Oghara wears new look as Ibori returns Dec 20


the county home of former governor James Ibori in Ethiope West Local Government Area of Delta State is wearing a new look following his expected homecoming this month. The community plays host to various bodies and government parastatals such as logistic headquarters, Nigerian Navy, Police, Army, all the security agencies and the Delta State University Teaching Hospital (DELSUTH). Our correspondent who visited the community to feel the pulse of the indigenes and non-indigenes noticed that many of them are involved in the preparation of Ibori homecoming, which is tentatively fixed for December 20. Already, streets in Oghara are being decorated just as hotels and drinking joints are also undergoing renovation to give the city a complete facelift. Findings by Saturday Telegraph show that various social clubs, schools and market women are already mobilising for the big reception that will be held at the Oghara Township stadium. The former governor is described by his people as “Odidigbogbo of Africa.” It was learnt that the state government is also having elaborate plans for the former governor who is political godfather to most government appointees. Reports have it that the state government is presently working on the major expressway leading to the city by constructing double lanes on both sides of the road as well as installing traffic lights and provision of adequate security network in the area. When contacted, the Ovie (king) of Oghara Kingdom, His royal Majesty, Noble Oyibo Eshemitan, declined comment but referred our correspondent to the palace secretary, Chief Solomon Egbiviorie. Although Egbiviorie refused to comment on the community’s plans, he confirmed that there was speculation that the former governor would return this month. He said: “Every Oghara sons and daughters are certainly happy over the cherry news, but I must say that Chief Ibori homecoming has not been made known officially. “It is actually being speculated that ex-governor Ibori will regain his freedom, by the grace of God sometimes this month (December). But it will be premature to talk on the issue now. “We will surely receive him, even our revered and highly respected king will not be left out of the joyous celebration. But I am advising that we should get confirmation before making comment. So, I won’t be able to talk on the issue”. On the present security challenges prevailing tin he area, Egbiviorie said: “You are talking of the past. There is nowhere in the world where there are no security problems but I can assure you that Oghara is one of the most peaceful kingdom in the world.” Traders, mostly women of Oghara market are not hiding their happiness over Ibori’s homecoming. One of them, who sells dry fish, Madam Oyibo Ogheneovo, described the homecoming of the exgovernor as “divine, God’s favour and completeness.” “We don arrange to welcome am and I go donate one full basket of dry fish for the party”, an elated Ogheneovo said in pidgin English. Saturday Telegraph was told that one of Ibori’s friends (name withheld) has volunteered to fix faulty electrical appliances, do the painting of the mansion among other necessary things to give the edifice a new look. A peep into Ibori’s premises shows there is ongoing renovation on the building. Some young men were also seen clearing the grass and cutting the flowers. As part of the preparation, it was learnt that a bushy rubber plantation of about 20 hectares of land had been cleared to serve as parking lots for visitors expected to attend Ibori’s reception. The President-General Oghara Elite Forum, Mr. Tony Omene, who described Ibori as “political juggernaut of south-south politics”, deserved to be welcomed because of immense contributions to the development of Oghara. He said: “We are in joyous mood because this is no doubt a cherry news. We love Chief Ibori and nothing too big to do for him. “If you take a critical look at all the nook and cranny of this town, you can see that Chief Ibori, during his tenure turned Oghara to another London and Dubai. We are really proud of him because he did not forget to develop his home town and also spread development to every part of the 25 local government areas of the state”. When asked if he would advice Ibori to take part in the next political dispensation when he returns, Omene said: “Every human being is a political animal.” “We cannot say because he encountered some problems so he should stay out of politics. He did not become the governor through other means but politics.” Ibori’s closest associate and former Senior Political Adviser, Chief Ighoyota Amori, has recently said the former governor will soon be released. Amori dropped the hint in Oghara at the 50th birthday anniversary of former Commissioner for Transport, Mr. Ben Ibakpa. “Chief James Onanefe Ibori will spend this 2016 Christmas with us here in Oghara, Delta State, Nigeria,” he said. He urged the people to remain steadfast in their prayers for Ibori, insisting that, “his coming is as certain as death. We will all gather here to give him a wonderful reception and our lives will begin again once he returns to the country”. Ibori’s corruption charges started with the filling of petitions by his kinsmen, under the auspices of Delta State Elders and Stakeholders Forum influenced by the foremost Ijaw leader, Chief E. K. Clark. The petition was sent to a former chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Nuhu Ribadu, who initially failed to act on the petition before the forum dragged the ex-governor and EFCC before the court to compel his prosecution. According to Wikipedia, in 2007, the Metropolitan Police raided the London offices of lawyer Bhadresh Gohil. Hidden in a wall behind a fireplace, they found