Ibori's conviction is shame on Nigeria, Justice Awokulehin, says Falana

Femi Falana

Last Sunday,  James Ibori attempted once again to play another fast one on the intelligence of the Nigerian people. His media handlers claimed that he had entered into a plea bargain with the british prosecutors. But barely 24 hours later, the accused pleaded to a 10-count charge of fraud, corruption and money laundering. He was convicted while he will be sentenced on April 16. He is sure going to prison to join his wife, sister mistress and lawyer who had been tried and convicted for aiding the ex-governor of Delta state.

Having been convicted twice for stealing and credit card fraud  in 1991 and 1992 in the Uk and for stealing in 1995 in  Nigeria Ibori may be sentenced to not less than 10 years imprisonment. Under the Nigerian constitution he was not qualified to stand election having been convicted for  fraud related offences. But he obliterated all vital records relating to his life. He changed his age to the extent that he became older than his younger sister by one month which has been said to be scientifically impossible. But with ibori everything is possible.

He denied that he was James Onanefe Ibori who was convicted by an Abuja Area Court judge. To back up his claim he mutilated the court’s records. The then Inspector General of Police, Tafa Balogun gave him a clean bill of health. A corrupt judiciary rejected the evidence of the judge who identified ibori as the man he had jailed. From the high court to the Supreme Court it was held that it was not proved beyond reasonable doubt that Ibori was an ex-convict. Having bought his way through the courts he took to large scale looting of the treasury of Delta State, part of which was channelled to bankroll Umoru Yar’adua’s presidential campaign. After the election he influnced the appointments of IGP Mike Okiro, Attorney General of the Federation Mike Aondoaakar, ministers and heads of parastatals. His former finance commissioner became the principal secretary to President Yar”adua.

Upon losing his immunity the EFCC arrested and charged him for money laundering and corruption like some other ex-governors. But corruption quickly fought back. The EFCC boss, Nuhu Ribadu was removed and sent to kuru for a course. While he was away Mrs Farida Waziri was appointed as EFCC chair with a clear mandate to slow down the anti-corruption war. The EFCC and AGF frustrated the British government in the investigation of Ibori for corruption. At this juncture the judiciary was brought in to frustrate the trial of ibori in the UK. When the trial judge in the Federal High Court, Lawal Shuaibu could not be compromised, the Court of Appeal stepped in. The case  was transfered to the Federal High Court in the jurisdiction where the offences were committed. A new court was hurriedly set up at Asaba, Delta State. Without any trial at all, the 70-count charge was dismissed.

Following President Yar”adua’s death, there was a renewed pressure from the British government for ibori’s prosecution. With the connivance of the EFCC leadership, he ran to Dubai where he was arrested and deported to the UK for trial. When he found that there was no escape route for him Ibori has pleaded guilty to 10 out of 21 counts. He was therefore convicted for the fourth time for fraud to the eternal shame of Justice Awokulehin who said ibori has no case to answer on the same facts. It is a greater shame for Nigeria which has been exposed to ridicule over the misconduct of Mr James Onanefe Ibori.

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