By Chibuzo Ukaibe, Abuja
The Oghara Development Union, (ODU) has urged the federal government to insist on the return of every penny forfeited by Chief James Onanefe Ibori’s associates in the London trial to Nigeria. Ibori is from Oghara town in the Ethiope West Local Government Area of Delta State.
The Lagos branch of the union, in a statement signed by its general secretary Chief Sunday Agbofodoh asked the federal government to insist that three buildings seized by the United Kingdom government through Court order be repatriated to Nigeria.
Reacting to an online report on Tuesday, March 9, that Britain and Nigeria signed an “MOU on the £4.2 million” forfeited by the three women associates of the Ibori London case, the union said the United Kingdom should back up its claim of acting without ulterior motives on the return of all forfeited monies to Nigeria.
Supporting its claim with documents, the union said the UK government did not return the full money forfeited by three women who were associated in the London case which amounted to £6.2 million pounds instead of the £4.2 million pounds as claimed.
“The Oghara Development Union stands squarely with Chief Ibori in maintaining his innocence, and so without conceding that Ibori was guilty as charged, and specifiying that the forfeited houses were not bought with illicit funds, we nevertheless call on Nigeria to insist that the full worth of the three buildings seized through a court order, be repatriated to Nigeria.”
The union while noting that it followed the case diligently, said the sum the women forfeited was £6.2 million and not £4.2 million.
” Nigeria should also demand for the interest on the £6.2 million since 2012 because the money would not have sat idly in the bank without attracting interest”.
The ODU added that all assets linked to Ibori were purchased using funds lawfully and properly obtained and some were bought before Ibori became governor.
The union added that Ibori’s businesses and the monies that accrued to them were not hidden from the London and Nigerian “persecutors”.
“The London Police filed in court a paper which showed that one of Ibori’s companies, Mer Engineering, was earning over $7 million annually.
“The London house linked to the First Lady of Delta state when Ibori was Governor, the Hampstead property is owned by a family trust. The property was purchased by the company, MER engineering, which shareholding was held by his family trust.
“MER had obtained facility loan from NNB, a Nigerian bank. The value of this property at the time of its purchase was £2.1 million, which was covered by the NNB facility of well over £3 million meant for working capital and financing of assets.
“The second property belonged to Miss Udoamaka Okoronkwo, and was purchased for £249, 000 through mortgage. Miss Udoamaka is a successful business woman as can be seen from the facility letter dated 19 December 2005 from a bank in favour of her company, Sagicon Nig, Ltd for N121 million (£1.5 million).
“The third property, very modest, belonged to Ibori’s sister, a U.K resident, which she purchased for £140, 000. Her husband is a former Federal Permanent Secretary.”
ODU stated that it is unjust to give a false impression that Ibori had no money by the time he became governor of Delta State in 1999.
It said MER Engineering (Nig Ltd), one of Ibori’s companies was established in 1992, seven years before he became governor of the state.
The ODU said: “As a court ordered that the buildings be forfeited, however unjust that order is, all the monies realised MUST return to Nigeria. It is on record that Ibori was a successful businessman before he became a Governor in May 1999, involved in oil logistics (Upstream) and trading (Downstream). One of his companies, MER Engineering (Nig Ltd), was established in 1992, seven years before he became Governor. He was publisher of a national newspaper called “Diet”, now called “Daily Independent”.
“Also Ibori had a consultancy job with the Federal Government, with a tripartite agreement between him, the FG and the law firm Washington Christian of USA from which he earned between US$ 3 million to US$ 5 million annually, after successfully reaching the specified goals.
” His bank statements with the Bank of Austria, the Citibank, Barclays Bank and the Meryl Lynch for those years will also show that he had substantial wealth of his own before he held public office for the first time in May 1999. For instance, on March 11, 1998, his Bank of Austria account contained $557,100.00″.
“His Citibank account contained even more; over $1.5 million dollars in 1998. In fact, the Nigerian and UK persecutors (instead of prosecutors) knew that Ibori was already a Citibank Gold and Private Bank Member and a Gold Card member of the British Airways before he became Governor. But they chose the rags to riches publicity stunt to justify their persecution of Ibori for political reasons. It is well-known that before Ibori became Governor, he self-funded his entire political campaigns – with all the party candidates in 1999”.
“This should put to rest the lies that Ibori was not wealthy before he became Governor of Delta state” the union added.