computer hard drives containing details of myriad offshore companies, run for Ibori by Gohil, fiduciary agent Daniel Benedict Mc- Cann, and corporate financier Lambertus De Boer. All of these men were later jailed for a total of 30 years. As a result of these corruption allegations, the United Kingdom courts froze Ibori’s assets there, valued at about £17 million, in August 2007. His wife, Nkoyo, was arrested at Heathrow Airport in London on November 1, 2007, in connection with the probe of the assets of her husband, particularly in the United Kingdom. She was released after being questioned. In an exclusive interview with CNN, Ibori denied allegations against him claiming they were politically motivated, accusing Ribadu and the UK Courts of playing politics. On December 12, 2007, Ibori was arrested by EFCC at the Kwara State Lodge in Asokoro, Abuja. The charges he faced included theft of public funds, abuse of office, and money laundering. The corruption charges brought against Ibori by the government of former President Obasanjo were among many begun by Ribadu against former officials of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). Ribadu additionally alleged that Ibori attempted to bribe him to drop the charges with a cash gift of $15 million, which Ribadu immediately lodged in the Central Bank of Nigeria CBN. The cash remains with the CBN as an exhibit. On December 17, 2009, a Federal High Court sitting in Asaba, Delta State, discharged and acquitted Ibori of all 170 charges of corruption brought against him by EFCC, but the antigraft commission filed an appeal against the December 17, 2009 judgement. In April 2010, about three months after the take over of government by Goodluck Jonathan, Ibori’s case file was reopened. A new charge that he embezzled N40 billion was pressed against him. Attempts to arrest him were unsuccessful. It was reported that he fled from Abuja to Lagos and then to the creeks of Oghara, his homeland in the Niger Delta. It was reported that armed militias guarded him and they once had a shootout with security forces. He claimed that the charges were frivolous and that he was a victim of political persecution. After that, Ibori fled Nigeria, prompting the EFCC to request the assistance of Interpol, which paid off on May 13, 2010, as Ibori was arrested in Dubai, the United Arab Emirates, under Interpol arrest warrants, issued from United Kingdom courts and enacted by the Metropolitan Police. He was granted bail pending an extradition hearing, and a spokesman for the Metropolitan Police confirmed that the United Kingdom would “seek Mr. Ibori’s extradition”. On July 12, 2010 the then Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), Sanusi Lamido Sanusi, revealed that Ibori had used Delta State as collateral for N40 billion loan when he was governor. The Federal Government and the United Kingdom then agreed to work together on Ibori’s extradition to the United Kingdom even as the Dubai authority restricted his movement. He was however reported to be seeking political asylum in Dubai on May 27, 2010. Ibori’s case and extradition became one of the longest, most complex and expensive operations mounted by Scotland Yard in recent years, with prosecutors alleging that companies owned by Ibori and his family were beneficiaries from the sale of state assets, including shares in a mobile telephone operator, as well as crude oil deliveries. On Thursday June 10, 2010, the EFCC confirmed that Ibori was in custody awaiting extradition to the UK. In London, where Ibori was sought in the case of money laundering, the authority continued with the prosecution of his associates who were in the dock for helping him to launder money. On June 1 and 2, 2010, UK juries found Ibori’s sister, Christine Ibie-Ibori and his associate, Udoamaka Okoronkwo, guilty on counts of money laundering, in a verdict delivered at the Southwark Crown Court, London. Ibori, via his media aide released a statement questioning the validity of the verdict, which he claimed absolved the two other women, Ms Okoronkwo and Adebimpe Pogoson who were charged alongside his sister. The jury’s verdict of June 2, 2010 however returned a guilty decision against Okoronkwo as well. Christine Ibie-Ibori and Udoamaka Okoronkwo were each sentenced to 5 years in prison on Monday June 7, 2010 by the UK court even as the defence counsel pleaded for mercy that the convicts were merely manipulated by Ibori. Accused of stealing US$250 million from the Nigerian public purse, Ibori pleaded guilty to 10 counts of money laundering and conspiracy to defraud at Southwark Crown Court, London on February 27, 2012. On Tuesday, April 17, 2012, Southwark Crown Court sentenced Ibori to 13 years for his crimes. Following the guilty plea, the EFCC brought before an Appeal Court the 6-year-old ruling of a Federal High Court in Asaba, which acquitted Ibori in 2009. The EFCC sought the court to set aside the ruling of the lower court on the grounds that the presiding judge, Justice Awokulehin, erred in law while delivering his judgement. A three-man panel of justices at the Benin Division of the Court of Appeal on May 15, 2014, ruled that the ex- governor has a case to answer. With this judgment, Ibori may face further trial in Nigeria upon the completion of his jail term in London. Among possessions confiscated were; a house in Hampstead, North London, worth £2.2m; a property in Shaftesbury, Dorset, for £311,000; a £3.2m mansion in Sandton, near Johannesburg, South Africa; a fleet of armoured Range Rovers valued at £600,000; £120,000 Bentley Continental GT; a Mercedes-Benz Maybach 62 bought for €407,000 cash, that was shipped directly to his mansion in South Africa. – New Telegraph

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