ANALYSIS: Ibori’s return, SSS and Niger Delta question

James Ibori
James Ibori

The return of James Ibori, former governor of Delta State, from the United Kingdom, has raised concerns about his post-prison and political life.

The former governor, who last December left a London prison where he spent five and half years, flew into Nigeria last Saturday morning.

He was driven straight to the office of the Director General of the State Security Service, SSS, Lawal Daura, with whom he held talks before proceeding to his home town, Oghara, where he received a huge crowd of relatives and political associates.

Mr. Ibori’s visit to the SSS instead of the EFCC immediately raised questions. What could the Buhari administration be doing with a member of the opposition PDP who had just concluded a jail term for corruption?

Mr. Daura’s refusal to disclose the reasons fueled those speculations. The DG merely confirmed he met with the former governor.

“He (Ibori) 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,” the chief spymaster said.

Mr. Ibori’s spokesperson, Tony Eluemunor, told PREMIUM TIMES he was not aware of what his principal discussed with Mr. Daura. He however ruled out politics.

But government sources have however told PREMIUM TIMES one of the main national issues Mr. Daura referred to was the tension in the Niger Delta region from where Mr. Ibori hails.

Renewed tension in the oil-rich region has in the recent past given the Nigerian government sleepless nights.

The region has been on the boil since last year with restive youth blowing up pipelines and other oil and gas installations thereby threatening the nation’s major source of revenue.

A new militant group, the Niger Delta Avengers, which declared its goal to cripple Nigeria’s economy, has claimed responsibility for several attacks that directly cut oil production and revenue for the government.

The Nigerian government’s effort to contain the hostilities failed. Peace talks initiated by the Nigerian government suffered setbacks.

Revenue to a government plummeted as production decreased from about 2. 2 million barrel per day to about 1.3m bpd. At some point, Angola surpassed Nigeria as the largest producer of oil in Sub-Saharan Africa. Nigeria also had the falling prices of oil in the international market to contend with.

In November, as part of the moves aimed at resolving renewed militancy, the Niger Delta leaders led by a former Federal Commissioner for Information, Edwin Clark, met with President Muhammadu Buhari at the Presidential Villa during which they presented a 16-point demand.

Some of the demands presented by the leaders of the region where Mr. Buhari’s predecessor, Goodluck Jonathan comes from, were the need for the enforcement of zero gas flaring deadline, immediate relocation of the administrative and operational headquarters of the International Oil Companies to the Niger Delta, resolution of a number of pending laws and justice issues regarding some aggrieved groups and individuals.

They also asked for the restructuring and funding of the Niger Delta Development Authority, the approval of the maritime university in Delta State and award of pipeline surveillance contracts to the communities.

Mr. Buhari had earlier announced an interventionist programme by his administration to launch a $10 billion infrastructural investment programme in the oil-bearing region. This is besides implementing the UNEP clean-up programme in Ogoni, Rivers State and retaining the Amnesty Programme for former former militants.

Last month, Vice President Yemi Osinbajo began an official tour of the region with a visit first to Delta State during which he assured that the maritime university had come to stay.

According to his itinerary, the vice president is billed to visit other parts of the region, comprising Akwa Ibom, Bayelsa, Delta, Cross River, Edo and Rivers States, all of which make up the South-South geo-political zone.

Peacemaker for a troubled region?

The jubilation and excitement that greeted Mr. Ibori’s release last December and eventual return to Nigeria could have convinced the ruling All Progressive Congress-led federal administration that he could be a figure to work with to ensure peace in the region and ultimately allow money flow into the troubled national economy.

Since the former governor’s return, his political associates have been thronging his country home in Oghara in Ethiope West Local Government Area of the state to pay him their respect. Among them was the incumbent governor of the state, Ifeanyi Okowa, who served as commissioner in his government.

Mr. Ibori, an Urhobo, the largest single ethnic group in Delta State, ranks among the most influential political leaders in the oil-bearing region. He is seen in the class of the late governor of Bayelsa State, Diepreye Alamieyeseigha, who was known as the “Governor General” of the Ijaw nation.

