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UPDATED-Justice Shuaibu buckles Under Pressure, Grants James Ibori Bail. Lucky Igbinedion Too!

February 10, 2008
The Federal High Court sitting in Kaduna this morning granted embattled former governor of Delta State, James Ibori bail after about 10 weeks in detention. The court granted him bail in the sum of N50 million. The presiding judge, Justice Mohammed Lawal Shuaibu, in his ruling submitted that the court had to consider Ibori bail application on the grounds that his counsel, Joseph Daudu, SAN, gave reasons of ill-health, the accused�s inability to see his lawyer and lack of movement to procure relevant documents to defend the charges filed against him.

Justice Lawal disagreed with the excuse given by Daudu on Ibori's ill health saying, "I do not see him as a sick man. However, that won't stop me from granting him bail."

He said the application was also considered on the assurance Daudu gave that Ibori would not jump bail and would always appear in court whenever his case is scheduled for hearing.

Lawal ruled that three prominent persons resident in Kaduna with property worth N50 million must stand as sureties for him.

Hearing for a definite trial has been scheduled for 18 and 19 February, 2008.

Meanwhile, respite came the way of former governor of Edo State, Chief Lucky Nosakhere Igbinedion, this morning as a Federal High Court sitting in Enugu granted his application for bail, though with some conditions.

Some of the conditions attached to the bail issued by Justice Olayinka Faji are that Igbinedion should pay N10 million to the court, and provide two sureties who must be federal permanent secretaries with three or more years to spend in the civil service.

The credibility of the permanent secretaries must not be in doubt and both should show evidence of payment of taxes for three years. They must also submit two recent passport photographs.

The judge also directed the accused not to travel abroad without the permission of the court and must swear to an affidavit of loss of travel documents (as revealed by his counsel).

The judge also ordered the accused to declare all his assets, including his residences, both at home and abroad.

He is also to report to the EFCC every fortnight on Fridays and deposit all his travel documents with the EFCC.

The judge directed that his order be served on the Head of Service of the Federation and the Controller-General of Immigration.

Reacting to the conditions attached to the bail, Igbinedion�s counsel, Adetunji Oyeyipo, thanked the judge for the bail but frowned at the stringent conditions attached.

We will try to meet these conditions but if we don�t, we know what to do,� he said.

The judge directed further that Igbinedion be remanded in EFCC custody until all the conditions are met and verified. The judge thus fixed proper trial for 25 February, 2008.

After the conditions attached to the bail were read out, supporters of Igbinedion who had thronged the court expecting his release, left the premises, wearing long faces and discussing the development.

...Judge Buckles Under Pressure
As earlier reported by Saharareporters, Umar Yar'adua finally delivered on his promise to free James Ibori from prison remand. Justice Mohammed Lawal Shuaibu sat earlier today in Kaduna to grant James Ibori freedom.

The judge had come under immense pressure from Umar yar'adua to release James Ibori or face disciplinary action, according to presidency sources privy to the threats against Justice Shuaibu. It is also expected that former governor of Edo State will be granted bail today in Enugu.

Umar Yar'adua, who advertises his government as one that does not interfere with the judiciary, has set aside its "rule of law" mantra to pressure Justice Mohammed Lawal Shuaibu to grant bail to former Governor James Ibori.

Our impeccable source revealed that Yar’Adua’s regime has asked the judge handling Ibori's case in Kaduna to sit-in-chamber any moment from now and rule to approve Ibori’s bail application. The source said Yar’Adua’s government told the judge that failure to grant Ibori bail could precipitate an outbreak of violence in the oil-rich Niger Delta.

Reached on the development, one of the prominent members of the Ijaw Elders Council said they had heard rumors too of the government’s intervention on Ibori’s behalf. But he said such a dictation to a judge was dangerous, and should be resisted. “It’s not true that Ibori’s continued stay in prison will cause more violence in the Niger Delta,” said the elder. “It gives the impression that Ibori is a hero of the area. It’s total bunkum. Ibori’s greed and stealing contributed to the crisis in the Niger Delta.”

Ibori’s bail application was to have been heard last week, but it was scuttled by a strike action undertaken by Nigeria's judicial workers who complained about poor conditions of service.

Reliable presidency sources told Saharareporters that the message has already been communicated to Justice Mohammed Lawal Shuaibu to sit as soon as possible for the purpose of granting Ibori freedom.

Last week, a number of Ibori's associates rented rooms in major hotels in Kaduna in anticipation of his release from Kaduna prison where he has been remanded over charges of corruption, abuse of office and money laundering.

EFCC lawyers had contended that Ibori, who was in 1992 twice convicted in Britain for stealing-related offences alongside his wife, Theresa Nkoyo Ibori, was likely to interfere with his trial if he were granted bail.

On their part, Ibori’s lawyers are making a case for him to get bail. They argue that the offences for which he is being tried are "bailable" offences.

Meanwhile charges filed in the UK against two of Ibori's female associates, Mrs. Bimpe Pogoson and Christine Ibie-Ibori, are progressing. At an appearance before the Southwark Crown Court in London on January 29, 2008, the two women and their lawyers received a calendar detailing the process of their trial. Sources told Saharareporters that lawyers on both sides are exchanging briefs and documents to prepare for a fairly speedy trial later in the year. The women face several counts of charges relating to money laundering and mortgage deception.

Also, Ibori's wife, Tessy, has been given till March 3rd, 2008 to report back to the Metropolitan Police. She was originally billed to appear on January 29, but was granted an extension because new documents had surfaced in her case. The Metropolitan police are looking at the documents so as to determine when to file charges against her.

Theresa Nkoyo Ibori was arrested at Heathrow Airport late last year as she prepared to board a Virgin-Nigeria Airline to Lagos. She was interrogated fingerprinted before she was allowed to proceed with her travel plans.

In the course of processing her records, London police discovered she was an ex-convict. She and Ibori were convicted in 1992 on stealing and dishonesty offences. Ibori, who went on to be a two-term governor of Delta State, is believed to have stolen billions of naira of public funds. His assets worth about £35 million remain frozen on the orders of a London High Court.