- Category: SPECIAL REPORTS
- Friday, 31 August 2012
- By Elombah.com
A new twist has been added to the raging controversy over the ownership of a controversial $15 million bribe allegedly given to a former chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, Mallam Nuhu Ribadu, by ex-governor of Delta State, Chief James Ibori, in 2006. On Friday (today) Senator Andy Uba (PDP, Anambra East)
denied ownership of the controversial $15m bribe, saying he merely allowed Ibori to use his house to deliver the money to Ribadu.
Uba had been mentioned by a businessman, Chibuike Achigbu, in an affidavit some days ago as the receiver of the money.
Achigbu had claimed that he raised the money as campaign funds to use in financing some Peoples Democratic Party candidates and then passed it to Uba, who in turn gave it to the EFCC.
But Uba, who was a special assistant to ex-President Olusegun Obasanjo on Domestic Affairs from 1999 – 2006, said in a statement by his aide, Mr. Chike Okeke, and made available to elombah.com that he gave the money to the then EFCC Director of Operations, Ibrahim Lamorde.
Lamorde is the current EFCC chairman.
Uba said, “When I was in the Presidency, my house in the Villa was a convenient place for many top people in Nigeria to come.
“Probably, Chief Ibori didn’t want to go to the EFCC office to hand over the money and so decided to use my house.
“All I know about this matter is that Chief James Ibori brought some money to the then EFCC chairman, Mallam Nuhu Ribadu.
“The details of the transaction were undisclosed to me at the time. The money was handed to Mallam Nuhu Ribadu who invited his then Director of Operations, Mr. Ibrahim Lamorde, to fetch it.
“I was never a party to the transaction between Ibori and Ribadu. That my house was used as the venue for the transaction is not in question as an affidavit to that effect has been sworn to by the current EFCC chairman, Mr. Ibrahim Lamorde, which is probably the point of confusion.
“I hereby state unequivocally that I have no involvement in this matter beyond that stated above.
“So, I’m not involved and will not be involved in this matter. Nobody should drag me into it please.”
The sum, which Ibori allegedly offered the EFCC as bribe to compromise its investigations by the anti-graft agency, has been kept in the strong room of the Central Bank of Nigeria as an unclaimed property since August 2007.
The $15 million bribe saga has been generating lots of controversy since one Chibuike Achigbu, said to be an oil magnate, claimed the money actually belongs to him.
Many Nigerians, including politicians, lawyers, activists and even the Delta State Government, were unanimous on Thursday in challenging erstwhile Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Nuhu Ribadu to open up on the $15 million bribe allegedly given to him by former Delta State Governor, James Ibori.
Recall that in an April 17, 2011 interview with the defunct 234NEXT.com, Mallam Nasir El Rufa'i said Ribadu was Ibori's friend. The former minister of the Federal Capital Territory, told NEXT how he went to the Dubai Police Headquarters, Interpol section, Economic Crime department, where he spent one and a half hours with James Ibori.
Mr El rufai was one of the few people that visited James Ibori when he was in detention in Dubai.
El rufai was reported as saying that When they were both in government, he "was not very close to James" but "James and Nuhu Ribadu were very close friends and they used to meet in Andy Uba's house and Bukola Saraki's house)."
Following an exparte motion by the EFCC, an Abuja Federal High Court on July 25, 2012, granted an interim order forfeiting the $15m to the Federal Government.
The court, presided by Justice Gabriel Kolawole, ordered that if nobody steps forward to claim the money within 14 days, it would be finally forfeited to the Federal Government when the motion on notice for final forfeiture comes up for hearing on September 17, 2007.
Since the court granted the interim order, some stakeholders in Delta State had been arguing that the money should be handed over to the state, which Ibori governed between 1999 and 2007.
The Delta State Government had claimed that the money rightly belonged to it and that the court should order its return to its treasury.
It made the claim in an application filed by the Attorney-general of Delta State and Commissioner for Justice, Chief Charles Ajuyah (SAN).
In the application dated August 10, Delta State Government averred that the money in dispute was offered by Ibori while he was in office as governor of the state.
In a 35-point affidavit in support of the application, Delta State said that the release of the money would facilitate the current developmental projects in the state.
The affidavit deposed to by one Nikiru Bridget Emakpor, a legal officer in the Ministry of Justice asserted that Ibori was a governor of the state between May 29, 1999 and May 29, 2007, the period the money in dispute was alleged offered by Ibori.
On that basis, the state said that the $15M was the exclusive property of the state and is entitled to collect it as the bona fide owner.
The affidavit averred that any money, asset or property recovered from Ibori rightly belonged to Delta State and that same should be returned to it as it has always maintained its entitlement to any asset recovered from Ibori.
The deponent said that any denial by Ibori in respect of the money cannot affect entitlement of the state to the amount.
The affidavit also indicated that the state did not formally apply for payment of the money in view of the pending appeals to the Supreme Court and the court of Appeal because it did not want to prejudice the appeal cases.
The deponent further claimed that all monies, assets and properties recovered from Mr. Joshua Dariye, former Governor of Plateau State were returned to the Plateau State just like those recovered from Chief Diepreye Alamieyesigha of Bayelsa were returned to Bayelsa State.
It was further contended that there should be no legal basis to treat the case of Delta State any different from others and that it is in the interest of justice that the money should be released to Delta.
Meanwhile Human rights lawyer, Festus Keyamo, had called on the federal government to immediately arrest Misters Uba, Ribadu and Chibuike Achigbu and charge them for money laundering, conspiracy and bribery.
In a press statement signed by Mr Keyamo and made available to journalists, the lawyer urged the federal government to arrest Mr Ribadu, interrogate him and charge him to court for conspiracy to pervert justice.
According to him, it is either Mr Ribadu on the one hand is lying that he was offered $15million as bribe or Andy Uba, Misters Ibori and Achigbu on the other were all lying that it was not bribe.
“Arrest Mallam Nuhu Ribadu, interrogate him and charge him to court, if necessary, for conspiracy to pervert the course of justice and perjury as regards the proceedings in Asaba when he swore on oath or procured another to swear that he was given a bribe.
’This is because, it is either Ribadu on the one hand is lying that he was offered $15million as bribe or Andy Uba, Ibori and Chibuike Achigbu on the other are all lying that it was not bribe.
’’Both versions cannot be correct and any version that is false amounts to a crime under our laws.
However, Keyamo urged the federal and Delta state governments to immediately withdraw their suits for forfeiture of the bribe money from court.
He asked all other parties to back off from pursuing cases for the possession of the bribe money and said that it was a national embarrassment.