I own “Ibori $15 million bribe”, Andy Uba was my courier, man tells court

James Ibori...he stole his people blind
James Ibori…he stole his people blind

A businessman who claims to be an associate of Andy Uba says he owns the Ibori bribe, and the money was meant for PDP.By Idris Akinbajo

A new twist has been added to the ‘$15million Ibori’ bribery scandal as a self acclaimed associate of Andy Uba, a former presidential adviser, claimed ownership of the money.

In 2007, Mr. Uba, an assistant on domestic affairs to former President Olusegun Obasanjo, delivered the cash bribe to the former Director of Operation of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Ibrahim Lamorde, allegedly on behalf of James Ibori, former Delta State Governor.

However, a businessman, Chibuike Achigbu, told a Federal High Court, Wednesday, that he is the rightful owner of the money, and Mr. Uba was just a courier.

Mr. Achigbu, the Chief Executive Officer of Lagos based, Chimons Gas Limited, said the money was to help finance the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).

The affidavit

On Tuesday, August 28, 2012, a telephone conference was held between Mr. Achigbu and 10 lawyers including three Senior Advocates of Nigeria. The senior advocates- Adeniyi Akintola, Okey Amechi, and J. Owonikoko- heard the ‘story’ of how $15 million came to be in possession of Mr. Uba.

An affidavit deposed to by David Alao, a lawyer in Mr. Akintola’s chambers, tells of the claims of Mr. Achigbu and the ‘true story’ of the $15 million bribe.

The ‘bribe owner’

Mr. Achigbu claims he has interests in diverse businesses particularly in the oil and gas industry.

The businessman says he is an avid supporter of the PDP, “a duly registered political party under the Nigerian law which has a long established and consistent commitment to promoting good governance on the basis of a private sector-led economy.”

He said he was committed to raising money for the PDP to win the 2007 general elections at both the States and Federal levels; and was determined to raise N3 billion for the PDP.

Mr. Achigbu said that by April 2007 when the elections were to start, “the funds including pledges that were redeemed by like-minded friends of the intervener /applicant, had grown into substantial amount that was in excess of N2 billion.”

According to Mr. Achigbu, in order to legitimately distribute the funds to PDP candidates, he approached a government functionary to help invite government agencies to certify the legitimacy of the funds.”

The Andy Uba involvement

Mr. Achigbu told his lawyers that he approached Andy Uba, who was at the time, a presidential aide and his long time friend.

Mr. Uba then agreed to be the courier who would take the money to the EFCC for cleansing.

Mr. Achigbu said he heard of an attempted bribe of Mr. Ribadu by James Ibori in the latter part of April 2007. He claimed that since he “had nothing to do with James Ibori, the rumour did not strike him as having any bearing with the fund he delivered to Dr. Andy Uba for clearance by EFCC.”

The claimant also told his lawyers that because of security barriers, he could no longer see or talk to Mr. Uba after the latter was declared winner of the Anambra gubernatorial election.

He claimed that because he could not talk to the former presidential aide on the status of his money, he believed Mr. Uba had used it for his own election.

Mr. Achigbu said following Mr. Uba’s removal as governor by the Supreme Court, he was able to reach the Anambra politician, and Mr. Uba told him in a telephone discussion in 2008 that “he did invite the EFCC to take custody of the purported ‘unclaimed fund.’

Why I did not seek refund

Mr. Achigbu said though he did not believe Mr. Uba’s tales on the use of the funds, he decided to let it go as he believed that Mr. Uba’s removal by the Supreme Court meant that “God had sufficiently avenged Dr. Andy Uba’s betrayal.”

The businessman claimed he did not speak to Mr. Uba over the money and other issues for four years (2008 – 2012).

However, on August 27, 2012, Mr. Uba suddenly called him and told him that the bribe money being claimed by both the Delta State Government and the Federal Government was actually the same one he gave to Mr. Uba.

New EFCC chair received money

Mr. Achigbu claimed Mr. Uba told him that it was Ibrahim Lamorde, the current EFCC chairman, who was then the commission’s Director of Operations that received the money on behalf of the commission.

Mr. Uba also allegedly told Mr. Achigbu that he never told Mr. Lamorde or the EFCC that the money was from Mr. Ibori.

The court had ordered that the money, which was deposited by the EFCC with the Central Bank of Nigeria, be handed over to the Federal Government. The Delta State Government, which Mr. Ibori was then governor and whose account he is believed to have stolen the money from, is also asking the court to return the money to it.

It’s my money

Mr. Achigbu wants the court to return the money to him. Though the time for which Mr. Achigbu can claim the money according to the court directive has lapsed, the claimant appealed to the court to allow him claim “his money.”

Mr. Achigbu “is desirous of being joined in the suit in order to make his rightful claim to return of the said alleged ‘unclaimed money.”

PREMIUM TIMES learnt that lawyers to Mr. Achigbu are making efforts to withdraw the affidavit from the court, as contrary to Mr. Achigbu’s claim, Mr. Uba may not testify to the content of the affidavit.

PDP absolves self

The PDP, which Mr. Achigbu claims he was raising money for, says it never asked the claimant to raise money for its elections.

“It is very convenient for anybody who has crisis or problems to drag the PDP name into it,” Olisa Metuh, the party spokesman said. “That is the burden the party has borne for too long.”

The PDP spokesman challenged Mr. Achigbu to present any evidence of the party’s involvement.

“What is the evidence that we asked him to raise money? Is there any documentary evidence,” Mr. Metuh said.

The PDP spokesman said his party will not speak for anybody that has problems.

“PDP is a party of integrity. They should not drag us into their problem,” he said.

Andy Uba has also denied that he has anything to the claimant. In a text message to PREMIUM TIMES, he holds that he has nothing to with the story.

“Thank so much for contacting me, but I have nothing to do with the story,” Mr. Uba said.

Mr. Ribadu, the target recipient of the bribe could not be reached. However, a  confidential top EFCC official questioned Mr. Achigbu’s new story.

“Ibori has been charged by the EFCC of offering the bribe since 2007. Why are they just waking up five years later to say he is not involved?” our source said.

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