Mr. Alamieyeiseigha, who was also convicted for corruption, died in October 2015. He was also a member of the PDP.

Although it is not clear yet if Mr. Daura made commitment to Mr. Ibori not to pursue any corruption case against him, the belief among some members of the federal administration is that he (Ibori) could influence the Niger Delta militants to lay down their arms against their fatherland.

Mr. Ibori was jailed by the Southwack Crown Court on April 17, 2012 for laundering 50 million pounds believed to have been stolen from the coffers of the oil-rich state while he was governor between 1999 and 2007.

He pleaded guilty to a 10-count charge of money laundering and conspiracy. His wife and mistress were also jailed for their involvement in the offence.

Mr. Ibori’s conviction in the United Kingdom was hailed by many anti-corruption campaigners, especially because a High Court in Asaba, the Delta Sate capital, presided over by Justice Idowu Awokulehin, had earlier struck out 170 corruption charges brought against the former governor by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission.

The Commission appealed to the Court of Appeal, Benin Division, which on May 15, 2014, ruled that the former governor, who was already in prison, had a case to answer.

The appellate court also ordered that the case be reassigned to another judge of the Federal High Court for continuation of trial.

But before that could be done, Mr. Ibori, who had become a political leper following the demise of former President Umaru Yar’Adua, his political ally, fled Nigeria to Dubai where he was picked up by Interpol and extradited to the United Kingdom.

There was no love lost between the former governor and President Goodluck Jonathan who succeeded Mr. Yar’Adua.

Mr. Ibori’s return last Saturday came as a surprise to many for a number of reasons.

First, he was still pursuing a case in London to establish his innocence in the corruption case for which he was jailed for 13 years, out of which he served about six years, taking into account his pre-trial detention.

Only last week, the former governor was in court to appeal against his conviction on the grounds that British police and lawyers involved in his case were also corrupt.

A police officer involved in the investigation of Mr. Ibori allegedly paid bribes to obtain information from a firm of private detectives working on behalf of the former governor.

At the time, Mr. Ibori had not been arrested but was aware that his finances were being investigated.

Besides, Stephen Kamlish, counsel to Mr. Ibori’s associate, Bhadresh Gohil, also a convicted money launderer, had claimed that documents available to him showed that the police were corrupt.

Secondly, at the time he returned Mr. Ibori was still wanted by the EFCC to answer corruption allegations against him.

The commission had declared the former governor wanted over alleged official corruption and money laundering.

In 2014, two years after Mr. Ibori was jailed in London, the anti-graft agency had vowed in a statement that the former governor would be re-arrested upon the completion of his prison sentence.

“With this judgement, the coast is clear for Ibori to face trial in Nigeria upon the completion of his jail term in London, “the commission had said in a statement.

At the time the former governor known in his political camp as “Odidigborigbo” returned, the anti-graft agency had not withdrawn its statement.

The EFCC spokesperson, Wilson Uwujaren, when contacted by this newspaper on Wednesday, declined to comment.

He said he was yet to be briefed on the matter.

Can Ibori do the job?

A Niger Delta activist, Joseph Evah, said Mr. Ibori is the proper Niger Deltan that can help to bring peace to the trouble region and attract infrastructure because of his experience.

“Ibori can do it and he can join others to bring peace and development to the Nigeria Delta region,” Mr. Evah told PREMIUM TIMES in a telephone interview Wednesday.

“He can play that role because of his experience as governor and his connection. He is a man loved by his people and he meant well for his people, not minding the reason for which he was imprisoned.

“Go and see what he did in Delta. The only bridge linking upland and riverine Ijaw nation was built by Ibori.”

Mr. Evah, who is the coordinator of the Ijaw Monitoring Group, dismissed claims that Mr. Ibori may not have the moral rectitude to engage the government in the quest to develop the Niger Delta region.

