September 11, 2012

Ibori $15m: EFCC moves against claimants

By Soni Daniel

Abuja—Indications emerged, yesterday, that Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, had begun investigating those behind the attempts to reclaim the $15 million bribe money, which the former Delta State Governor, James Ibori, gave the commission.

The anti-graft agency, it was learnt last night, had completed plans to investigate all who recently approached a Federal High Court in what a source described as a ‘desperate move’ to steal the $15 million bribe money.

Vanguard gathered that already the commission’s operatives were on the trail of an Abuja-based lawyer, who actually deposed to an affidavit claiming that one Chuibuike Achegbu, instructed him to do so on his behalf.

An EFCC source said the commission was interested in establishing who authorised David Alao to depose to the affidavit with a view to determining who to question and who to take into custody.

The source said since both Senator Uba and Achigbu had openly distanced themselves from the money in question, it was imperative for its operatives to find out the motives of those who wanted to claim the $15 million.

One source said: “Our main focus now is the person who made the application before the court. We really want to know who asked him to do so and why.

“But the person who also deposed to the affidavit is the first we want to pick up, so we can determine the others to follow. The whole show is like a clever attempt by some elements to steal money that does not belong to them. It is a serious offence and we must get to the roots of the matter.”

Asked if Senator Andy Uba might be invited to give further details, the source hinted that all those who had any role to play in the matter would be questioned depending on the outcome of their investigation of the law firm that initiated the application and the deponent to the affidavit.

The source said: “I cannot tell you how many people will be invited for questioning for now, but what will happen depends on what our investigation of the major players will show.”

A Federal High Court had given an interim forfeiture order of the amount to the Federal Government and gave 14 days period during which the owner of the money should come forward with evidence to claim it.

Last week, some senior lawyers approached the court and prayed it to return the money to one Chibuike Achigbu, an oil and gas businessman.

In fact, the law firm of Adeniyi Akintola, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria, leading two other Senior Advocates of Nigeria, and seven other lawyers, initiated the move to get the money returned to Achigbu.

In a 30-paragraph affidavit in support of the prayers, David Alao, who claimed to have been instructed by both Adeniyi Akintola and Chibuike Achigbu, swore that the claimant was the owner of the money in question and asked the court to return same to him.

Alao also stated that Andy Uba, in whose residence the money was given to Ribadu, would be ready to attest to the ownership of the money by Achigbu.

However, in a dramatic twist to the story, Uba, now a Senator, distanced himself from the claims of the lawyer, insisting that although Ibori came to his house and met the former EFCC chairman, Nuhu Ribadu, he was not privy to what they discussed or what changed hands.

Similarly, the said Achigbu denied authorising the lawyers to go to court to claim the money, saying that someone might have tried to use his name for pecuniary reasons.

It could not be established as at press time if EFCC had arrested the lawyer and others involved in the move to claim the bribe sum.