Founding chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, Nuhu Ribadu, today told the Southwark Crown Court that former Governor James Onanefe Ibori of Delta State stole approximately half of the revenue allocation that accrued to his state during his two terms in office.
Mr. Ribadu made the astonishing disclosure when he testified about his involvement in the investigation of Mr. Ibori who is serving a 13-year jail sentence in the UK.
In an emotional testimony, the former EFCC boss detailed how the grasping ex-governor offered him a $19 million bribe to persuade him to drop the prosecution of Mr. Ibori who massively looted the funds of his state. Mr. Ibori had brought the bribe money in large sacks of cash to the Abuja home of Andy Uba, a domestic assistant to former President Olusegun Obasanjo.
Mr. Ribadu told the UK court that he took possession of the cash produced by Mr. Ibori, and then deposited it at the Central Bank of Nigeria. He added that the rogue former governor, believing that he had accepted the bribe, kept bugging him to provide him with a letter declaring him free of corruption.
For the first time ever, the former EFCC boss also produced photos of the sacks of cash given to him by the former governor.
Mr. Ribadu told the court that EFCC investigations established that Mr. Ibori must have stolen at least $500 million, representing 50% of the revenue that accrued to the state in the eight years that the jailed former governor was in office.
Mr. Ribadu also gave a fascinating account of how he was summarily removed from office five days after he arrested Mr. Ibori in Abuja. He also told the court about attempts made on his life by people linked to the former governor as well as the then Inspector General of Police, Mike Okiro, who is the current chairman of the Police Service Commission – even though he did not mention Mr. Okiro by name.
He further told the British court that EFCC operatives arrested Mr. Ibori after a dramatic chase on the streets of Abuja, Nigeria’s capital.
Mr. Ribadu stated that he had made enormous sacrifices to ensure that he lived to tell his story, detailing how he fled Nigeria on a motorbike to Benin Republic from where he boarded an Air France flight to Paris. From France, he traveled to the UK where he was offered a fellowship by Oxford University.
Mr. Ribadu also narrated the role played by Nigeria’s former Attorney General, Michael Aondoakaa to prevent him from receiving his certificate from the Nigerian Institute of Policy and Strategic Studies (NIPSS) at Kuru, Jos. After his removal as EFCC chair, Mr. Ribadu was ordered to proceed to NIPSS for studies, but was humiliated on the day of graduation in front of his family when he was forcibly removed from the venue, reportedly for failure to wear his police uniform.
He told the court that Mr. Ibori was the most powerful influence on the government of the late Nigerian president, Umaru Yar’Adua.
The former chairman of the EFCC will continue his testimony tomorrow at the Southwark Crown Court. He will be cross-examined by Mr. Ibori’s lawyers.