By Emmanuel Aziken, Political Editor
LAGOS— Chief James Ibori was, yesterday, enjoying his first free day from prison re-acquainting with family and very close friends in his London home.
After the euphoria that greeted his release and the unending chats with friends in London and Nigeria, through Wednesday night, Ibori was yesterday locked in with family and friends and reportedly limiting phone calls from Nigeria in order to have a rest.
The former Delta State governor, meanwhile, has thanked God for his liberty, noting that the intrigues that shadowed his freedom on Wednesday could have put him in an extended detention if it had gone the other way.
It also emerged that Ibori may not be returning to Nigeria in the immediate future as he, yesterday, indicated his determination to appeal his conviction in the UK court.
Meanwhile, senior lawyers, yesterday, frowned on moves to try the former governor of Delta State on the money laundering charges he was convicted of by the UK courts. Ibori’s spokesman, Mr. Tony Eluemunor, meanwhile, has denied reports that he had been placed under surveillance or that his movement had been restricted, pending the determination of the confiscation trial.
Eluemunor said the clarification arose from conflicting reports in the media over the terms guiding his release.
After the festivity that occasioned his release in his London residence, Ibori, according to sources, rested for most of yesterday. The rest, it was gathered, may be ahead of the flow of his associates to London to see him, having waited to confirm his release before travelling.
Ibori thanks God for release
Meanwhile, Eluemunor quoted him as giving thanks and glory to the Almighty God, for making his release from jail possible, despite the last-minute obstacle the British Secretary of State placed on his way.
“He is grateful to his team of lawyers, who fought gallantly for his release. He sends his heart-felt gratitude to the dozens of mainstream news organisations, especially in Britain and Nigeria, that fucused attention on the relentless persecution, instead of prosecution, he was receiving and which also led to the investigation of those who had earlier investigated and prosecuted him; the result was a far-reaching corruption indictment within such agencies.
“That was when the Director of Public Prosecutions, Alison Saunders, heeding the call of the journalists, demanded a review of the evidence, following allegations that police took bribes and prosecutors covered it up.
Eluemunor added that many Nigerians might not appreciate the depth of the legal victory Ibori achieved on Wednesday. A different verdict, he said, would have confined him to an indefinite detention, because the confiscation hearing the British Home Secretary wanted to detain Ibori for would not come up until the conclusion of the appeal against the conviction verdict he said Ibori was preparing to launch.
He said: “Now that Ibori’s associates in the case, especially Mr. Bhadresh Gohil, has appealed his conviction, and Ibori’s lawyers are considering going on appeal too, the appeals will have to end before the confiscation hearing may ever begin.
“Also, nobody knows how long they may last; so Ibori would have remained indefinitely in detention. His freedom from this indefinite detention is the essence of Wednesday’s victory. And if the appeals are sustained, there will be no confiscation hearing at all.”