Former Governor James Ibori of Delta State is reportedly angry with the Delta State government over the government’s decision to claim the $15 million bribe money Mr. Ibori had unsuccessfully offered to Nuhu Ribadu, former chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission.
Mr. Ibori, who is currently serving a 13-year prison term in London after his conviction for money laundering, is said to be worried about the possible legal implications of the state government’s decision to claim the cash. The former governor had offered the cash to Mr. Ribadu in an attempt to compromise the EFCC’s investigation into his massive looting of Delta State funds. After rejecting the bait, Mr. Ribadu deposited the bribe cash at the Central Bank of Nigeria.
A source close to Mr. Ibori told SaharaReporters that the former governor was livid with his successor, Emmanuel Uduaghan, for stepping forward to claim the money after renouncing it earlier. Ibori and Mr. Uduaghan, a medical doctor, are maternal cousins.
Mr. Ibori’s associate told SaharaReporters that the imprisoned governor was worried that, by stepping forward, the Delta State government has tacitly admitted that he committed a crime of bribery. “Chief Ibori is afraid that this could be used against him by Nigeria’s police officials, or even by the London Metropolitan police,” said the source.
The former governor recently began a media campaign to blackmail the Metropolitan police over allegations that one of the police officers accepted payment from an independent investigative company to reveal information about his case.
The latest move by the Delta State government may have put a wrinkle on Mr. Ibori’s plan. The embattled former governor reportedly believes that the state government’s bid to take the $15 million “will portray him as a practiced criminal who habitually tries to bribe law enforcement agents in order to compromise them,” said our source.
Stung by Governor Uduaghan’s move, Mr. Ibori and his associates have begun a campaign to reshape the narrative. Using their reliable stable of Nigerian bloggers on their payroll, they are claiming that the money Mr. Ibori tried to hand to Mr. Ribadu was for a “different purpose” of a political nature.
Yesterday, one of the EFCC’s top prosecutors, Rotimi Jacobs, described the claim by Delta State government as interesting, even though he noted that he had not read the state’s pleadings before the court.
Mr. Ibori enjoys extensive connections with the Nigerian judiciary, from the high court level all the way to the Supreme Court. He used lavish gifts to judges to line up corrupt justices to do his bidding. Exploiting such relationships, he got exonerated from charges of corrupt practices as well as claims that he had no prior criminal convictions in the UK and Nigeria. A source within the Delta State government told SaharaReporters that the current misunderstanding between Mr. Ibori and his cousin, Governor Uduaghan, “is pregnant with drama.” Although the state is known to spend up to N100 million a month to take care of Mr. Ibori’s various concerns, including the upkeep of his children and other relatives, Mr. Uduaghan is reported to have decided to look out for himself during his second and final tenure.
Recently, youths in Ibori’s hometown of Oghara besieged Mr. Uduaghan and threw stones at his convoy. The youths accused the governor of betraying Mr. Ibori.
An aide to Governor Uduaghan denied there was a rift between the cousins. He told SaharaReporters that the governor’s problem with the Oghara community arose from the misconception that Mr. Uduaghan supports one traditional stool candidate over another.