By Emma Ujah & Emman Ovuakporie
ABUJAâ€”THE Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, yesterday, declared former Delta State Governor, Chief James Onanefe Ibori wanted over an on-going investigation into some allegations of official corruption and money laundering.
The EFCC said in a statement that â€œfollowing persistent public enquiries over the status of the case involving the former governor, we will like the public to know that Chief James Ibori is wanted by the Commission for interrogation.â€
The commission added: â€œIn this regard, letters of invitation have been sent to his known addresses in Lagos and Abuja while a court warrant has equally been obtained for his arrest.â€
A letter from the EFCC dated 22, March, 2010 with reference EFCC/EC/SIDS/001/0016 to Chief James Ibori and titled â€œInvestigation activities: Letter of invitationâ€ said the commission was investigating a case in which Iboriâ€™s name featured prominently.
The letter which was signed by Zubairu Muazu for the Executive Chairman, said that Ibori should report at his office for interview, through Mr. Francis A. Idu of Economic Governance Unit at Block C, No. 5, Fommella Street, off Adetokunbo Ademola Crescent, Wuse 2, Abuja, at 1030 hours on April 17, 2010. The letter was delivered to Chief Ibori by one Mike Anigbogu at 4.20 p.m yesterday.
Vanguard notes that the former governor had a running legal battle for almost two years with the anti-graft agency until an Asaba High Court judgement nullified the 170 count charge levelled against him by the EFCC.
Recently some elders in Delta State wrote a strongly worded petition alleging that the judge only acquitted Chief Ibori but did not discharge him.
EFCC immediately filed an appeal re-echoing the earlier 170 count charge claiming that there was an error in the judgment that Iboriâ€™s case was a no case submission.
Ibori denies receiving EFCCâ€™s invitations
In a swift reaction, however, Chief Ibori denied receiving any invitation from the EFCC, stressing that he was suffering from political persecution which would be legally challenged.
In a statement signed by Mr. Tony Eluemunor, his Media Assistant, Ibori said: â€œThis is a political harassment that demands for vigorous legal challenge so that Nigeria is not ruled like a fiefdom – and that is what I will give.â€
Ibori faulted claims by the anti-graft commission that letters of invitation were sent to his known addresses in Lagos and Abuja as no such letters were received.
The statement said: â€œIbori asks his supporters not to panic because up till today (yesterday), Tuesday, April 13, 2010, no letter inviting him for questioning from either the EFCC or any other security agency, has been received in any of his houses both in Abuja or Lagos. EFCC knows this to be the truth. That is why it did not mention the dates of those alleged invitations.
â€œInstead, it is on record that Iboriâ€™s counsel, Mr. J. B. Dauda, SAN, wrote a petition to both the Attorney-General of the Federation and the Chairman of EFCC, dated Monday,Â April 12, 2010, (and this was reported in some national and internet publications of April 13, 2010) over the unsubstantiated media reports of the past two weeks that Ibori had been on the run from the EFCC. Also, it is on record that Ibori has instituted a suit against the EFCC over this same issue.â€
The statement said that â€œafter EFCC received Iboriâ€™s petition and also learnt that Ibori had filed a suit against the agency in court, it applied its Gestapo tactics and rushed to the news media with the malicious falsehood that the agency had invited Ibori for questioning.â€
It added: â€œIbori maintains that EFCCâ€™s action is just political and not criminal, and it shows that the arm-twisting that defaced the final years of the last administration has been allowed back into Nigeria as the country enters an election year.â€
Court restrains fake EFCC official
Meantime, Justice Adebunkola Banjoko of the FCT High Court, Gudu, Abuja, has restrained an accused fake EFCC official, Victor Osita Uwajeh, and other parties involved, from making any further media statements other than court proceedings on the criminal trial.
Counsel to EFCC, Mr. Festus Keyamo, had told the court that though the matter was before her Lordship, Uwajeh had engaged in unguided and provocative publications prejudicial to the case in court.
He provided newspaper cuttings to buttress his argument.
In her ruling, Justice Banjoko said that any further press briefing or publication by both parties, considered prejudicial to the case, would cause such parties to be sent to prison.
Uwajeh was first arraigned before Justice Banjoko on a four count charge on January 28, 2010 with two further counts added on Thursday March 4.
Uwajeh was accused of impersonation, forgery and extortion.
Justice Banjoko later granted the accused person bail after spending about one month in Kuje prison in the sum of N5 million and two sureties in like sum. The two sureties who should be residents of Abuja were also expected to provide tax clearance certificates for three years, while the accused was ordered to deposit both his Nigerian and British passports with the registrar of the court.
Justice Banjoko also ordered that Uwajehâ€™s property be forfeited for six months, pending the conclusion of the case.
The property which the court ordered confiscated, include landed property, personal bank accounts and a fleet of vehicles which include a Hummer Jeep, Honda Jeep, Toyota Land Cruiser Jeep and a Hilux Jeep.
While delivering her judgment, Justice Banjoko stated that the application filed by the EFCC seeking the forfeiture of the assets as proceeds of crime was in order citing EFCC Establishment Act, 2004, which dictates that:â€œAny property (a) whether real or personal, which represents the gross receipts a person obtains directly as a result of the violation of this Act or which is traceable to such gross receipts (b) within Nigeria which represents the proceeds of an offence under the laws of a foreign country within whose jurisdiction such offence or activity would be punishable by imprisonment for a term exceeding one year and which would be punishable by imprisonment under this Act if such act or Activity had occurred within Nigeria, is subject to forfeiture to the Federal Government and no other property rights shall exist on it.â€