Monday, May 17, 2010

James Ibori is a household name in Nigeria that evokes controversy whenever he is mentioned. A former governor of an oil producing state, he faced allegations of corruption and even offered a bribe of $15 million to former EFCC* Chair, Nuhu Ribadu. Despite that and other evidence, a 170 count case against him was dismissed in 2009. The only legal issues that remained in Ibori's way was a case in the United Kingdom where he was being prosecuted under the Proceed of Crime Act. British authorities froze his assets, estimated at £17 million, in 2007. After years of seemingly outwitting Nigerian and British authorities, it appears his luck has run out. Ibori was arrested in Dubai on May 13, 2010. He was questioned by INTERPOL and according to news reports, he awaits a decision on the UK government's pending extradition request. The drama surrounding Ibori is bound to escalate to a fevered pitch.

Ibori has been a target of Nigeria's anti-corruption watchdog for years. Although an initial corruption case was dismissed, the EFCC later sought to interview him regarding new fraud allegations, to the tune of N44 billion, in early 2010. The N44 billion was money used by Ibori in an offshore company Ascot Offshore Nigeria Ltd., whose debt contributed to a national debt scandal. However, he sued the EFCC for defamation amongst other things and refused to meet with the Commission which had requested his presence for 'questioning'. Ibori's failure to appear led the EFCC to order the Nigerian Police Force to arrest him. That move backfired, as the police were ambushed by armed Ibori-supporters, that were basically militants. The police were then forced to retreat. Goodluck Jonathan, then the acting President, reportedly informed the head of the Nigerian Police to produce Ibori "dead or alive".

When it comes to corrupt Nigerian officials, there are a myriad of individuals whose actions become fodder for national conversation. Of all these individuals, Ibori is one that most closely exemplifies the breakdown in social, legal and political structures that Nigeria faces. It is incredible that a man well known for taking state funds could finance the campaign of the eventual President of Nigeria (the late Yar'Adua), offer a $15 million bribe (confirmed by Nigerian authorities) and then manage to get off scott free. Even more dumbfounding is how he could so boldly challenge the Nigerian government by forcing an arm of the government, the police, to flee for their lives while attempting his arrest. Unfortunately, this sort of behavior - the flagrant abuse of position, power and connections - is something many Nigerians are familiar with.

A main reason for Ibori fleeing from Nigerian authorities was due to a leaked report indicating that he would be extradited to British authorities if and when he were caught in Nigeria. Shortly after these intentions became clear in April 2010, Ibori fled the country. He reportedly went to Ghana, and entered that country by road. How he managed to leave Nigeria, pass through numerous countries and then enter Ghana is an issue that must be dealt with. But, the fact that he could move so freely within Nigeria and indeed West Africa reinforces the reality that corruption knows no national boundary. Ibori clearly paid his way across the region. It is an embarrassment to Nigeria and an embarrassment to the nations through which he traveled, including Ghana, which was the same nation the underwear-bomber started his ill fated, but prevented, journey on December 25th, 2009.
The best place for Ibori to face justice is sadly, not in Nigeria. Nigeria's punishment problem has created an environment where the rich often avoid punishment for their crimes. However, the silver lining in this situation is that the Jonathan administration worked closely with INTERPOL, the United Kingdom and even Dubai to apprehend Ibori. Notwithstanding, it is disappointing that Nigeria, a sovereign nation, could not address the corruption challenge that was Ibori, and had to depend on foreign entities to do so.

Ibori has been protected for years by 'the powers that be', likely because he has information that can take down multiple political and economic elites. Goodluck Jonathan is obviously making it clear that he will not tolerate any 'sacred cows' with Ibori. Jonathan's approach to anti-corruption also applies to the Chairman of his own political party who is also facing corruption charges, something that would not have happened under the aegis of the late President. Despite this, some assert that President Jonathan is simply attacking a powerful individual that was a staunch opponent of his becoming acting President in the weeks after Yar'Adua disappeared to Saudi Arabia.

Regardless if the underlying political reasons, one can only continue to watch and wonder what will happen next to Ibori. And, while it is a shame that Ibori's arrest in Dubai overshadowed the fact that President Jonathan selected a deputy called Namadi Sambo, the fact that Ibori was arrested at all is something to give observers of Nigeria hope. Hope that the country will get on track with tackling corruption, especially given that Nigerian leaders stole at least $89.5 billion between 1970 through 2008. That is money that if funneled into the nation, and not personal pockets, could have transformed Nigeria into a country opposite of what it is now with a broken down educational system, high poverty rates and other easily solved problems. A case against Ibori could also reveal how he became as powerful as he is and who helped him along the way. That revelation would likely create a domino effect that leads the way to other corrupt individuals facing the music, and results in loosening the chokehold corruption has on Nigeria and its people.

* The EFCC is the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, Nigeria's main anti-corruption watchdog.

