Skip to main content

Again Yar'adua to meet with James Ibori Over his Corruption Trial

March 15, 2008
Dateline: Abuja, Sunday, March 16, 2008

Reeling from what one of his close associates described as a serious cash crunch, James Ibori, former governor of oil rich Delta State, is scheduled to meet tomorrow with Umar Yar'adua at the State House in Abuja. Our sources revealed that the former Delta governor wants Yar’adua to make a firm commitment to protect Ibori’s business and political interests.

The sources told Saharareporters that Ibori became desperate two weeks ago after Judge Mohammed Shuaibu of the Federal High Court in Kaduna rejected Ibori’s plea to transfer his case to another judge for trial. Shuaibu has a reputation as a principled judge, but Ibori and his associates have been shopping around for a judge who is susceptible to bribery.

According to our sources, Shuaibu’s refusal to accede to requests by Ibori's lawyers to disqualify himself on the basis of "likelihood of bias" has added to the former governor’s rising apprehensions about the outcome of his corruption trial.

As Ibori left the Kaduna courtroom, he instructed his lawyers to file an appeal against the ruling. He also made a call to Yar'adua to intimate of his travails in the hands of the judge. Ibori’s hold on Yar’adua comes largely from the fact that he bankrolled Yar’adua’s presidential campaign to the tune of several billion naira. By the estimate of Ibori’s associates, the former Delta governor spent close N10 billion ($100 million) in cash and also made the fleet of his Wings Aviation Airline available to Yar'adua's presidential campaign. Recent revelations also indicate that Ibori helped foot Yar'adua's legal bills in hard currency. Our sources said he made significant contributions to bribe five members of the Presidential Elections Petitions Tribunal to give a favorable ruling that sustained Yar'adua in power.

The same day he received the negative ruling at the Kaduna High Court, Ibori confided to close aides that he had secured Yar’adua’s assurance that Ibrahim Lamorde will be removed as the EFCC helmsman.
But Ibori’s boast about Lamorde’s imminent removal by fiat did not materialize, much to his irritation. In subsequent meetings with his aides and political associates, Ibori expressed unhappiness with Yar'adua’s slow pace of acting to get his case quashed.

Ibori’s worries were compounded when his high-priced London lawyers told him that they had not been able to re-open the case to have his assets with $35 million unfrozen by a London Court of Appeal. He was also troubled by the fact that the case brought by London Metropolitan Police against three of his female associates seemed to be going well for the prosecution.

Saharareporters has also learned that Ibori’s frozen assets may soon become subject of a major civil suit by yet-to-be-disclosed persons. This prospect has increased the likelihood that the assets may be used in settlements or subject to outright forfeiture in the same way that Terry Waya, Ibori’s close friend, is on the verge of losing his London home to a forfeiture lawsuit.

Ibori, who is said to have lost close to 30 pounds in weight since returning from Kaduna Prison, will demand that Yar’adua help him out of his legal and financial bind.

Tomorrow’s meeting will not be the first time Yar'adua is hosting Ibori or several of the former governors facing trial for corruption. In statements by his media aides, Yar’adua has repeatedly said he does not have any qualms meeting with public officials indicted for corruption. Ibori was recently restored to the protocol list of the State House to enable him to enjoy better access to Yar'adua.

Our reliable sources told Saharareporters that Ibori will seek greater commitment from Yar'adua to fire Lamorde and several anti-corruption officials Ibori blames for his "downfall." He also wants Yar’adua to instruct Attorney General Michael Aondoakaa to file a nolle prosequi at the Federal High Court in Kaduna in order to squelch his trial. Aondoakaa, who is extremely close to Ibori, has already committed to end Ibori’s prosecution the moment Yar’adua gives the go-ahead.

Though Yar'adua's itinerary tomorrow puts him in Yola, Adamawa State, where he is scheduled to flag off a campaign for the gubernatorial elections re-run in the state, sources told Saharareporters that Ibori has secured an appointment for this crucial meeting. The sources also said Ibori was likely to fly into Yola on the presidential plane with Yar'adua.

A London Metropolitan Police source told Saharareporters that they have effectively crippled Ibori's ability to move funds around internationally. The agent said the police continue to monitor any suspicious transactions through his numerous aides or the Delta State government.

This clampdown may be responsible for the reason Ibori’s airline, managed by Noggie Megison, have not been able to receive adequate maintenance services.

Yesterday, a 19-passenger Beechcraft 1900 belonging to Ibori's Wings Aviation Airline crashed in Mbagu, near Enugu. The three-member crew on board died.

googletag.cmd.push(function() { googletag.display('comments'); });

googletag.cmd.push(function() { googletag.display('content1'); });

googletag.cmd.push(function() { googletag.display('content2'); });