By Emma Amaize
OGHARAâ€”VANGUARD exclusively gained access into the stately home of the former Governor of Delta State, Chief James Onanefe Ibori at Oghara in Ethiope West Local Government Area, yesterday.
Although Ibori was said to be in the house and even took his lunch at about 2.00 p.m,Â access to him was restricted.
However, fresh protest erupted in the community over the EFCC manhunt for him by Oghara youths and women, who had vowed to die, defending their son from alleged victimization by EFCC and its sponsors.
The compound was calm, with no sign that trouble was hanging in the corner for the owner, and no armed security man was sighted.
Vanguard was led into the compound by one of the Oghara youth leaders but our photographers were disallowed from taking photographs on the grounds that â€œthe purpose we brought you in is for you to see that there are no militants inside here. All of us are youths of Oghara and we also want you to know that nobody is stopping anybody from coming to see Ibori but not when they come in a violent manner.â€ Vanguardâ€™s request to speak to the ex-governor was rebuffed.
The gate of the residence was opened by personnel of a private security outfit hired by the ex-governor, and domestic staff were going about their normal duties.
The chef, gardener and a host of other workers did not show any sign of fear when they saw the journalists except that the steward asked our guide: â€œWho are these people?â€ Once, he was told they were journalists, he continued with his chores.
One of the domestic staff who did not disclose his name said, â€œContrary to what we read in the newspaper that Ibori has fled Oghara or guarding himself with militants, we are all going about our normal duties and there are no militants here.â€
He said: â€œIboriÂ reads â€˜the nonsenseâ€™ some of the newspapers write. He sent somebody to buy newspapers today (yesterday) and they brought them to him. He is not happy with the lies some of the newspapers are concocting against him, I wonder where some of journalists get the stories you write.â€
A source said visitors were not barred from the compound but they must be authorised.
On the confusion over the whereabouts of the former governor, the public relations officer of Oghara Youths Movement, OYM, Prince Olatunji Olusoji said: â€œThere should be no confusion about Iboriâ€™s whereabouts, he is not hiding, he is inside his house, but, Oghara youths will not allow any security agent to come here and arrest him.â€
Corroborating Prince Olusojiâ€™s claim, one of the ex-governorâ€™s aides told VanguardÂ yesterday: â€œI am one of the domestic staff of Chief Ibori, we are all going about our normal duties and as I speak to you now, Ibori is taking his lunch.â€
Asked if the youths were not aware that the EFCC had asked Ibori to surrender himself, Olusoji said the ex-governor would not surrender to EFCC. He admonished the law enforcement agency to obey the agreement between its counsel, Iboriâ€™s counsel and Justice Buba Mohammed of the Federal High Court, Asaba, that the status quo would be maintained pending the trial of the case before the court.
IG, EFCC chairman map out fresh strategies
However, the Inspector General of Police, Ogbonna Onovo, Chairman of the EFCC, Mrs. Farida Waziri and heads of other security agencies were, yesterday, said to be mapping out fresh strategies on how to arrest Ibori, but, it was not clear when they would storm Oghara for him.
But the vice chairman of the OYM, Mr. Favour Ededey who also maintained that Ibori wonâ€™t surrender to the EFCC said it was surprising that the Acting President, Dr. Goodluck Jonathan was lending himself to whims and caprices of the former Federal Commissioner for Information, Chief Edwin Clark, who had earlier boasted that he would employ his closeness to Dr. Jonathan to use the EFCC to hunt Chief Ibori.
He said: â€œIbori wonâ€™t surrender because there is foul play in the arrangement. You cannot invite somebody and even when the time that you invited him had not come, you declare him wanted.â€
Ededey said that Chief Clarkâ€™s anger was that Ibori, whom he regarded as a â€œsmall boyâ€ was in control of the political structure of the state, which he purportedly used to install Dr. Emmanuel Uduaghan as governor in 2007 and would not want Dr. Uduaghan to continue in office in 2011.
Noting that it was all politics, he stressed that the rule of law should be followed, adding: â€œIbori is the architect of PDP in Delta State, Clark knows that and if he is tired of the party, he should go and form his own party and stop causing trouble in the state. Oghara people will die for Ibori because he transformed the village to a town with water, solar electricity, good networks of roads and other basic amenities. No matter what you say about him, we, Oghara people love Ibori.â€
Yesterdayâ€™s protest was peaceful but entrance to the street leading to the former governorâ€™s house was barricaded once again. The barricades were removed on Wednesday morning but it resurfaced yesterday.
There was rumour that the JTF might storm the residence yesterday but Oghara was calm as at 3.00 p.m. However, reports that Armoured Personnel Carriers and other detachment of policemen have been drafted to the community were not true.
Vanguard went round Oghara and there was noÂ deployment of fresh security.
â€˜They want to deal with Ibori like Abiola’
Meantimme, the Oghara Youths Movement has accused the Police and EFCC of planning to treat the former Governor of Delta State, Chief James Ibori the way the late Chief Moshood Abiola and the former Governor of Bayelsa State, Chief Diepreye Alamieyeseigha were dealt with.
