Wednesday, January 20, 2010

James Ibori is a former governor of one of Nigeria's oil rich states, Delta State. In 2007, British authorities froze his British assets in a case that is still ongoing, on suspicion that he "laundered at least 30 million through that country between 2005 and ... 2007."* Ibori also faced a list of 170 charges involving corruption and fraud in Nigeria and reports soon emerged that he bribed former anti-corruption czar, Nuhu Ribadu, to the tune of $15 billion. Despite all this, the Federal High Court in Asaba granted Ibori a wonderful present to end 2009 as the 170 charges against him were dropped.

James Ibori in court. Photo: Compass newspaper
The judge in the case, Marcel Awokulehin, held that the Economic & Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) failed to prove with sufficient evidence that Ibori was in fact guilty of the laundering and corruption charges. Specifically, Justice Awokulehin stated,
"There is no witness statement ... from any of the EFCC officers who purportedly investigated. Furthermore, there is no interim or final report of the investigations carried out by the EFCC which is a basic requirement in proof of criminal trials."
The EFCC spokesperson, Femi Babafemi, responded to the decision by stating that the Commission was not surprised by the verdict and that it would appeal.
"[W]e have instructed our lawyers to immediately file an appeal against Justice Awokulehin’s judgement at a higher court...This kind of judgement if not challenged is capable of deepening the menace of corruption in our country rather than contributing in any way to the cause of justice which is the basis of sustaining our democratic governance.

Many have questioned the acquittal, such as the Delta State Elders, Leaders and Stakeholders Forum who announced that the decision was "dangerous" and could encourage further corruption.The Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) called the decision a "a travesty of justice and let down of the millions of victims of high level official corruption in the country." The group further criticized the court for failing to at least require Ibori to provide a credible explanation for how he amassed his wealth while a governor, something the group claimed was possible under Nigerian laws, the UN Convention Against Corruption and the African Union Convention on Preventing and Combating Corruption.

However, some Nigerian lawyers such as Emmanuel Majebi believed that justice prevailed because Ibori was tried and condemned in the court of public opinion, something that will undoubtedly not hold up in a court.

There is no question that the overwhelming belief is that any Nigerian with enough money and the right connections can escape even the most gruesome offenses. In Ibori's case, he has had the support of the present administration in the form of President Yar'Adua and Attorney general of the Federation, Michael Aondoakaa. From the very beginning, Aondoakaa sabotaged the EFCC's domestic case against Ibori, but he equally traveled on behalf of Ibori to detract from the case against him in the U.K. As such, there is little surprise at the outcome of this case thus far.

On December 18th, 2007, I stated,
"The Ibori case is the perfect opportunity for Nigeria to prove that it is tough on crime. The legal system should be allowed to deal with this case with little to no intervention from Aondoakaa, Yar'Adua or their 'masters'. If that happens, this case will set the example for others who have stolen money or used their positions to enrich themselves and will make them willing to cooperate with authorities."
Alas, although it is very possible that the EFCC failed to present a strong enough case, almost 2 years to the date of the above warning, the Ibori case allies has further solidified the fact that Nigeria has a serious Punishment Problem. The only question that remains is whether as a collective, Nigerians will continue to watch as their nation is controlled by unscrupulous men and their peers who take directly from the mouths of the people to fuel their already full bellies and bank accounts.



* - Peel, M., A Swamp Full Of Dollars:Pipelines & Paramilitaries at Nigeria's Oil Frontier, I.B. Tauris, 2009:113-4.

Hattip to the Grandiose Parlor blog

From The Archives:
- EFCC Wants Death Penalty For Corrupt
- Ibori, The EFCC & The Future of Nigeria's Anti-Corruption Crusade

- An EFCC Revival?
- Nigeria's Persisting Punishment Problem
- Nigeria's Punishment Problem
- Crime & Punishment: The Nigerian Edition

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Shiko-Msa said...

Similar problems we have around here (Kenya). A chicken thief is left to rot in prison while a rich thief somehow circumvents the law and gets either a very light sentence of none at all. I'm not insinuating that Mr. Ibori is a thief but you get my drift.

Writefreak said...

One thing i know is a change is coming in this country, a new breed of Nigerians are arising and someday soon, stories like this will no longer rend my heart!
It is well with Nigeria!

N.I.M.M.O said...

Case dismissed indeed!

This has Aondoakaa's finger prints all over it. His classical maneuver. Go to court and get an acquittal but this really should have been a mistrial as Waziri deliberately came to court with a watery case.

Where is the $15m Ribadu said was offered as bribe? It was not even tendered. Did the CBN deny that it is holding the money as evidence? Nobody asked.

EFCC says they will appeal. Maybe when hell freezes over.

True to type, many Nigerians have handed this case over to the Heavenly Assizes.

Over to GOD.


@ Shiko Msa: hey you! It is a shame isn't it? These African countries that have the capacity to blaze the path for others that might be floundering are the ones setting up the worst possible examples, ehn? And you don't need to insinuate that Ibori is a thief, my dear. I'ma do it for you. IBORI IS A BIG, FAT, THIEVING THIEF! Or as the Yoruba people say "Ole!!!!"
Thanks for coming by!

@ Writefreak: Amen! I just worry that when that time comes the frustrations of the ordinary person will lend to a combustible incident. How are things, my sista?

@ NIMMO: The $15 million Ibori bribed Nuhu with is sitting, looking pretty in Ibori's pocket! And, you note "Over to God" - abeg, let us not burden God with our problems, there are more important things for him/her to do. Naija madness is not on the list. I daresay, it hasn't been in a long time....

Anonymous said...

I have once said this, and I will say it again "if James Ibori can be acquitted of 170 charges of corruption, then the Nigerian govt owes the families of Late Lawrence Anini, Monday Osunbor and George Iyamu an 'unreserved' apology.

- Seyi from Facebook

christian ohaka said...

If you can read this, that's how i feel

Beauty said...

Thanks for putting out The James Ibori finale to a wider audience. What we can do out of Nigeria is to continue this great effort, so that, others may know. SR recently broke the news that a UK member of Parliament, Tony Baldry MP, has been reported trying to persuade cabinet ministers of the need for Her Majesty’s Government to discontinue an ongoing prosecution (where James Ibori is named on legal documents as a co-conspirator) for various money laundering offences on the grounds that the prosecution is damaging to the interests of Her Majesty’s Government.

Cash is king, long may it reign did sound good until the credit crunch. So you see, our silent revolution can work, we can crash those people, we must keep up this awesome effort and go broke in the process. We must continue to inform and educate. The strange career of James Ibori By Okey Ndibe is a good reference.

Azazel said...

If they could not prove it, they could not prove it. Persoanlly I believe that Ibori is guilty as sin, but evidence must be shown.

Beauty said...

@Azazel, In 2007, a UK court froze assets belonging to James Ibori, worth $35m (£21m) whose annual salary was less than $25,000. So you see, there is proof. People are simply burying their heads in the sand until the point of no return.

Anya P said...

ahem* what else is new?! Ibori has basically stamped his name in the Nigerian Annals of History as an Untouchable Criminal.

Mola OG said...

Gangsta moves... the whole thing just makes me laugh+

Felix Diamond said...

I'm not in the least surprised. The law can only deal with petty criminals here. The big time crooks buy their ways out of justice. It's a big shame.

StandTall-The Activist said...


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