James Ibori; the making of a scapegoat

James IboriThe war against corruption declared by the acting president, Goodluck Jonathan is in top gear. Ask James Ibori, the former governor of Delta State. He left his palatial country home in Oghara, Delta State and fled to the creeks in the Niger Delta or to Dubai, UAE, depending on who you are listening to.

Ibori is wanted by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, in connection with an alleged N44 billion fraud. The Acting President, Goodluck Jonathan has reportedly directed the Inspector-General of Police, Ogbonna Onovo, to assist EFCC arrest Ibori but he went into hiding last week immediately security agents began a manhunt for him.

Ibori presently shares the oil polluted and slime infested creeks with the militants who now guard him. The militants are known for arming themselves with sophisticated weapons and for being ruthless and so far have prevented Onovo and his men from getting close to Ibori.

Ask also, the chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party, Prince Vincent Ogbulafor. He is due in court tomorrow; charged defrauding the Federal Government of N2.3billion, in 2001. Chances are Ogbulafor may not be returning to Wadata Plaza where he holds court but to his new home-jail house, in prison uniforms and handcuffs.

THE Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission, ICPC headed by a former Justice of the Supreme Court, Justice Emmanuel Ayoola say the incumbent National Chairman of the ruling Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, Chief Vincent Ogbulafor, allegedly conspired with four others to defraud the Federal Government N2.3billion, in 2001.

The anti-graft agency said that although the petition alleging fraud against Ogbulafor and others was received more than five years ago, it could not come to court until few weeks ago. While admitting that the petition was investigated for a relatively long time, ICPC, however, said that it was better late than never.

On the other hand, former chairman of the Federal Capital Territory, Nasir El-Rufai landed at the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport Abuja on May 1, 20101 and was given a hero’s welcome.

Prior to his landing, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission had threatened El Rufai with arrest and was lying in wait for him. But sources say, an order came from above to stop the EFCC from arresting El Rufai.

EFCC Spokesman Mr. Femi Babafemi expressing surprise that El’ Rufai could have walked through the airport without being arrested said “if he passed through the airport and Immigration officials, airport security and other security agencies present there did not arrest him, then there is a problem there”.

Adding, “The law will take its course. His case is pending before the court. So, he will need to answer the charges against him before us and defend himself in court”.

Mallam el Rufai, it must be recalled went into exile at the heat of the allegations that he mismanaged his port folio as FCT Minister and sold properties to his cronies and family members at give away prices. He was later declared wanted by the EFCC.

The allocation of a plot of land that measures over one million square metres to former President Olusegun Obasanjo’s company at Gauje in FCT was perceived to be outrageous and the peak of corruption by the quantity surveyor.

Over 90 per cent of land allegedly revoked by Nasir el-Rufai’s administration were allegedly allocated to his and former President Olusegun Obasanjo’s cronies, even as it was further alleged that due process was thrown to the wind during the former minister’s tenure at the FCT.

Yesterday, the EFCC hilariously declared that it did not arrest Mallam Nasiru el-Rufai, when he returned to the country yesterday after a two-year self exile, because he returned to the country on a Saturday, on a day the courts were not in session. Let us wait and see whether Rufai will be arrested tomorrow, Tuesday after the public holiday!

The case of his friend and soul-mate, Mallam Nuhu Ribadu was handled in a tidier manner. The Federal Government got the Attorney General to discontinue the trial of the former EFCC boss, so he has expressed willingness to go back a free man.

But El Rufai went through no such process, Sources say he was being rewarded for a job well done; “El-Rufai did the most to ensure that Jonathan took over. He provided the intelligence input that gave Jonathan the courage to assume office as Acting President”.

So with all sense of responsibility, I ask Jonathan to stop wasting his energy and our resources fighting against corruption and concentrate on convincing the House of Arewa and the PDP to adopt him as their presidential candidate for the 2011 presidential elections.

Before I go on let me make one point absolutely clear.

Firstly, I support fully the decision to discontinue all criminal proceedings against Mallam Nuhu Ribadu. I also believe that El Rufai was unnecessarily targeted because of his opposition to the government of President Umaru Yar’adua. All the above against him remains in the realm of speculation. He remains innocent until proven guilty.

Therefore since a new Pharaoh is in town, it makes perfect sense for El Rufai and Ribadu to go back to their fatherland as free men. Many Nigerians believe that El rufai and Ribadu are two individuals the government should deify for their zeal and patriotism not villify.

Secondly, I believe that the former governor of Delta. James Ibori should be made to account for the alleged N44 billion frauds committed against the government and people of Delta State.

So also should Ogbulafor be jailed not only for this corruption issue but for his crimes against the Anambra people where, for his love of money he connived; first with Chris Uba and then with Chukwuma Soludo and Anthony Anenih to mess up the PDP primary.

Nevertheless, the present manhunt for Ibori and the prosecution of Ogbulafor has already lost all credibility in the eyes of Nigerians. Nigerians seem to generally agree that the EFCC’s manhunt for Ibori is not engendered by the zeal to purify Nigeria of corruption but is motivated by the inordinate desire to subjugate perceived foes of Jonathan’s acting presidency.

Even the Press seems to think likewise.

In today’s THISDAY Newspaper, while reporting that the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), the party yesterday reaffirmed that its presidential ticket remains zoned to the Northern part of the country said Ogbulafor’s statement that the PDP has zoned the party’s presidential ticket to the North “has been allegedly fingered behind his present travails in the hand of the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Offences Commission (ICPC)”.