The groupâ€™s spokesman, Prince Olatunji Olusoji, in a statement also faulted the claim that the police team, led by a Deputy Inspector General of Police, DIG, Udom Ekpoudom, which stormed the Oghara country home of Chief James Ibori on Tuesday was there to advise him to surrender, and not to arrest him.
Olusoji said: â€œWhy is the Nigeria Police contradicting itself, DIG Ekpoudom was said in todayâ€™s (yesterday) Vanguard to have come to Oghara on Tuesday to see Ibori and not to arrest him but the police through its Force PRO, Emmanuel Ojukwu, said in one of the newspapers today (yesterday) that armed youths foiled the arrest of Ibori when DIG Ekpoudom was said to have only come to visit Ibori.
â€œSo, who were the policemen that came for the arrest that armed youths resisted. I leave that question to the Nigeria Police to answer. Considering their statements, it shows that the Police and EFCC have hidden agenda because firstly, they disobeyed the orders of the Federal High Court, Asaba, thereby disregarding the rule of law.
â€œSecondly, they have plans to extradite Ibori to London; they also have plans to treat him the way they treated MKO Abiola and Alamieyeseigha and that, we will not allow because this is purely political persecution and we will continue to resist them because the case has political undertone.
â€œWe will continue to resist them because they have disobeyed court orders, we are peace-loving and law-abiding citizens of Oghara and not militants and we believe in the rule of law and social justice but can at times, become rebellious if pushed to the wall. The world is watching.â€
Justice I. N. Buba, in his ruling, 19 April, 2010, on the preliminary objection stated: â€œOn the issue of the preservative order, I have considered the submissions of learned counsel, Mr. I. B. Daudu and Mr. C. Okoronma. I am of the considered opinion that since Mr. Okoronma had submitted that since they received the court process, they have not done anything, I will equally take it that they will not do anything to prejudice the fair trial of this case.
â€œI take the words of the counsel as his bond, i.e: â€˜We would not do anything that will make the determination of this matter a fait accompli.â€™ In the light of these statements, I believe parties will respect the rule of law and allow the court seized of this matter to determine it, as the only authority in Nigeria that can decide dispute between parties, government and indeed, all authorities are subject to law and the jurisdiction of the courts to which disputes are constitutionally vested and decided.â€
â€˜Donâ€™t confront security operatives’
Chief James Ibori has called on Oghara youth not to confront security agencies in their quest to defend his innocence before the Economic and Financial Crime Commission, EFCC.
Chief Ibori in a statement signed by his Media Assistant, Mr. Tony Eluemor, charged the youths to eschew violence in dealing with security operatives that are hunting him.
The statement reads: â€œMy advice to the inhabitants of Oghara is for them to shun violence and go about their normal duties. They should not give E. K Clark and those he works for the chance they have been looking for to commit genocide against them.â€
He expressed fears that confrontation with the security operatives may degenerate into violence with grave consequences for the people of the state especially the Urhobos, adding: â€œIt might present an opportunity to misguided elements to take actions that will affect the fragile peace that Warri has enjoyed for a while now; the peace I spent a better part of my days at Government House Asaba to cultivate.
â€˜EFCC has no evidence against me’
Meanwhile, ChiefÂ James Onanefe IboriÂ has said that media reports about the continued spate of investigations the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, have unleashed against the Delta State Government, have proved to the whole world that they have nothing against him.
He said that EFCC had proclaimed in December 2007, when the agency arraigned him in Kaduna Federal High Court, that they had completed all investigations against him, before taking the matter to court.
In a statement from Tony Eluemunor, his Media Assistant, Ibori said: â€œIt is telling that three years after he was arraigned, EFCC is still on a fishing expedition in Asaba, questioning and re-questioning government officials, arresting and re-arresting civil servants, in an unending attempt to get something, just anything against me, not only over matters that have been investigated before, but charges that have been tried in court and thrown energetically out of the window. EFCC appealed against the Federal High Court judgment, an appeal which is still on-going at the Benin circuit of the Court of Appeal.â€
This time, he said, the EFCC have, against the norms of investigation all over the world, refused to pin-point the charges they are allegedly investigating. Worst of all, the Federal Government of Nigeria has shown it has no regard for the rule of law by flouting a ruling of the Federal High Court, Asaba, that the EFCC, the Police and State Security Service, SSS, should maintain the â€œstatus quoâ€, an an undertaking made by EFCCâ€™s counsel in open court, by not attempting to arrest Ibori .
Ibori said that if the present onslaught against him is because of E.K. Clarkâ€™s petition over Ascot company (Wilbros) purchase and Delta State Government shares in Oceanic Bank, then the matters are not new at all as the shares are still intact and proceeds from 40 per cent of the shares sold were paid into Delta State Government accounts, via a cheque written in the Stateâ€™s name.Â Most of all, he said: â€œthese same old matters were investigated in September last year and nothing untoward was found.