Waiting for Ibori’s Release

with  Eddy Odivwri 
eddy.odivwri@thisdaylive.com   08053069356

It was only last Monday that the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) revived its nerves to revisit the case of former governor of Abia State, Mr Orji Uzor Kalu who was arraigned on a 34-count charge bothering on the diversion of over N3.2 billion from the Abia State Government’s treasury during  his tenure as governor. He was charged along with his former Finance Commissioner, Jones Ude, and his private company, Slok Nigeria Ltd.

Kalu was in the Class of ’99 Governors.
When that set of governors stepped down in 2007, after their two-terms, not less than fifteen of the governors were arrested, detained and arraigned at the time for various cases of fraud and barefaced looting of public treasury. The malaise continued with the next set of governors, many of who stepped down in 2007 and 2011.
The EFCC, it seems relishes in sensationalising the arrest and arraignment of politically exposed persons with the undeclared aim of demonising them before the public and after achieving the media hype that usually follows such arraignments, then the EFCC either settles down to investigate the cases proper, or realises that the evidence required to nail the accused persons is as elusive as virgins in maternity wards.  Were it not so, how come since 2003/2007/2011, the EFCC has not quite succeeded in convicting a single former governor, despite the sometimes obvious cases of the rape of the public till by the former governors. The only person seemingly convicted in what looked like a slap on the wrist was Chief Lucky Igbinedion, then governor of Edo State who had to go on a plea bargain in a clearly warped “arrangee” judicial faux pas.
Till date, the Jolly Nyames (Taraba), Joshua Dariyes (Plateau), Saminu Turakis (Jigawa),  Chimaroke Nnamanis (Enugu), Ali Modu Sherifs (Borno),  Boni Harunas and Murtala Nyakos (Adamawa), Attahiru Bafarawas (Sokoto), Rasheed Ladojas and Christopher Alao-Akalas (Oyo); Gbenga Daniels (Ogun), Achike Udenwas (Imo) etc. etc., have continued to trudge on unhindered in the Nigerian political space with some having moved over to the senate to become distinguished lawmakers, or simply stayed back at home to be political regents of some sort. Today, they call the shots and dictate the political rhythm of the land. What happened to all the trailer-load of accusations against them? Were they frivolous? Or they just mastered the act of settling or stalling the judicial process?
In fact, one of them, Peter Odili, former governor of Rivers State had secured a perpetual injunction since 2007, forbidding anybody from questioning how he ruled the rich oil state for eight years. It is only now that the EFCC is mulling the idea of challenging that injunction.
But there was one unlucky (?) former governor: James Ibori, who governed Delta State for eight years. He was a charming governor, with great prospect for higher national service. The agitation for power rotation in the country at the time had silently triggered some undeclared war of intrigues among the leading political characters in the South-south geo-political zone at the time.
Like his colleagues, he too was accused of stealing plenty of government money for which he was arrested and locked up in Kaduna prison.  He was prosecuted and an Asaba High court declared that he was innocent of the 72-count charge against him. Many did not believe the verdict. He was ordered rearrested.
Fearing that another trial had extra carbon input of political opponents, he fled the country, hoping   that he would be better protected by the laws of strangers than that of his fatherland.  He was wrong. The conspiracy of the outside world ensured that his ensconced stay in Dubai was shattered. He was then and there arrested and the rest became history. It was one fall for the Ogidigboigbo that shook the political landscape in Nigeria. Like the fall of a Shakespearan hero, Ibori pulled several acolytes like his sister, wife, mistress and even lawyer along with him into the British prison.
But in about half a dozen weeks from now, that history will go into the second episode. He is almost done serving the term and so should be out of the prison shortly. But there is a snag: there is the yet-to-be-concluded asset-confiscation case.
Worse still, the British establishment has long realised that the Ibori case was more political than it was judicial. They have since found that even the so-called investigation that led to the arrest and prosecution and eventual conviction lacked in substance and evidence. They have found that even the prosecuting officers were compromised. So were the police. They received bribes to make the case against Ibori look so red. The British government now seems to be in a bind on the Ibori case. That also explains why for the third year running, the asset-confiscation case has not made any progress, unlike the “wash-and-take” speed of the money laundering case.
All the investigative and Prosecution officers in the case, led by the duo of Ms Sasha Wass (QC) and Esther Schutzer-Weismann were all dismissed from the Ibori case earlier in the year. Their offence: they misled the court of appeal, the Southwark Crown Court, the Administrative Court in taking wrong judicial actions and decisions. They also refused to disclose evidence of bribery and corruption against the British Police, presenting a blatantly false case against Mr Bhadresh Gohil, Ibori’s lawyer.
In fact, for helping to lengthen Ghohil’s detention in prison based on the unprofessional conduct of the prosecutors, Ghohil was awarded twenty thousand pounds damages recently.
Clearer and bolder, it is becoming almost certain that the British government put the cart before the horse by hastily jailing Ibori before looking for the elusive incriminating evidence against him. As it stands, the British government is worried and even angry that the Fourteen Million pounds it spent in investigating and jailing Ibori cannot be recovered from the many alleged assets of Ibori.
The fact that the cases of corruption have been established against the British Police and the fact that the prosecuting team compromised ethical standards by withholding vital information, is helping those who have served their jail terms like Ibori’s sister, wife, mistress etc, to consider appealing their convictions, for a review of the cases. Indeed, a British judge was said to have declared that the wrong man (Ibori) was in jail. Corroborating, Gohil had declared that what happened was “egregious miscarriage of justice”.
So the question is if the British government did not have their facts against Ibori, why the wild hype that sensationalised the case to the high heavens?  Pray, with what evidence was Ibori jailed if the British government is only now scouting for the incriminating facts? And this is why the asset-declaration case seems jinxed as there is no supportive evidence to drive the prosecution. Nigerians, nay the judicial public is watching to see the tweak the British government will apply to this case.
All things considered, Ibori’s return or at least release from prison is being awaited with bated breath not only by his family, but by his many fans, hoping however that political studs are not thrown into the works hereafter by those who feel the return of Ibori will rework the political equations of our polity.


