State, the so called respectable leaders backed him till he was sent packing from office by the people. The politics of these ‘respected elders’ is not driven by principles or ideology. It is the very Tinubu they love to denigrate that courageously and doggedly led the struggle to reclaim the South West from the PDP and restore Awo’s legacy that Obasanjo was so bent on erasing in the region. Yet, they never cease to proclaim their commitment to Awo’s ideology from the rooftops even while hobnobbing with those whose politics or philosophy has nothing in common with Awo.
How Segun reached the conclusion that these are respected political leaders beats me. What have they done to deserve such appellation? The story of their betrayal of the people for mere porridge will be told another day. But for now, no one, not even Segun who should know better should try at this point to clothe his ‘respected elders’ in borrowed robe. If there is bound to be differing political views and positions, it is legitimate to let both sides deploy whatever they have to gain political advantage. The group that trounces the other should not be pilloried for being victorious. To seek to lampoon Tinubu and his group for their resolute decision not to party with Segun’s “Yoruba Leaders” is to play to the gallery. Just as they have their reasons for parting ways with Tinubu, so also does Tinubu have his own reasons which you cannot deny or demonize him for? Olu Agunloye, a plant by Mimiko in the build up to the Ondo election was since unmasked by the leadership of the Action Congress who chose to play along.
After Olu Agunloye failed to cash in the bogus N250 million naira he claimed to have spent on his gubernatorial ambition from Tinubu in Lagos, he returned to his benefactor, Mimiko. By borrowing Ogbeni’s Omoluabi ideology, Agunloye perfected a conduit to fleece governor Aregbesola. How could ACN have entrusted its ticket to a man who was Chief Bola Ige’s Special Adviser as Minister of power and yet went ahead to accept a Ministerial appointment from the Obasanjo government after his boss was assassinated in questionable circumstances? For the Falae’s of this world, the real reason they fell apart with Tinubu is one left for another day and the story will soon be told. Many of us would fight to resist all attempts, whether overt or covert to clothe members of the reactionary wing of the Yoruba nation in borrowed garbs.
Tinubu has not denied any of these people their right to decide the party they want to belong to. And this is why they are in the Labour Party and the People’s Democratic Party now. What he has done is to let them know that he will not party with them. Also, as it is the norm in politics, he has also made attempts to bring them over. Tinubu and his “henchmen” as Segun describes them have also responded to media and verbal attacks on their position. That is the nature and essence of politics. For Segun to seek now to demonize Tinubu and hold forth for the so-called respected Yoruba leaders is too late in the day.
The people know who their real leaders are and no amount of elite sophistry or journalistic punditry can change that. Segun also sought to defend Mimiko. Rather than ask pertinent questions and stay with the substance of the issue at hand between Tinubu and Mimiko, Segun chose to berate Tinubu for raining insults on Mimiko. Hear Segun: “And then Mimiko himself had to endure all manner of insults from Tinubu and his men for no reason other than he refused to join ACN. The charge against him was that he ‘betrayed Tinubu’ and nobody told us how, except for some nebulous claim of nebulous claim of ‘forensic assistance’ when he was prosecuting his case at the tribunal. Now what is that?” Haba Segun! That you as a journalist of intellectual pedigree would choose to deliberately ignore the facts and seek to dismiss the rift between Tinubu and Mimiko in such dishonest language rankles the brain. Perhaps Segun should educate us more about this issue since he seems to know more than some of us. Was Segun there when Tinubu and Mimiko struck a deal? Only Tinubu and Mimiko know what transpired. Beyond that, there are very close Tinubu and even Mimiko associates who were privy to what happened in those months: the monies expended on the forensics, and legal assistance to prosecute his case .
The Yorubas in their wisdom assert that even though the man that was assisted may forget, the man who offered the assistance will never forget. Why are we afraid to call a spade a spade? Mimiko betrayed Tinubu and that is the word for it-political betrayal. Period! The mere fact that he has denied it and has lined up a choir to help sing the denial chorus does not change the facts as they are or wash off the act of betrayal. I hope sincerely that my friend Segun has not become one of those who routinely break their word. It is thus for him no big deal if someone else does so. But Tinubu cannot be blamed for believing that for any man of honour, his word should be his bond. Mimiko went back on his word and thereby betrayed the ACN leadership after benefitting from their material and moral support in his hour of need. The orchestrated attempt to blackmail Tinubu and the ACN on this issue using the media is at best a journey in futility.
On this particular matter, Segun is neither here nor there and that worries me. His foray into the open field on this matter is a dangerous one and will win him no laurels from either side. It will portray him as one journalist who frets. His teeming readers expect him to bring better illumination and more rigorous work into his writing on this issue. His last piece falls way below the standard already set by Segun in his work and raises more questions than it tried to answer.
*Sunday Dare is Special Adviser on Media to Tinubu.
NOTE: The Verdict According to Olusegun Adeniyi will be back next week.