Friday, 24 May 2013
$15m Ibori Bribe: Festus Keyamo Advises on Way Forward
Maverick lawyer, Festus Keyamo, has threatened to go to court over the 15million bribe money controversy if that will bring the suspects to justice.
In a statement today, Mr. Keyamo said he would be heading for the courtroom if in the next few days, “the Federal Government fails, refuses and/or neglects to take appropriate steps to terminate the case in court and properly investigate all the suspects in this matter, whether the principals or proxies who participated in laundering and offering this money as bribe or otherwise.”
The $15million bribe money was allegedly given to the former Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Mallam Nuhu Ribadu, by the jailed former Delta State Governor, Chief James Ibori, to compromise Ribadu and his team, as Ibori sought to evade arrest and prosecution.
Following the conviction and imprisonment of Mr. Ibori in the United Kingdom, a domestic gold rush of sorts has broken out over the money:
• The federal government, through Attorney General Mohammed Adoke, has filed a claim;
• The Delta State government, run by Ibori’s cousin, Emmanual Uduaghan, has filed a claim;
• Andy Uba, a former domestic aide a former aide on domestic matters to ex-President Olusegun Obasanjo, has claimed the money.
• Little-known businessman Chibuike Achibu, said by some to have been fronting for Uba, has also claimed the money, a claim that is now reportedly withdrawn.
Predictably, with money of this colour, several legal vultures in the wigs of Senior Advocates of Nigeria have appeared for one party or the other.
In his statement, Mr. Keyamo, who has prosecuted several cases on behalf of the EFCC, offered several questions, including the circumstances in which the proceeds of a crime would have been deposited in the Central Bank in the first place.
Is the CBN a store for exhibits? Keyamo asked. Does the EFCC not have facilities to keep exhibits?
He recalled that the 170-count charge against Ibori, which included a count of giving the $15 million bribe, was struck out by the Federal High Court and that the EFCC appeal against that decision and various parts of that appeal are now before the Court of Appeal and Supreme Court.
Noting that, on the other hand, the case upon which Ibori was tried and convicted in the UK did not include giving the $15million bribe or laundering that sum, Keyamo said that if the EFCC appeal against Ibori succeeds at the Supreme Court, the former Delta State governor can still be tried in Nigeria for laundering the sum of $15million and giving it as bribe, since he was never tried for those offences in United Kingdom.
Looking beyond the claims of the federal and Delta State governments to the money, he underlined the claims made by Achigbu and Senator Uba, who have claimed in court that they were the proxies through whom the money was given to Ribadu, but that it was for a different purpose other than bribe.
Asking why the two men were not arrested at the time, since they enjoyed no immunity such as Ibori, and charged with conspiracy and bribery, and have not been arrested up till now, Keyamo wondered if the federal government is by implication telling Nigerians that Ribadu was lying about the bribe money.
“What kind of country will want to recover exhibits that are the proceeds of crime, without first arresting the culprits, investigating them, tracing the origin of the money, charging them to court and securing conviction?” he asked.
“It is in the light of the above that the attempt by the Federal Government to recover the alleged $15million bribe money deposited in the CBN surreptitiously through the court is nothing but a shameful and disgraceful attempt at covering up a crime, abdicating its statutory responsibility to prosecute criminals, and reneging on its pledge to the people to fight the cancer of corruption to its roots, no matter whose ox is gored,” the lawyer said.
He advised the federal government to immediately withdraw its case from court, and the Delta State Government and all other parties to back off from what he called “the national embarrassment we are witnessing.”
He further advised the government to wait till the Court of Appeal or Supreme Court decides the appeal against the discharge of Ibori on the 170-Count charge, when the $15 million would become one of the exhibits to be tendered during retrial; and await the verdict of that retrial, if ordered, as that retrial will determine whether the money was actually given by Ibori or not as bribe to Ribadu.
The third line of action for the government, he said is to arrest Uba and Achigbu immediately, interrogate them, trace the origin of the $15million, and if it has no origin, charge them with money laundering and/or conspiracy and bribery.
Pointing out that Ribadu, on the one hand, and Uba and Achigbu on the other, cannot be right at the same time, Mr. Keyamo said that the remaining alternative is to arrest Ribadu, interrogate him and charge him to court 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 hand 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.”
He regretted that the matter is a very serious one that is turning into a comedy of sorts.
“It is the embarrassing failure of the Federal Government to follow due process and the rule of law to the letter regarding that bribe money that is the foundation for the present absurdity we are witnessing where those who should actually be in jail and institutions that failed in performing their duties are fighting themselves publicly to claim money that is purely the proceeds of crime,” he said.