UPDATE (05/17/10): It appears Nigeria will be unable to have Ibori extradited to the country even if the government wanted. Nigeria does not have a completed extradition treaty with the UAE. The process of creating such a treaty began in 2008 but was not completed by the time the Ibori situation arose. Hence, if Ibori is to be extradited, it will be to the UK, and not Nigeria.

From The Archives:
- Britain Returning Looted Millions To Nigeria
- Ibori: Case Dismissed
- 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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F said...

I'm still sceptical... Let's see if this arrest results in a meaningful court case and/or conviction first... The guy is like Houdini so I will be impressed if the "powers that be" like you said don't let him wriggle out of this one.

Anonymous said...

BY SD (2 OF 2)

There are in Nigeria BIGGER crooks, thieves and liars than James Ibori. Goodluck Jonathan has to bring the whole network down before I can take him seriously. I have no doubt that Ibori is what he is, but I feel his case that's all over the media is being used by Goodluck Jonathan and his people to fool Nigerians that they are doing something about corruption. He is NOT. The case against Ibori, though it is RIGHT, is ONLY due to personal politics between James Ibori and Goodluck Jonathan. Had they been friends, the case against James Ibori will have been buried. Goodluck Jonathan will be under political in Britain and Nigeria to leave James Ibori alone. Remember, only a military dictator has unlimited powers. Goodluck Jonathan is not a military dictator. He was not even elected, and he’s seeking to stand for election. I would say that the case against James Ibori (though right) is (massively) PR and vote winning exercise to fool the Nigerian populace. I am NOT convinced about Goodluck Jonathan. NO. He is playing silly politics with Nigeria. He might be another trickster just like that maradonna, Ibrahim Babangida. Goodluck Jonathan’s allies in Northern Nigeria are the BIGGEST thieves and crooks in AFRICA. The looted wealth are here in London and Europe. He knows it. He knows that the Northern mafia are untouchable. Goodluck Jonathan’s desire to stay in power means Nigeria and Nigerians will wait a long, long time before we can see the likes of James Ibori, Olusegun Obasanjo and Ibrahim Babangida arrested and locked up for life. GOD SAVE THE FEDERAL REPUBLIC OF NIGERIA. Amen.

Anonymous said...

BY SD (1 OF 2)

With money, with or without passport, anyone can bribe their way through any African country's border. Fact. Ibori was arrested in Dubai under the Labour government. Labour Party is finished in Britain for at least the next TEN years. James Ibori’s contacts within the Tory Party tried very hard (while Labour Party was in power) to have the case against him killed off, but they couldn't. Fortunately for Mr James Ibori, the Conservatives are in government right here, right NOW in Britain. The case against James Ibori is going nowhere. The powers that be right here in Britain will kill off that case. Ibori has high level contacts both here Britain and in Nigeria. Ibori knows that once Goodluck Jonathan is out of Office, the case against him is over. With Nigerian politics, anything can happen. Goodluck Jonathan won’t be in power forever. The Tories will be in power in Britain for at least the next 10 years. IMHO, It will be a long time before Nigerians will see justice done to Ibori and people like him. Even if Ibori is extradited to this country, it will be for show, but the case against him WILL collapse. Remember it was same under the Conservative government of that, that, that, that (I swear, I’m trying really very hard not to abuse her!) Margaret Thatcher ( I wish I could say something nasty in a Nigerian Language that Oyinbos no fit understand, but unfortunately, I can’t write any Nigerian language. At school in 9ja, I wasted my time learning German language instead of Yoruba, Ibo or French or even Spanish... oh well.... Margaret Thatcher, count yourself luck say I no fit yap you for 9ja lingo. Anyway, as I was saying... that Umaru Dikko stole billions of pounds of Nigeria's money and came here. Madam Margaret Thatcher allowed him to stay here with his loot! The Tories will NOT send James Ibori to jail. James Ibori cannot send James Ibori to jail. FACT. Now, the Tories are in power, watch and see how many corrupt Nigerian officials will relocate to London. It's déjà vu all over again. Remember Ibori's previous trials in London? It came to nothing. Ibori has long criminal history and knows how the play the system. People underestimate James Ibori. The only chance Nigeria has about having something done about Ibori is Goodluck Jonathan’s administration, but as we all know, no condition is permanent in politics. Ibori is in his current predicament due to the fact that an unfavourable administration is in power in Nigeria. Abuja crooks, thieves and liars network will continue to protect Ibori. It’s sad. Those after Ibori are not doing so because they suddenly realised corruption is bad. I am still not convinced about Goodluck Jonathan.

CONTINUED ==> " BY SD (1 OF 2) "

Anonymous said...

James Ibori's arrest: "We never collaborated with EFCC" - UK police. http://tinyurl.com/399s995


Billigaste Smslån said...

Sad to see things like this all the time. The rich and powerful get away with it most often even if it's so obvious already that they are guilty. :(

Beauty said...

A nation that jails or amputates the limbs of petty thieves, but encourages its big thieves to run for the presidency – such a nation is bound to sail from one disaster to another. - Where are the other Iboris? By OKEY NDIBE is additional education on this subject.

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