FG Moves To Transfer Ex-Gov Ibori Home And Signs Prisoners’ Agreement With UK

By Omeiza Ajayi And Paul Arhewe

Indications emerged yesterday that the convicted former governor of Delta State, Chief James Onanefe Ibori, may soon be back to Nigeria following the signing of a prisoner transfer agreement between the Federal Government and the United Kingdom.

At a meeting between the Minister of Interior, Comrade Abba Moro and the United Kingdom's Minister of Justice, Jeremy Wright, the Federal Government said it is in the mutual interest of both countries that the Prisoners' Transfer Agreement be implemented especially because of the traditional relationship between them.

The agreement had earlier been signed by Wright and the Attorney-General and Minister of Justice, Mr. Mohammed Adoke.

The agreement would also see the UK government extending millions of pounds in aid to the Federal Government for the rehabilitation of some local prisons for that purpose.

National Mirror checks revealed that nearly 600 Nigerians are serving various terms in UK prisons while only one Briton is said to be serving in Nigeria. Under the terms of the agreement, a prisoner must have spent at least 12 months in a UK prison to be eligible for transfer to Nigeria.

Ibori was sentenced to prison by a London court in April 2012 and therefore his eligibility is not in doubt. Under the agreement, the former governor has no choice of remaining in the UK as it is compulsory for those who have spent over 12 months in the country's prisons to be transferred back to Nigeria.

Wright said that the eligibility of Ibori to complete his prison term in Nigeria would be determined by Nigeria and the UK governments.

“In relation to individual prisoners, there has to be a good deal of discussion between our two countries about individual prisoners and the agreement of both countries to be secured before individual transfers.

“The compulsory nature of this prisoner transfer agreement is that the prisoners' themselves do not have to choose where they go or not but the respective countries do still have an opportunity to discuss whether a transfer should be made,'' he said.

At the meeting, Moro said one of the biggest challenges facing Nigeria's prison system is congestion but added that the presence of such a challenge is not a good reason not to do things the right way.

He expressed the commitment of the Federal Government to seeing to the full implementation of the agreement, adding that a committee would be set up to implement the agreement.

Already, the government said it has designated six prisons including that of Koton- Karfe and Nnewi for the purpose of the agreement, adding that five of them, which were built in the 1980's are currently undergoing intensive renovations.

Although no specific date of implementation was announced for the agreement, both ministers were of the firm belief that before the end of the year, many prisoners would have been transferred.

Ibori was jailed in April 2012, for 13 years for fraud and money-laundering The London Southwark Crown Court, where he was sentenced, was told the amount he stole from the people of Delta state was “unquantified”.

His sentence was announced by Judge Anthony Pitts. Sasha Wass, QC, prosecuting him, had told the court Ibori “deliberately and systematically” defrauded the people he was elected to represent. Senate President David Mark, also applauded the Prisoners Transfer Agreement assuring that Nigeria would uphold the agreement.

The Senate president, who spoke while receiving Wright on a separate occasion yesterday, noted that there were many patriotic and credible Nigerians doing business abroad, but some bad eggs had caused the misgivings about the country.

He also requested Britain, as an older democracy, to help Nigeria improve and sustain democracy. Wright, who was accompanied by the British Ambassador to Nigeria, Mr. Andrew Pocock, expressed appreciation to Nigeria for making the agreement possible, assuring that his country would fulfill its own part of the bargain.

Also yesterday, Mark played host to the outgoing Chinese Ambassador to Nigeria, Mr. Deng Boqing, where both leaders pledged the continued socio- economic cooperation between the two nations.