Ibori Honoured for Developing Ijawland

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• Lawyers detail police corruption at London Appeal Court hearing

The Ijaw nation rallied at a reception in Akugbene Town at the weekend to honour former Governor of Delta State, Chief James Onanefe Ibori, with a chieftaincy title for the developmental strides he brought to the Akugbene town, the Ijaw nation and the entire state during his governorship tenure from 1999 to 2007.

Ibori’s Media Assistant, Tony Eluemunor, said in a statement that Ibori was particularly touched by this uncommon gesture of gratitude that came his way good eleven years after he had left office.

Eluemunor said in the statement that the people of Akugbene reminded the former while conferring the title of Izonfini-Owei of Ijaw on him that until he built the 612 metres long Bomadi Bridge over River Forcados, at the cost $50 million, cars had no access to the Bomadi Local Government Area and it other 11 communities, namely: Ogriagbene, Esama, Akugbene, Bomadi, Kpakiama, Ekamuta-gbene, Azebiri, Ogodobiri, Okoloba and Kalafuo-gbene.

The bridge made possible the first road connection between the Ijaw mainland and the riverine areas.

 By June 2005 when the bridge was completed, no other state government in Nigeria had built a bridge of such magnitude anywhere in Nigeria. Governor of Delta State, Senator Ifeanyi Okowa, thus saidon Saturday that “Chief James Ibori’s relentless developmental stride while in office has lessened the means for people to access riverine communities of the state.”

Okowa Speaking at Akugbene Town during the 20th coronation anniversary of Kalanama VIII the Pere of Akugbene-Mein Kingdom, Stanley P. Luke, expressed joy that he and his entourage were able to access the Akugbene town by road network unlike in the past when the town could only be reached by the water way: “I must thank our leader, former Governor James Ibori, who because he is a courageous and bold man, he took on a project at that time that was nearly impossible for state governments to undertake.

 Chairman of the occasion and former Deputy Speaker of the House of Representative, Hon Austin Okpara, hailed Ibori for making the first step that opened up Ijaw land.

He told Ibori: “I feel very proud to see you honoured by the Ijaws over 10 years after you left office for building the famous Bomadi Bridge. Congrats sir. This is what I call true honour. God bless you, sir.”

 Luke in his address thanked Governor Ifeanyi Okowa, Ibori ,Okpara and his subjects for the rousing turnout in his 20th coronation anniversary celebration.

Kalanama VIII said the crowd no doubt, marvelous because the town can now be accessed by road, thanking Ibori for constructing the bridge at Bomadi which he said have opened up almost all the communities in the area. Kalanama VIII later presented a plague titled Izon-finiowei to Ibori and other plagues to some deserving sons and friends of the kingdom.

The N4.84 Bomadi bridge was the first of three others in all three senatorial districts of the state; Omadinor, Igbukuland  and Olomo – linking the Itsekiri, Ndokwa and Urhobo mainland to their riverine areas.

In another development, the Court of Appeal hearing in the Ibori London and associates cases continued at the weekend.

Ibori’s legal team increased the heat on DC John McDonald who started the British investigation with DC Peter Clarke and played a pivotal role in the attempted confiscation proceedings.

Since 2007, Ibori’s lawyers and those of all other parties have repeatedly claimed McDonald’s investigations were wholly deficient and failed to uncover any evidence of theft from Delta State.

Instead DC McDonald and his colleagues built a case on inferences under a case called R (Regina) v Anwoir. 

The case was thus based on their prejudicial and incompetent interpretations as the case had to do with terrorism money as opposed to corruption charges.

Eluemunor’s statement specifically said DC McDonald’s team failed to approach any of the key individuals or offices in Delta State or the alleged remitting banks to support their claims.

Significantly, DC McDonald’s team failed to investigate any of Ibori’s legitimate wealth. 

They ignored all the relevant evidence that he had businesses and so other legitimate sources of income while he was governor.

Most of all, though there were strong suspicions around McDonald’s investigations between 2007 and 2011 but the prosecution, led by Sasha Wass and Esther Schutzer-Weissman, ignored the evidence in the case including the evidence of legitimate wealth.  In turn they repeatedly misled the Court. 

Even today, the Ccourts and public are misled with figures of £90 million allegedly stolen by Ibori.

This is designed to prejudice the public perception.

Unknown to Ibori or any of the defendants at the time, was that the Met police had commenced an internal anti-police corruption investigation into DC McDonald and RISC Management in early 2007 and got a substantial intelligence of wrong doing by McDonald.

This investigation, called Operation Limonium, included covert tactics of monitoring McDonald’s telephone and the mounting of a full scale covert surveillance operation after receiving high grade and reliable telephone intercepts of calls in which Cliff Knuckey of RISC Management Limited boasted of paying McDonald £5,000 at a London pub.

It was only in 2013, that the police then uncovered a mountain of significant evidence of corruption including, telephone contact, numerous corrupt payments, but this was disclosed to the defence only in 2016.

Jonathon Kinnear, acting for the Crown, submitted to the court that the handwritten note from Michael McCrone of the CPS dated a November 5, 2014 conference.

He confirmed that this had disclosed/made available to all counsel. The CPS knew of Limonium as early as Feb 2012 but failed to disclose this. 

The legal teams were allowed a maximum of 25 pages to present their client’s appeal including an order from the court that the font size should not be smaller than 12 points.

Several of the legal teams were not allowed funding for lead counsel, only junior barristers and there was no funding for solicitors. 

The legal teams were allotted the following time to make their submissions for appealing, James Ibori three hours, Onuigo/Christine Ibori one hour and De Boer 1 hour.