Update – The federal high court judge in Asaba today discharged and acquitted former governor of Delta State, James Ibori, of all the 170-count charge of corruption proffered against him by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC). Elombah.com had reported that the Nigeria Judicial Council sat last Wednesday to consider several petitions against Justice Marcel Awokulehin of the Federal High Court in Asaba but threw out the petition for lack of merit.
Following this development, Justice Awokulehin delivered his ruling today Thursday, December 17, 2009 and quashed all the charges.
Ruling on the application filed by Ibori to quash the charges, in his favour at the Asaba Federal High Court, automatically sets him free.
At today’s sitting, the judge arrived at 8:41 AM, but Ibori did not until 8:58 AM.
Also at Lagos, the Federal Appeal Court today denied Olabode George’s bail application, requesting to remain in jail while appealing his 2-year sentence.
The former Delta state governor was accused of laundering millions of dollars has had all 170 charges against him dropped, officials say.
The anti-corruption agency, EFCC described the judgement as hazy and pledged to appeal.
International surveys frequently rank Nigeria as one of the world’s most corrupt countries.
The EFCC brought charges against Mr Ibori in early December 2007. In the same year a UK court froze assets allegedly belonging to Mr Ibori worth $35m (£21m). His official salary was less than $25,000.
On the EFCC allegation that Ibori tried to bribe Ribadu, the Judge said that it remains a huge surprise that the only man who could have said who gave him the alleged money, and for what purpose, Andy Uba, as Ribadu, Lamorde and James Garba said in the statements to the Police that they collected the money from Uba’s house, never made a statement to the Police.
He also held that there was no report of an investigation into the matter, and that Ibori was not questioned over the allegation when he faced EFCC interrogation on 4th of July 2007, though the alleged crime was said to have been committed in April 2007.
And that worst of all, Ribadu’s statements as well as those of Lamorde and James Garba were made on December 12, after Ibori was charged to Kaduna court December 11.
In a statement, Ibori Thankful To All; Says Rule of Law Thriving in Nigeria
Chief James Onanefe Ibori has thanked the Almighty God for his victory over the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) at the Federal High Court, Asaba, on Thursday 17th December.
He is also grateful to the Judiciary which has proved that it is not only the refuge of the common man, but can also protect the so-called big man when untold forces are arrayed against him, as many Nigerians tend to believe that any politician is as guilty as charged.
He said: “I am in deed very pleased that justice has been done, and that justice, that very foundation of our democracy, is there for everyone and not only for the poor”. He expressed his happiness that democracy and the rule of law are alive and thriving in Nigeria.
In a statement signed by Tony Eluemunor, Chief Ibori’s Media Assistant, the former Governor of Delta State also expressed his gratitude to his legal team, and most especially to his supporters who have stood by him since the case incepted at the Federal High Court, Kaduna in December 2007.
He also thanked his adversaries, opponents and even outright enemies for he says that he recognises the fact that not everyone will like him. “This December has made it two years of frequent court appearances and the uncommon support I have received from my numerous friends and supporters strengthened me all through the struggle to get justice,” he said.
Ibori, who was mobbed by a large crowd as he emerged from the court, was escorted by a large motorcade as he left Asaba immediately after the case. But that was not until he had to stop to acknowledge the crowd that went into an impromptu prayer session, thanking God for Ibori’s victory.