But Ledum Mitee, a former President of the Movement for the Survival of the Ogoni People, MOSOP, said Mr. Ibori’s contact while he was away would determine the role he would play to douse tension in the region.

“I wouldn’t know the contact he maintained while he was away. So, I don’t know whether he can play a part, but every indigene of the Niger Delta region should play a part,” Mr. Mitee told this newspaper Wednesday.

Eric Omare of Ijaw Youths Council, said though Mr. Ibori remains influential in the region, it could not be determined if that alone could make him play that role.


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  • Frank

    Can the alleged stealing by Chief James Ibori be compared to the criminality of the rape and neglect of the region (Niger Delta) by all governments in Nigeria since 1957 when oil was discovered in Oloibiri? Is Premium Times aware that the people of Oloibiri as @ February 2017 have no portable water, electricity and a single clean beach in the region? Has Nigerian Government ever arrested, prosecuted or jailed any CEO of the so called oil companies for all the ecological devastation and environmental recklessness they continue to perpetrate in the region? Arent Nigerian Governments active and even leading participants in the rape of the Niger Delta? The focus on Ibori is delusional. If you care about the Niger Delta then look at the FG led by a useless Buhari who in 2 years has not even stepped his miserable feet on the Niger Delta.

  • RAPE on The Niger DELTA

    Dear AVENGERS,
    There is massive poverty in the Niger Delta. There is nothing to show for the wealth of the region as monies from the region are used to develop Abuja and the rest of the country. The only benefit the oil producing and resource owners – Biafra and Niger Delta regions benefit from Nigeria are :
    – Pollution
    – Neglect
    – Violence
    – Military Occupation
    – Wanton arrest of its citizens
    – Harassment
    – Sponsored propaganda to defame
    – Bypass in political appointments
    – Hate, hate and more hate
    – Etc etc, etc

    SECESSION is the only way for the Niger Delta and Biafran regions if they must achieve their potentials. Buhari can remain president of the rest of Nigeria and those of us who do not want to be associated with Nigeria in any way should be left alone to live our dreams and fly to our destination – have our own country. And this is what we must do.

    May God be with our freedom fighting comrades – the AVENGERS…and we look forward to the prayer sessions of Operation Hurricane Joshua and Jericho Wall which you have proposed

  • Quest001

    Did Ibori steal more than Mohammed Magu – the former NNPC Boss whose house became a mini Central Bank where millions of Dollars were recovered? Or is that not stealing? Does that sum not dwarf what James Ibori is alleged to have stolen?

  • Eric Olson

    Editor Premium Times

    Southern Nigeria of Idiots

    I took time for five days to read past comments posted during the days of Jonathan
    and concluded that Nigerians are either un-evolved fully or just plain suicidal. I read
    very indignant posts on 300 million Naira allegedly put on top of BMW cars supplied
    to the Ministry of Aviation by Coscharis Motors and compared the total silence on
    the ₦2.2 billion recently stolen by three Muslim officials of Supreme Court..

    I shook my head. I compared the sums involved in both cases and calculated
    that the Supreme Court theft by the three northern Muslims is over four times
    the sales amount allegedly inflated by Coscharis Motors. I saw all hell let loose
    by Nigerians on the 300 million Naira but compared it to the sheep-like silence
    on the current 2.2 billion Naira theft at the Supreme Court.

    “Are Nigerians really human beings?“, immediately occurred to me after comparing.
    I better understood why America supported Buhari at the 2015 election – despite that
    Buhari has no educational qualification to be president of any other country in the world.
    I saw the over-educated southern Nigerians in the light they are often derided; as fodder
    for mostly illiterate northern Nigerians – who are in turn satirized as cows. I now saw the
    sense. Cows eat grass! Educated southern Nigerians are educated for nothing – useless!
    They may be condemned to live under the diktat of illiterates for life, since they can’t think.

