$15m Ibori bribe sum: Twist in ownership saga

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Andy Uba

Andy Uba

The drama over the ownership of the $15 million allegedly offered as bribe to the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) by former Delta State Governor, James Ibori, got more curious yesterday.

A businessman, Mr. Chibuike Achigbu, who filed a suit at the Federal High Court, Abuja on Wednesday, claiming ownership of the money, yesterday said he was pulling out of  the case. He had claimed the money was his contribution to the PDP to finance the 2007 elections.

 The opposition Congress for Progressive Change (CPC) yesterday called for a probe into the ‘$15 million donation’.

Ibori, who was recently convicted in London for fraud, was alleged to have offered the sum as bribe to  former Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, Mallam Nuhu Ribadu.

Following Ibori’s conviction, the Delta State Government had gone to a Federal High Court to apply for the return of the bribe sum, which is being kept with the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), only for   Achigbu to file an application at the  Federal High Court on Wednesday that he actually owns the money.

He said he gave the money to a former presidential aide, Dr. Andy Uba, for onward delivery to the PDP to meet its expenses for the 2007 elections.

However, in a volte face, the businessman, through his counsel, Chief Adeniyi Akintola (SAN) yesterday  opted  to  withdraw the suit.

A court notice obtained by our correspondent, reads in part: “the intervener/applicant hereby discontinues this suit against all the respondents.”

The respondents were the Federal Government, the AGF, the EFCC and the Central Bank of Nigeria.

 A top EFCC source approached after the suit withdrawal yesterday said: “The matter is before the court. We will leave the court to dispense justice accordingly.

“Achigbu’s sudden claim  came as a surprise to many. He just came out from the blue to demand for the money. He knew why he withdrew the matter.

“The court will hear the case on September 17. We will not make any pronouncement to avoid the matter being subjudice.

“We know that by the time the court goes into the merit of the case, it will come up with a legally binding ruling or judgment.”

The CPC, however, insisted on a fresh probe of the $15 million donation.

In a statement by the National Publicity Secretary of the party. Eng. Rotimi Fashakin, the CPC asked the EFCC to probe alleged donation of the $15 million to the PDP.

The party said it was appalled by the controversy generated by the alleged $15 million bribe money.

Its words: “With the formal conviction and subsequent incarceration of Chief James Ibori (for Money laundering offences) by a British Court, the need for proper disposal of the money became a front-burner issue.

“Understandably, the Delta State Government showed up as the rightful owner since the money was purloined from it by Chief James Ibori, in his capacity as the then substantive governor.

“Whilst the matter was pending in the court, a Nigerian businessman, Mr. Chibuike Achigbu, stepped forward as the authentic owner. In a deposition filed by a team of 10 lawyers (including three Senior Advocates of Nigeria), Achigbu averred, inter-alia, that he raised the money for the purpose of donating to the electioneering campaigns of the PDP in the 2007 general elections.

” Furthermore, the money was allegedly given to Dr Andy Uba, the then Senior Special Assistant on domestic Affairs in a PDP Presidency and now a PDP Senator, for the purpose of authenticating (with the EFCC) its suitability for donation.

 “Uba was alleged to have passed the money to  Mr. Ibrahim Lamorde, the then Director of Operations of EFCC and now the substantive Executive Chairman.

“As a party, we view the portent of this latest twist to the bribe money saga as foreboding for the fight against institutionalised corruption in the Nigerian polity.

“Section 7(1)b of the EFCC Act 2004 states: “The Commission has power to cause investigation to be conducted into the properties of any person if it appears to the Commission that the person’s lifestyle and extent of the properties are not justified by the source of income.”

” This twist to the saga  has thrown up some questions:

• Does the EFCC Act empower the Commission to authenticate the suitability of a donation to a political party?

•Does the EFCC not have sufficient powers to investigate Mr. Chibuike Achigbu with a view to ascertaining the source of his income vis-à-vis justification for making such huge donation?

• Should the EFCC not investigate Senator Andy Uba as the locus in the latest controversy of the alleged bribe money?

• With the EFCC Chairman Ibrahim Lamorde’s name mentioned in the deposition, should he not tell the Nigerian people all he knows about this case?

•Has this deposition by an acolyte of a serving PDP Senator not exposed the ruling party as mostly responsible for the festering corruption in the Nigerian state?

“The unexplained illegal jerking up of the expenditure for the 2011 fuel subsidy from N240 billion to N2.67 trillion is part of the continuing story of PDP’s unsuitability for the electoral trust of the Nigerian people.

“As a party, we owe it as a sacred duty to the Nigerian people to expose the infra-dig in the polity for the purpose of ensuring its sustainable growth.”

However, an online publication yesterday quoted Senator Uba’s aide, Mr. Chike Okeke, to have issued a statement denying Uba’s alleged involvement in the bribery saga.

 Uba was quoted as saying: “When I was in the Presidency, my house in the Villa was a convenient place for many top people in Nigeria to come.

“Probably, Chief Ibori didn’t want to go to the EFCC office to hand over the money and so decided to use my house.

“All I know about this matter is that Chief James Ibori brought some money to the then EFCC chairman, Mallam Nuhu Ribadu.

“The details of the transaction were undisclosed to me at the time. The money was handed to Mallam Nuhu Ribadu who invited his then Director of Operations, Mr. Ibrahim Lamorde, to fetch it.

“I was never a party to the transaction between Ibori and Ribadu.

“That my house was used as the venue for the transaction is not in question as an affidavit to that effect has been sworn to by the current EFCC chairman, Mr. Ibrahim Lamorde, which is probably the point of confusion.

“I hereby state unequivocally that I have no involvement in this matter beyond that stated above.

“So, I’m not involved and will not be involved in this matter. Nobody should drag me into it please.”

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