From Leo Sobechi, Abakaliki

 


THE controversy trailing the ownership of the $15 million allegedly given to former Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Nuhu Ribadu, as bribe from jailed erstwhile Governor of Delta State, James Ibori, is yet to be over.

A businessman and leader of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in Anambra State, Chibuike Chigbu, who last week filed a suit at the Abuja High Court, claiming ownership of the money, has withdrawn the suit.

Chigbu’s action has raised more puzzles over the matter as the Delta State government insists that the money belongs to it and should be returned to its treasury.

Senator Andy Uba, who allegedly collected the money for onward transfer to Ribadu, has however denied any role in the scandal.

Chigbu had alleged that he gave the money to Uba as part of his contribution to the funding of the 2007 PDP election. But Uba at the weekend said his attention had been drawn to recent reports in the media linking him with the transfer of the alleged bribe money between Ibori and Ribadu.

Uba said: “When I was in the Presidency, my house in the Villa was a convenient place for many top people in Nigeria to visit. Probably Ibori didn’t want to go to the EFCC office to hand over the money and so decided to use my house.

“All I know about this matter is that Ibori brought some money to Ribadu. The details of the transaction were undisclosed to me at the time. The money was handed to Ribadu who invited his then Director of Operations, Mr. Ibrahim Lamorde, to fetch it.

“I was never a party to the transaction between Ibori and Ribadu.

“That my house was used as the venue for the transaction is not in question as an affidavit to that effect has been sworn to by the current EFCC chairman, Mr. Ibrahim Lamorde, which is probably the point of confusion.

“I hereby state unequivocally that I am not involved in this matter beyond what I have stated above.”

But some PDP leaders in the South-East told The Guardian at the weekend that Chigbu’s withdrawal of the suit was taken in the interest of the party in the zone.

It was learnt that some PDP leaders in the region intervened in the matter and pleaded with the actors to keep away from it because it was an issue between the Federal and Delta State governments.

One of the leaders said Chigbu’s action was due to the intervention of PDP chiefs, who want to avoid anything that could affect the political careers of both Uba and Chigbu.

The PDP chief said Chigbu’s withdrawal of the case from court had nothing to do with the threats of Lagos lawyer, Mr. Festus Keyamo.

Also, a source close to Uba said “neither Chigbu nor Uba for that matter is afraid of Keyamo’s insinuations,” adding that since the bribe giver had been jailed accordingly, the money remains nothing more than evidence of his culpability. “We are tired of dirty politics in Anambra State and the South-East region. We will try to avoid anything that will destroy the career of any politician from the zone,” he added.

Keyamo had asked the government to arrest and interrogate all those who allegedly had anything to do with the $15 million bribe money.

The source said forfeiting the money was better than making Uba an accessory to the crime of bribery or giving opportunity for his detractors to amplify their insinuations that he wanted to use Chigbu’s campaign contribution to save Ibori.

Chigbu, who filed a suit to take possession of the alleged money through three Senior Advocates of Nigeria (SANs), including Adeniyi Akintola, but in a dramatic manner, the applicant filed a withdrawal of the suit against the Federal and Delta State governments and the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) without giving reasons for his action.

 

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