Right of reply By Tony Eluemunor
Mr. Simon Kolawole’s “The Welcome Party for Ibori”(THISDAY Sunday 25th December 2016), broached several topics and reached several wrong conclusions as he condemned the widespread celebrations when Ibori exited UK jail. I’ll face the ex-convict case now and tackle the others later. Kolawole wrote: “The 1995 conviction by an Abuja area court was a thriller. The name of the convict was James Onanefe Ibori. In 2004, he denied being the same person and court records would soon be blurred. The judge who passed the sentence identified him as the convict. But all the way to the Supreme Court, our judiciary ruled that it must be another James Onanefe Ibori.
My reply: It was disingenuous for Kolawole to reduce a most complicated suit to a simple matter that should have totally depended on the words of a lay judge of a “magistrate court” who had actually been arrested by the Police for doctoring another person’s conviction to look like Ibori’s.
As the allegation that Ibori was convicted in 1995 emerged three weeks after the Peoples Democratic Party convention, January 2003, on which Kolawole posited that Ibori was among the PDP Governors opposed to former President Olusegun Obasanjo’s re-election, Ibori petitioned the President that as he was never arraigned in that court, a fake conviction was in circulation and prayed that the perpetrators be fished out and punished. Obasanjo sent the petition to the Police and a controversial case was in full swing! So from day one Ibori denied that he was never tried in that court!
Late Chief Gani Fawenhinmi represented the plaintiffs, and his only witness, Alhaji Awwal Yusuf, the lay judge at the Bwari Upper Area Court in 1995, said “I have no doubt in my mind that it was James Onanefe Ibori that was convicted on Case number CR-81-95”.
On Monday July 5, 2004, Milton Paul Ohwovoriole (SAN) (for Ibori) cross-examined Yusuf: “If you see exhibit C (the record of your court) you will be able to recognize it.”
Yusuf: “Yes”. Ohwovoriole bid him read out the court records from page 441. Yusuf complied: “CR-81-95 was registered 28/9/95 as Commissioner of Police versus Shuaibu Anyebe of Security, Bwari. The next date was 5/10/95 in CR-83-95. The next date again is October 13 with CR -84-95. The prosecutor was Sabo of Kawu. The next is 17/10/95, in CR -85-95, involving Mallam Adamu Mohammed of Lugbe village. Next is 19/10/95, CR-86-95, Barau Ayade versus Dogonyaro Akau, next is 20/10/95, in CR- 87-95, involving Elambu Auta versus Danjuma Medeji and Yerima Akusu. The complaint was enticement.”
So, from Yusuf’s own court records with no alterations, and read out by Yusuf himself, Ibori’s name wasn’t in any First Information Report (FIR). So, how did two judgments from that court, with same exact number; CR-81-95 – Commissioner of Police versus Shuabu Anyebe, and Police Commissioner versus Ibori emerge? One of them must be forged.
Judge Hussein Mukhtar of Abuja High Court Five, ruled that the judgment was a crude forgery, and itemized 25 contradictions against Yusuf. The Appeal Court believed him.
Justice Dahiru Musdapher’s lead Supreme Court judgment noted: “The appellants also pleaded as per paragraphs 11,13,14 and 15… of their statement of claims as follows:“11. At the time of his conviction on the 28/9/1995 James Onanefe Ibori now Governor of Delta State, was a sub-contractor to SPIBAT Nigeria Ltd at Lower Usuma Dam near Bwari at the Federal Capital Territory Abuja. The appellants unfortunately led no evidence in proof of these averments.
Both lower courts (High and Appeal courts) considered the pleadings and the evidence led by the plaintiffs and rightly came to the conclusion that they failed to prove the identity of the convict aforesaid”.
Musdapher noted: “3. The pages in the proceedings in the record book are not continuous as would be expected, but is found on many pages on unused lines or remnants of pages covering proceedings of several days”.
This is the most telling sign that the judgment was cooked up. In the notebook where the judge wrote his decision, he began from the middle of a page beneath the entry of another judgment instead of following the normal practice of starting on a fresh page. Worse still, at the end of that page he skipped about ten pages before he continued his judgement on the so-called Ibori case. In the intervening pages, he had written other judgments. The result was that the continuation of the Ibori judgement came after the judgments he supposedly delivered in October 1995. Yet, he allegedly decided the Ibori case on September 28. And Kolawole wants us to swear by this man’s testimony! Why could he not just write on continuous pages if it was not forged?