Niger Delta: 16 steps to Eldorado?

Hurray! At last, there is light at the end of the tunnel.

Which light? Which tunnel?

I am talking about the coming peace in the Niger Delta.

What gives you that confidence?

Did you not hear that the leaders of the Niger Delta region including the five state governors met with President Muhammadu Buhari and eventually agreed on how to move the region forward? Is that not reassuring enough to hope that peace and tranquility and progress are in sight?

My brother, you are merely swimming in the pool of assumption. It does not work that way. The leaders went to present 16 demands to the federal government, with the assumption that meeting the demands will achieve peace and development in the region. But let me ask you, did the Niger Delta leaders consult the raging militants before going to the meeting? Or did any of the six militant groups in the region send any known representative(s) to the meeting so we can be sure that their demands or grouse were taken care of in the 16-point demand? And don’t be too excited about the coming peace. We have travelled these roads before. Or did you not hear that the militants blew up another pipeline 24 hours after the supposed peace meeting? What does that tell you? And if you understand the body language of Mr President, you will understand that the 16-point demand is a mere wishful shopping list. There is no guarantee that they will be met. Or what did you think when Mr President declared that there are no quick fixes to the problems?

Look, while I appreciate your critical analysis, I do not share in your pessimism. The people who attended the meeting are respected leaders of the region. The militants cannot but defer to them. After all, agbero get oga.

Are you implying that the leaders who attended the meeting are the bosses of the militants?

Don’t put words into my mouth. I did not say so!

My brother, the sensation that followed the amnesty plan in 2008 was far higher than this. We thought with that plan, the final solution to the Niger Delta crisis had been found. Go and ask people like Timi Alaibe and he will show you the bigger picture of the sustainable peace plan at the time. But what did we see? Soon as government increased oil exports, they cancelled the other phases of the amnesty plan. Disarmament and rehabilitation of ex-militants was just one phase. The actual infrastructural development of the region, as well as institutionalising socio-metrics of growth in the region were ignored. And today, we are back to point origin.

But Timi Alaibe was in the team that went last Tuesday. And the quest to develop the region beyond infrastructural tokenism was mentioned as part of the 16-point demand. So why are you scared that this move will not take us to the Eldorado of the region? Don’t you trust Buhari?

Why should I trust Buhari? Do you trust him yourself? But it is not a question of trust. Yes, demands have been made, what promises were made by the government? And did you also notice that the representation was skewed? Not many of the oil-bearing communities were well represented in the delegation. I did not see any representatives from Ndokwa or Isoko in Delta State, or don’t you know they are huge producers of crude as well? And pray, why were the oil companies themselves not represented in the meeting? Are they not critical stakeholders?

It is called a representative meeting. Not town hall meeting. Did you not see Professor G.G Darah in the meeting? Is he not a respected leader from the Urhobo/Kwale/Isoko axis? Everybody didn’t have to be there. I think what should worry us is how the leaders will put pressure on the government so they can implement some of the demands. Ibe Kachikwu, the Minister of state for Petroleum, himself a Niger Delta son, has assured that the discussions between government and the representatives were frank and it provides enough point to take back to the drawing board.

That is the problem: that drawing board! Why do they keep going back to that drawing board where no shape comes from? Who is in charge of that drawing board that keeps producing vexatious void? Let them stop going to the drawing board. They should go to the field. They should build the roads and bridges, build the schools, build the hospitals, build the business environment, train and employ our youths, provide water and make life worth living in the region. With a good disposition to solving these problems, the NDDC and the Ministry of Niger Delta should be better funded to deliver much more than these tokenistic droppings we see. No one who lives by the bank of the river is expected to wash his/her hands with spittle. That is the task. There is enough groundwork done in the past, like the Niger Delta master plan launched in 2007, that should form the basis of action. So Kachikwu and his boss should find their way back to the field, not the drawing board. That is the only way the 16 steps can lead to the region’s El Dorado. Anything short of this honest task guide will take us back to point origin.

But you must tell the militants to not only sheathe their swords but also give peace a long chance.

These militants don’t have swords. They have GPMG, bombs and technical arsenals. They are human. They know when the government is sincere or not. They are watching and checking. I believe all shall be well.