James Ibori, a powerful Nigerian political powerbroker, has reportedly been freed on bail in Dubai, where he was arrested on corruption charges. Ibori a former governor of the oil-rich Delta state, is accused of stealing $290m by Nigeria’s EFCC anti-corruption agency. He was asked to surrender his passport to ensure he does not leave the country, officials say. The chairwoman of Nigeria’s Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Faridi Waziri, said Ibori was taken into custody after an arrest warrant was issued by international police agency Interpol.
Officials in the UK and Nigeria want to try him on corruption charges, which he denies. The anti-corruption police in Nigeria attempted to take Ibori into custody last month to question him over allegations that 44 billion naira was looted from Delta state government coffers while he was governor from 1999 to 2007. A group of Mr Ibori’s supporters attacked police and prevented them from arresting him in his home town of Oghara.
The EFCC said it would also bring new charges against Ibori, but would not elaborate. Questions are being are asking how he managed to leave the country and travel to Dubai. Ibori’s spokesman Tony Eluemunor said the former governor had been freed on bail.
James Ibori is a senior figure in Nigeria’s ruling People’s Democratic Party (PDP) and played a key role in the 2007 presidential election victory of Umaru Yar’Adua. But a few of Ibori’s associates are facing money laundering charges in Britain, where a court froze $35 million of his assets in August 2007 on suspicion they were the proceeds of corruption. Ibori has not yet been charged in that case. The former state governor has maintained the charges against him are born out of political rivalry at the heart of the PDP.
It is a fact that under the Nigerian federal system, state governors enjoy wide powers. Those running oil-rich states have budgets larger than those of some African countries. State Governors immunity from prosecution while in power, but several have faced corruption charges since leaving office after the last election in 2007. It will be difficult to predict the outcome of the Dubai matter, but knowing how powerful Ibori is within Nigerian politics, it wouldn’t come as a surprise to see him re-surface in Nigeria next week!
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