This statement has been parroted by almost all the Nigeria media and commentators.

Over the weekend, Mallam Umaru Mohammed, from Daura, Katsina State in an advert on page 36, Sunday Vanguard, May 2, 2010 challenged the acting president, Goodluck Jonathan and the EFCC to investigate/charge the wife of the Governor of Bayelsa state in 2006, Mrs. Patience Jonathan.

Calling into question the moral pedestal on which Jonathan Goodluck stands to successfully prosecute his avowed anti-corruption war; Mallam Mohammed recalled that in 2006, consequent upon a motion of urgent public importance moved by distinguished Senator Fidelis Okoro, Mallam Nuhu Ribadu as Chairman of EFCC was invited to address the Senate on issues of corruption on Wednesday 13th September, 2006.

He sated: During Mallam Nuhu Ribadu’s address on the floor of the Senate, he stated and we quote “There is also a petition against the Governor’s wife alleging that she was involved in laundering the sum of one hundred and four million into fine-land account. She is also being investigated.”

The wife of the Governor of Bayelsa state in 2006, Mrs. Patience Jonathan was the person Mallam Nuhu Ribadu referred to and this can be confirmed from records of the Senate, he said.

He continued: “Your Excellency, we are concerned that the same Mallam Nuhu Ribadu who remains a dismissed Nigerian police officer thus ineligible for appointment in Nigerian public service is now being hailed by you is the same person who publicly indicted your wife as stated earlier yet EFCC have not made a public declaration of the outcome of the investigation”.

Noting that “he who comes to equity must come with clean hands”, Mohammed opined that “Prince Vincent Ogbulafor is currently being charged for offences allegedly committed in 2001 so the same should apply to your wife or the final report made public by EFCC”.

Further Mohammed recalled that the man appointed by Jonathan Goodluck as the chairman of the Presidential Advisory Council (PAC), General Danjuma “In response to a question during an interview with the Guardian on Sunday, February 24, 2008 as follows; “was it true that you gave Obasanjo N800,million for his campaign?”, replied;

“No I did not give him. I helped finance his first term election. I raised $7 million. Slightly more than half of it came from my pocket. The other half came from my business associates. And this money was passed on to him through (former National Security Adviser, Gen) Aliyu Gusau”.

“Aliyu Gusau came to my house here (in Lagos). Each time I carried thousands, thousands and thousands (of naira) to him in Ghana-must-go”.

He therefore challenged Jonathan to investigate “the claims of the Chairman of your Presidential Advisory Council (PAC), General Danjuma that General Aliyu Gusau who is now your National Security Adviser (NSA) collected the naira equivalent of millions of dollars in Ghana-must-go bags at a time the American backed money laundering act was in place”.

In that same interview, General Danjuma said; “It is this same Aremu, who used to harass his perceived enemies and political opponents. He used Ribadu and some of his Ministers to pursue (former Vice President) Atiku (Abubakar). He used Ribadu and (Malam Nasir) el-Rufai and one or two of his ministers to cover his tracks in the PTDF (Petroleum Technology Development Fund).

Mohammed asked Jonathan to immediately charge to court all the indicted parties in the Okiro report on the Halliburton scandal.

Now, the Okiro Report is further proof – if any were ever needed, that the issue of corruption in Nigeria runs very deep in every facet of our institutions with EVERYONE involved in government in the past years having their dirty hands in the cookie jars.

In the interim report by the Presidential Panel of Investigation headed by former Inspector General of Police, Mike Okiro, to probe the Halliburton bribery scandal, Daily Independent said Obasanjo; his former Deputy, Atiku Abubakar and others got $74m in bribe money.

In that ‘tsunami of all bribes’ doled out by Halliburton, nothing less than $50 million was allegedly paid to former Head of State, Abdulsalami Abubakar; his Minister of Petroleum, Don Etiebet and others.

This amount is separate from the $43 million allegedly collected by the late Head of State, Sani Abacha; his Petroleum Minister, Dan Etete; and former Inspector General of Police, Muhammed Yusuf, who is now a member of Jonathan’s PAC.

Moreover, Jonathan’s mentor, Olusegun Obasanjo and Obasanjo’s former Minister for power, Olusegun Agagun was indicted by the Power Probe Committee who found that the sum of $13.28 billion (N2.5 trillion) was expended on the Power (Electricity) Sector during Obasanjo’s tenure, with further unfunded commitments of over $12 billion. All these monies were misappropriated!

Today, Jonathan has welcomed back into the PDP, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, who was indicted by US Agencies of laundering $40m in the United States and General Ibrahim Babangida who stole $12.5b Gulf oil windfall.

These corrupt individuals are gearing to contest the looming 2011 presidential election.

Fellow countrymen, do you see why AP Goodluck is in a rare situation. Those who facilitated his acting Presidency are certified criminals at least as confirmed by the Halliburton report. He is at the mercy of security chiefs who defy his orders at will and he relies only on good luck and international goodwill to succeed, praying that time runs fast.

Where will Jonathan start and where will he stop – The Siemens bribery scandal, The Securency Naira Polymer Scandal, The Willbros Scandal, The Gulf oil windfall, the Halliburton Scandal, the PTDF Scandal, Patience Goodluck, Ibori, Nnamani, Yerima, Muazu, Kalu, Soludo, Cecilia Ibru…ad infinitum?

In such situation could Jonathan honestly, without fear or favour, affection or ill will prosecute an anti-corruption war?