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$15m Ibori Bribe Case Gets January 28 Date

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SAN FRANCISCO, January 10, (THEWILL) - The Federal Government will know on January 28 whether it would be allowed to file further affidavit in support of its bid to inherit the $15million allegedly offered as bribe by former Governor of Delta State, Chief James Ibori in 2007, as Presiding Justice Gabriel Kolawole of a Federal High Court Abuja, Thursday, fixed the day for his ruling on the matter.

This came as the Delta State government,Thursday, through its Attorney General and Commissioner of Justice, Chief Charles Ajuyah, SAN, accused the Federal Government of deliberately stalling hearing on the substantive issues pertaining to the bribe money.

Insisting that the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, (EFCC), lied before the court when it alleged that the Delta State government had on two successive occasions, transferred N50million to a foreign account operated by Ibori in London, Ajuyah maintained that it was already late for the Federal Government to file any other affidavit on the matter.

Whereas the Federal Government is seeking to take possession of the money, Delta State Government on the other hand, is arguing that the money was allegedly offered to the anti-graft agency during the period Ibori held sway as governor of the State.

The money was allegedly offered to persuade the EFCC under its former chairman, Mallam Nuhu Ribadu, to abort further investigations into allegations of corruption against the embattled former governor.

Ibori, who was governor of Delta State between 1999 and 2007 was recently sentenced by a Southwark Crown Court in London for 13 years following his alleged complicity in a $250 million fraud while he was in power.

It is worthy to note that EFCC, through its counsel, Mr Rotimi Jacobs, had on December 11, 2012, adduced reasons why the money should not be handed over to the Delta State government which he accused of complicity in money laundering.

The commission had told the court that it had sufficient evidence to prove that the Delta State government, between 2008 and 2009, illegally transferred over NI00million to London with a view to helping Ibori to wriggle out of his money laundering case.

Besides, EFCC alleged that the state government had in 2008, illegally disbursed N50million to Ibori on the guise that it was meant for him to use in building a four bedroom apartment, adding that another N50 million was equally given to him in 2010 for the completion of the same building.

Consequently, the anti-graft agency maintained that on that premise, the state could not be entrusted with the controversial $15million which has been in the custody of the Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN, since April 26, 2007.

The allegations were however refuted by the Attorney General of Delta State, Chief Ajuyah, who argued that the state has the sole right to take possession of the disowned bribe money.

Refuting the allegation of money laundering, Ajuyah stressed that the only money that was paid to the convicted ex-governor was his pension, an action he said has the backing of the extant laws guiding the state’s policies.

At the resumed sitting ,Thursday, he pleaded the court to discard fresh application dated December 10, 2012, which the EFCC brought under Order 48 Rule 4 of the Federal High Court Civil Procedure Rules, and proceed with hearing the matter on its merit.

The British Police had also noted that during his two terms as governor, Ibori, “systematically stole funds from the public purse, secreting them in bank accounts across the world,” in a fraud worth $250 million.

However, Ibori has since denied offering the $15m bribe to the EFCC, saying he never authorised anyone to make such offer on his behalf.

The Federal Government had alongside the Attorney General of the Federation and the EFCC, filed an application on July 24, seeking “an interim order forfeiting the sum of $15, 000, 000 (Fifteen Million Dollars) being an unclaimed property in possession of Central Bank of Nigeria, to the Federal Government of Nigeria pending the publication and hearing of the motion on notice for the final forfeiture order of the said property.”

In its own application dated August 10, Delta State maintained that it ought to inherit the money.

The state via a 35-paragraphed affidavit attached in support of the application, argued that the release of the money would facilitate the current developmental projects in the state.

But the Delta State Government, in its affidavit deposed to by one Nikiru Bridget Emakpor, a legal officer in the Delta State Ministry of Justice, averred that the $15 million was the exclusive property of the state and it is therefore entitled to collect same, being the bona fide owner.

According to the state, “any money, asset or property recovered from Ibori rightly belongs to Delta State and same should be returned to it as it has always maintained its entitlement to any asset recovered from Ibori.”

It argued that “any denial by Ibori in respect of the money cannot affect entitlement of the state to the amount.”