Justice Musdapher noted: “(c) No evidence of the complainant”.
But unlike the Anyebe case where the complainant made a statement to the Police, there was no statement from any complainant on the Ibori case, and not a page was missing from the Police Complaint Book of the Bwari Police station or the Police Post at Lower Usuma Dam.
Musdapher: “(d) No evidence of the Police officer who received the complaint, the Investigating Police Officer, the Prosecutor, etc”. Could Yusuf, Islamic studies graduate who had been in the Education Department of Niger State until 1990 when he transferred his services to FCT as an Upper Area Court (magistrate court equivalent in the South), had by 2003 known more about trials than Fawehinmi? If the answer is no, then why did Fawehinmi fail to call the Police Commissioner, the Court Registrar, the other Judge, the Police Prosecutor, etc, as witnesses, even after Yusuf had mentioned them?
As the Ibori case was not reported to a police station, it had no complainant, was never investigated or brought to court by any police officer. This is why the case has no First Information Report (FIR) number. Yes, Yusuf had named one Corporal Sunday Musa as the person who brought the FIR to his court but testified in Delta State Electoral Tribunal, Asaba, that he never investigated any Ibori case; but that he investigated the Anyebe case!
On page 294 of the Record of Appeal, Awwal Yusuf, the Bwari court lay judge, said: 1; “Amongst the six FIRs, five of the accused persons pleaded guilty” and were convicted except Monica Lewinsky (that is no misprint- the American lady linked with Bill Clinton). On page 296 Yusuf continued: iii: “All the FIRs brought that day were registered. IV: I know the FIR No. of Shuaibu Anyebe; it was CR-81-95. The six FIRs brought were registered. It is not correct to say that only five were registered. It is not correct that it was Shuaibu Anyebe that was convicted on the FIR No. CR-81-95” only to say, (page 312) “the case of Commissioner of Police Versus James Ibori was not registered that day but it exists.” Contradictions galore!
Yet, Kolawole made it look as if Ibori was accused of theft and not “criminal negligence” as Anybe was also accused. That was a lie! The charge was that Ibori was a sub-contractor to SPIBAT construction firm when “workers under him stole N110 million worth of “zinc asbestos” in 1995? SPIBAT constructed the Lower Usuma Dam from 1981 to 84 and was gone by the turn of that decade. And official Abuja Water Board records show that the Abuja dam started supplying water to the FCT in 1987. So, no construction was happening there by 1995!
There was another devilish tale from Yusuf himself in his 7/2/03 final Police Statement that the Usuma Lower Dam Veterinary building was to be roofed with the 55,000 bundles of “zinc asbestos” That is the quantity of zinc worth N110m at the 1995 rate of N2,000 per bundle.
When we remember that while the Police dilly-dallied, a suit was filled seeking: “A declaration that the Chief James Onanefe Ibori, by virtue of his conviction and sentence in Case No. CR/81/95 is not qualified to carry the (PDP’s) flag as its Gubernatorial candidate in the 2003 elections within the meaning of sections 182 (1) (e) of the 1999 constitution”, it becomes plain that it was a politically motivated case.
So, the forgery was to stop Ibori’s 2003 re-election as Delta State Governor. Kolawole forgot that Segun Adeniyi and Cletus Akwaya of THISDAY newspaper then visited Shuaibu Anyebe, recorded him on tape and snapped pictures with him; and obtained the receipt with which he paid his fine in lieu of going to jail for case number CR-81-95. When this first attempt to stop Ibori politically failed, others continued until Ibori was forced to flee Nigeria to save his endangered life. The Niger Delta people and other Ibori well-wishers know Ibori faced political persecution and not prosecution, they know about the trumped up charges against him such as this ex-convict case. So they celebrate even the mere fact that he is alive today, very lustily and without apologies.
• Tony Eluemunor adapted this article from his unpublished book: “March of Justice; the whole truth of the Ibori ex-convict case.”