    • Eric Olson

      Alhaji Ahmed Saleh –
      the registrar of the Supreme Court of Nigeria – is a northern Muslim. He was
      found to have diverted 2.2 billion Naira. He acted in concert with two other
      northern Muslims; namely, Muhammed Abdulrahman Sharif and Rilwanu Lawal.
      They were in a confederacy of high crimes of theft.

      The three crooked men were arrested
      and charged for stealing, inter alia. But in a highly corrupt about-face
      Buhari’s attorney-general (another northern Muslim) withdrew all charges
      against the execrable troika of thieves, to go free with their 2.2billion loot. Yet, the
      Justice of the Supreme Court who was found with millions of cash under his bed,
      Sylvester Nwali Ngwuta, a Southern Christian, was slammed with more charges at the
      Code of Conduct Tribunal. This is how Muhamadu Buhari destroys Nigeria with
      his rabid Islamism and brazen tribalism.

      • Pointsblank

        IT IS GOOD TO REPEAL AND REPLACE MUHAMADU BUHARI AS PRESIDENT OF NIGERIA.

        • Alkaliimaam

          The corruption BUHARI sweeps under carpet: CENTRAL BANK audit result

          • ₦38.23billion developed legs and got missing in Central Bank under Sanusi Lamido Sanusi.
          • ₦160billion was taken by Sanusi Lamido at the Central Bank for self-determined spending.
          • ₦1.12billion was taken as spent by Sanusi Lamido on lunch for 12 CBN police guards
          in one year.
          • ₦1.12billion was taken in cash and entered in the account as paid to a non-operating airline
          for charter service.
          • ₦240billion was discretionally doled out at will as ‘donations’ by Sanusi Lamido.
          • ₦1.97billion was paid out in cash and entered on Central Bank accounts as “inexplicable
          expense” by Sanusi Lamido Sanusi.
          • ₦20billion was paid out in cash as Legal Fees by Sanusi Lamido to persons unknown.
          • ₦3.086billion was taken by Sanusi Lamido and written off as expense ostensibly to promote
          Central Bank image.

    • Arabakpura

      Coscharis is a business outfit and there is no way you can blame it for inflated prices; if you don’t like what it offers you, you can go elsewhere!

  • Anto

    @Quest001,

    WHERE ARE THOSE WHO DECEIVED US TO VOTE FOR BUHARI SAYING BUHARI HAS MASTER’S DEGREE,
    AND WILL FIGHT CORRUPTION SO MUCH THAT ALL CORRUPT PEOPLE WILL BE IN PRISON OR IN EXILE.
    UP TILL TODAY NOBODY IS IN PRISON UNDER BUHARI FOR STEALING BILLIONS OF PUBLIC FUNDS.

    • El Kada

      The reason MUHAMADU BUHARI became a disgrace in Nigerian history is GREED.
      How can a man with Primary Six education apply for the job of Managing Director of
      a bank? How? Buhari did not stop there. He applied for the job of President of
      Nigeria, with his Primary six. He is a greedy man who just wants the money and
      the key to the treasury, not to do the job he couldn’t competently do anyway.
      He could never have performed on the job. He lacks ability to understand the
      issues. He has no sense of proportion and he took on a job far above his head.
      Only greed can explain that – not ambition, because ambition must be realistic.

      • O’ Jose

        …….My people……it’s not looking good O……Buhari is losing goodwill very fast……
        ….more than he’s gaining it…..and now…after 20 months…..he has negatives ……
        ………..numbering enough to write a book……….from his blunders overseas…..to this….
        …huge suspicion… that he’s another Fulani Islamist hegemonist and northern tribalist……
        ……….but, that’s a smelly body odour to carry around…….if it also includes…… as it does…..
        …….jumping the window of parliament to forge appropriation bills…….. and merely winking….
        …at the genocide of 300+ Shiite Muslims, and, winking at the murders committed daily……..
        ………………….by the rifle-bearing mad and maddening Fulani herdsmen……………

    • Omo Eleniyan 2

      @Anto,

      You have been duped!

