Met with DSS on arrival in Abuja
Omon-Julius Onabu in Oghara, Dele Ogbodo in Abuja, Adibe Emenyonu in Benin City, and Sylvester Idowu in Warri
In an extraordinary demonstration of affection, friends and relatives of Chief James Ibori came out in their thousands yesterday to receive him as he returned to Nigeria after serving a jail term in Britain. His arrival was greeted with wild jubilation at his Oghara home, in Delta State, in an emotional welcome home event organised by his kinsmen, supporters, and political associates.
The former Delta State governor met with the Department of State Services in Abuja on his arrival at the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport aboard a British Airways plane. DSS director-general, Lawal Daura, who confirmed the meeting, told newsmen, “He met me for a short debriefing session and way forward. Also, to welcome him back to his fatherland. We are also meeting soon to discuss issues of interest affecting the nation.”
Oghara, the capital of Ethiope East Local Government Area, had been electrified since the people got wind of Ibori’s imminent return following his release from prison last December 21. But his appearance yesterday in the town about 3.30pm, in a convoy, brought the community to a fever pitch. The town was agog with jubilation as the crowd of kinsmen and associates of the former governor sang and danced from Oghara junction, along the Warri-Benin expressway, where they had waited for him, to his country house. The crowds erupted into a loud and long session of praise songs and prayers as the convoy entered the palatial compound.
Leading the praise and prayer session were the pioneer chairman of Delta State chapter of the Peoples Democratic Party, Chief Pius Sinebe, and other PDP members in the state. Among them were Chief Ighoyota Amori, Chief Ben Ibakpa, and Chief Ejaife Odebala, who is the chairman of Sapele Local Government Area. As they sang, prayed and praised, they shouted, “Our great leader is back!”
There were musicians and musical stands at different locations to entertain people.
Security operatives, especially the police and youths wearing blue-and-white uniforms specially designed for the occasion, had a hectic time controlling the crowd.
Although, Ibori was earlier rumoured to be arriving home via the Osubi Airstrip at Okpe near Warri, he came through the Benin airport from where a long motorcade accompanied him to his Oghara residence, passing through the Oghara Township Stadium to Ibori Road. A large crowd that had been waiting for hours at Osubi Airstrip immediately dispersed after learning that the ex-governor had flown to the Benin Airport.
Those who were at the Osubi airport to receive the former governor included council chairmen, members of the state House of Assembly, appointed office holders, traditional rulers, and youths. Among them were the Secretary to the State Government, Victor Ovie Agas; Commissioner for Environment, John Nani; chairman of Sapele council area, Ejaefe Odebala; chairman of Ethiope West, Solomon Golley; chairman of Okpe council area, Prince Godwin Ejinyere.
Others were the managing director of Delta State Oil Producing Areas Development Commission, William Makinde; a commissioner on the board of DESOPADEC, Pius Ovbije (POC); senior special assistant to the governor, Chief Emmanuel Ighomena; national president of the UK branch of Urhobo Progress Union, Chief Emmanuel Ganiga; chairman of Delta State Independent Electoral Commission, Mr Moses Ogbe; and member representing Okpe constituency in the Delta State House of Assembly, Sheriff Oborevwori.
Apparently, the crowd of relatives and friends awaited a rousing speech from Ibori. But on arrival at his residence, he entered his sitting room to acknowledge thundering cheers from the people, including children who had managed to squeeze themselves into the not-so-spacious living room. He was taken inside shortly afterward by some close associates, who pleaded with the people to let him have some rest after a tedious journey from the United Kingdom.
There was a conspicuous absence of PDP national officers in all the reception for Ibori, who wielded a lot of influence in the party before his troubles started.
But an aide of Ibori, Chief Ighoyota Amori, who was senator for Delta Central senatorial district, said the return of the former governor was an important development for Delta politics.
Amori said, “We are happy that Ibori is back, people are jubilating, the crowd you are seeing here, the enthusiasm that has been displayed today show that we really missed him.
“This is the only way for us to appreciate that our leader who left us long ago is back. His coming is the beginning of so many good things to come. By his presence today, l am sure, we are gaining back all we have lost.
“Ibori remains in the Peoples Democratic Party, but it is not time to discuss politics, all his followers around are members of PDP.”
Also speaking to newsmen, Mr Lovett Idisi, member representing Ethiope East and Ethiope West Federal Constituency, thanked God for the safe return Of Ibori. “We prayed that all our PDP fateful should be steadfast now that we have pure political direction. Their support has not been in vain, I believe now that our leader is out, we will now have a sense of direction, we are sheep with shepherd right now. In my constituency, we now have somebody to consult without travelling overseas.”
Ibori was governor of Delta State from May 29, 1999 to May 29 2007. He was arrested by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission on December 12, 2007 and charged with theft of public funds, abuse of office, and money laundering. However, in December 2009, a federal high court sitting in Asaba discharged and acquitted him of all the charges of corruption brought against him by EFCC.
But in 2010, about three months after former President Goodluck Jonathan came to power, Ibori was again accused of embezzling N40 billion while serving as governor of Delta State. In April 2010, he, reportedly, fled Nigeria, prompting EFCC to request the assistance of Interpol. He was arrested on May 13, 2010 in Dubai by Interpol following an international arrest warrant issued by the United Kingdom.
Ibori fought against his extradition to the UK and sought political asylum in Dubai, which he was not granted, prompting his extradition to the UK in 2012 to face corruption and money laundering charges. He was on April 17, 2012 sentenced to 13 years imprisonment by Southwark Crown Court, which were to run concurrently and include the period he spent in jail in the United Arab Emirates. His houses, luxury cars and other properties were also confiscated.