by Joachim MacEbong
…arrested for theft and fined £300. The following year, he was convicted for handling a stolen credit card and fined £100. It was a sign of things to come.
James Onanefe Ibori was born on Monday, August 4, 1958, and obtained a Bachelor’s degree in Economics and Statistics from the University of Benin.
He worked at Mobil, then NNPC, and was a pioneer staff in the marketing department of the Warri Refinery and Petrochemical Company, before moving to London.
He worked as a cashier for Wickes DIY, was arrested for theft and fined £300. The following year, he was convicted for handling a stolen credit card and fined £100. It was a sign of things to come.
He returned to Nigeria and joined the National Republican Convention (NRC). He contested and lost the Federal House of Representatives election for Ethiope Federal Constituency in 1991.
Between 1994 and 1997, Ibori served in the Abacha regime as a consultant on public policy, and was instrumental in formulating drug policy which brought Decree 3 of 1995 into effect.
He joined the Grassroots Democratic Movement (GDM) as part of Abacha’s transition to civil rule. After Abacha’s death, the Delta National Congress was formed, which later formed part of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP).
In 1999, Ibori obtained a fake birth certificate and passport in order to take out a mortgage on a property in London, as well as cover his criminal record in order to enable him run for office in Nigeria. He was later elected Governor of Delta State.
In 2003, he was re-elected as governor. In his 8 years in office, Ibori was a powerful voice in the push for resource control in the Niger Delta, and became arguably Nigeria’s most powerful political operative.
He was the major force behind the emergence of Umaru Yar’Adua as Presidential candidate of the PDP in 2006, and was heavily involved in stopping the Vice Presidential ambition of Peter Odili, then Rivers State governor, in favour of Goodluck Jonathan at the last possible minute.
After Yar’Adua’s election, things began to go south for Ibori. His accomplices in the UK were arrested, and assets frozen by the UK government in August 2007.
In November of the same year, his wife Theresa was arrested at Heathrow and questioned in connection with the investigation, but later released.
The following month, he was arrested by the EFCC in Abuja and brought up on charges of theft of public funds, abuse of office and money laundering. Nuhu Ribadu, then EFCC chairman also handed over the sum of 15 million dollars, being the amount Ibori tried to bribe him with.
As a direct result of his attempt to bring Ibori to justice, Ribadu was instructed to attend a one year compulsory course at the Nigerian Institute for Policy and Strategic Studies in Kuru, and was dismissed from the Nigerian Police Force in December 2008.
In December 2009, Marcel Awokulehin of the Federal High Court in Asaba, dismissed all 170 charges brought against Ibori by the EFCC.
In April 2010, his case was reopened, and fresh charges were brought. Ibori escaped arrest by seeking refuge in his hometown of Oghara, Delta state, and fled Nigeria a few days later.
The Federal Government sought the assistance of international law enforcement agencies in his capture, and he was arrested in May 2010 in Dubai, and was later extradited to the UK to face trial.
His sister, Christine Ibori, and associate Udoamaka Okoronkwo were sentenced to 5 years in jail each in June 2010. On 27 February this year, Ibori pleaded guilty to 10 counts of money laundering.
He was sentenced to 13 years in jail by the Southwark Crown Court on Tuesday, 17 April, inclusive of time already spent in custody.
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