      You better go to the street they call Bourdillon Road in Lagos. That is
      where the man who deceived you is living. When you get there, ask for Ahmed
      Bola Tinubu. If he comes out you can do anything you like to him to revenge.
      You hear me? Meantime, enjoy your economic recession and the permanent
      NEPA blackout since December 2016.

      • ?????????

        WILL MUHAMADU BUHARI NOW ENTER ALLIANCE WITH JAMES IBORI OR WHAT?

        HOW WILL THAT BE PUT IN THE MEANING OF FIGHT AGAINST CORRUPTION AGAIN?

  • thusspokez

    In November, as part of the moves aimed at resolving renewed militancy, the Niger Delta leaders led by a former Federal Commissioner for Information, Edwin Clark, met with President Muhammadu Buhari at the Presidential Villa during which they presented a 16-point demand.

    The Buhari administration seems to have double vision when it comes to picking the right parties to resolve problems in the Niger Delta. Instead of speaking with the actual militants who are blowing up the pipelines, it chose to speak to the likes of the Edwin Clark syndicate and the MEND syndicate — both of which are mistrusted and even despised by the militants.

    …the belief among some members of the federal administration is that he (Ibori) could influence the Niger Delta militants to lay down their arms against their fatherland.

    In Ibori, the Buhari government is making the same mistakes that it made with both the Edwin Clark and MEND syndicates.

    Some Urhobos lowlifes and fruitcakes might well jubilate in the street over the ex-convicts return, but it is a different morality for many to accept an ex-convict as a representative in any negotiation on their behalf. Ibori is a criminal, convicted twice in the UK: first in 1991 working as a cashier in a DIY store; he was convicted of stealing from the UK store. Why would his Urhobo people, (let alone the militants, let alone Niger Deltans) trust him to represent them to cut a deal with the federal government on their behalf?

    • Ukodo

      If Hausa and the Fulani people and in fact the whole North and the servile Yoruba West could support a Buhari however dumb, brainless, medically and mentally unfit for public service, how then do you believe the Urhobo people and indeed the Niger Delta in its entirely will not support their own Chief James Ibori? Monkey no fine, but him Mama like am. You can go hang. Ibori is our man. Period.

      • thusspokez

        You are obviously, a lowlife!

        Should the whole North and Yorubas also deserve blame for Ibori theft of money in a DIY shop in the UK in 1991, and for which he was convicted?

  • thusspokez

    The jubilation and excitement that greeted Mr. Ibori’s release last December and eventual return to Nigeria could have convinced the ruling All Progressive Congress-led federal administration that he could be a figure to work with to ensure peace in the region and ultimately allow money flow into the troubled national economy.

    If the Niger Delta region comprises Akwa Ibom, Bayelsa, Delta, Cross River, Edo and Rivers states, then in how many of the states outside Delta state, were there also jubilation? It is wrong and gross exaggeration to interpret jubilation by some Urhobos lowlifes as jubilation by the whole of the South-South.

  • Du Covenant

    For all these busy bodies plotting Ibori’s comeback by hook or crook, is it an admission that there are no decent people in this part of the country to the extent a convicted felon is essentially being legitimized?. As a matter of principle this man has blatantly abused the trust his people, why on earth should anyone consider allowing him a position of influence again?. When he stole over 250 Million USD, it was not his first time. He had been stealing and abusing trust long before he ever became a State governor so it is his habit!. He stole from his employer, has been involved in credit card fraud long before becoming a governor, he self confessed to stealing from the people of Delta yet he received a heroes welcome, very interesting mindset indeed. How are we ever going to develop if we keep allowing such greedy people to carry on as usual?.

    • BURNING SPEAR

      Were d duo of Bingo Buhari a self confessed certificate forger and Obj another Yoruba rogue–not once convicted felons——Yet ended up becoming presidents– of Nigeria in aso rock for the Fulani emirate in Mali

  • BURNING SPEAR

    Ibori is a Saint when compared to Abacha whom Bingo Buhari served with all his rotten Fulani soul