Tuesday, August 07, 2007
Why Met Police moved against Ibori
There were indications in Abuja on Sunday that the ‘closeness’ of former Delta State governor, Chief James Ibori, to President Umaru Yar’Adua informed the decision of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission to request the Metropolitan Police to investigate him in Britain.
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former governor of Delta State, Chief James Ibori
Although an official of the EFCC who spoke with one of our correspondents did not say when the request was made, he explained that it was a ‘smart way’ by the commission to start recovering some of Ibori’s alleged loot.
Reports in the media on Saturday had it that a London court had frozen Ibori’s assets worth about £2.5m. The court also impounded a new aircraft still with its manufacturers in Canada.
Ibori is ranked next to former President Olusegun Obasanjo among power brokers that made the election of Yar’Adua possible.
He is believed to be one of the major financiers of the President’s campaign.
The EFCC official, who pleaded anonymity, added that the decision to ‘outsource’ the former governor’s investigation to the Met Police was taken in view of the fact that the EFCC was not sure of the President’s disposition to the matter (investigation).
He said though Yar’Adua had never intervened in its work, the EFCC was not sure whether he would be offended if the commission moved against Ibori, especially in Nigeria.
The official said the EFCC also did not want to expose the President to undue pressure from people close to Ibori.
The source also said that the commission opted to allow the Met Police to ‘handle’ the former governor’s investigation because ‘our hands are full.’
He said, “We do not have enough resources to prosecute all the cases on our hand.
“What has happened is that we have outsourced Ibori’s investigation. If you like, you can say that we have sub-contracted it to the Met Police.
“We decided to do that because we are not sure what the President’s position will be if we move against the former governor who, unfortunately, has become one of the power brokers of this era. As you know, he is believed to be close to the President.
“But now that the trial has originated in London, there is no way anybody can help him.”
The official explained that the EFCC would co-operate fully with the Met Police until the investigation of Ibori was concluded.
He said the commission would arrest the former governor and freeze his assets in Nigeria if asked to do so by the Met Police.
He said, “During our investigation into the former governor’s case, we realised that even though his case is serious here in Nigeria, it is overwhelmingly serious outside our shores.
“And since we have a good relationship with the Met Police, we asked Britain to help us handle his case. The Met Police came here and we have exchanged papers with them. We are happy with the progress that has been made.”
Besides Ibori, the source said, one or two other ex-governors would suffer a similar fate in the hands of the Met Police.
He, however, declined to name the ex-governors, arguing that doing so might jeopardise investigations.
The EFCC’s Head of Media and Publicity, Mr. Osita Nwajah, confirmed that the commission had a working relationship with the Met Police.
“We have working relationships with major law enforcement agencies around the world and we have always been working together,” Nwajah said.
But when asked whether it was the EFCC that referred Ibori’s case to the Met Police, Nwajah said, “I am not in a position to give you details of this or any other ongoing investigation. I guess you should relate with the Met Police on the matter.”
On whether the commission would be willing to arrest the former governor, Nwajah said, “Whatever request that is made, we will look at it in the context of our laws and operations and decide whether to grant it.”
Meanwhile, fresh facts emerged on Sunday on how three former governors tried to convince Yar’Adua to make the EFCC ineffective.
A Presidency source said that the ex-governors had during their visit to the President on Wednesday, advised him to remove the EFCC’s power to prosecute suspects of economic and financial crimes.
Although the Presidency source declined to say if Yar’Adua acceded to the request by the former governors, he said that they did not ask for the removal of the EFCC chairman, Mallam Nuhu Ribadu, because they knew such would not serve any purpose.
The source, who did not name the ex-governors said, “The issue is that they (former governors) had been there to see the President about the need to save them from prosecution.
“Two of the former governors are particularly concerned with ensuring that the commission’s dragnet does not close in on them, whereas the third wanted the President to prevail on the commission to put a halt to his ongoing prosecution.
“They (former governors) are worried about what to do in a situation where prosecution is looming, and investigations completed on their tenure.
“They, therefore, pressurised the President to transfer the power of the EFCC to prosecute to the Attorney-General of the Federation.”
The source pointed out that if that was done, the commission would be incapacitated in its efforts to fight corruption.
He said, “That is a very brilliant move. If you want to kill the commission, remove its powers, tell its officials to concentrate only on investigations while the AGF does the prosecution.
“But remember that the AGF is just a politician appointed by the President, and he can or may be manipulated.
“Many people wonder why the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission appears not to be very effective over the years in bringing criminals to justice. The only reason is because they lack power to prosecute.”
He observed that the power to prosecute was very critical to any crime-fighting agency.
“In most parts of the world where anti-corruption war was stymied, it was because the crime-fighting agencies lacked power to prosecute after their investigations,” the source added.
He said that the ex-governors also wanted Yar’Adua to save them from being prosecuted by the EFCC.
When asked if Yar’Adua accepted their idea to remove the power to prosecute from the EFCC, he replied, “The President is a wise man, and he is fully aware of the public opinion on the need to completely put Nigeria on a fresh path by dealing a heavy blow on corruption among public officers.”