By Elor Nkereuwem:

There is a massive hunt for James Ibori, the former governor of Delta State, in connection with recently launched investigations by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), on his role in the illegal disposal of about 500 million units of Delta State-owned bank shares.

Sources in Abuja, over the weekend, said that Mr. Ibori, who is wanted for questioning over some of his actions while he was governor of the oil rich state from 1999 to 2007, has ‘disappeared’ and has not been seen in the past two weeks since NEXT exclusively reported that a new round of investigations into his activities had been launched.

Looking for him

Efforts to obtain an official position from either Mr. Ibori or the EFCC were unsuccessful at press time. But a source in the commission, who asked not to be named, told NEXT that “EFCC operatives were out looking for him to interrogate him. I think he got wind of it and has disappeared.”

Indeed, according to other sources, Mr. Ibori has cut off communication with all but few associates and relatives. “It is believed that he may be communicating with the Delta State governor, who is related to him,” the source said.

Indeed, Mr. Ibori, who was hitherto very visible in government circles, has suddenly become very scarce. It was not uncommon to find Mr. Ibori in the company of Vincent Ogbulafor, chairman of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) at the presidential villa, in the era of the Yar’Adua presidency. However, he has not been seen in the State House in recent times.

Fresh charges

Asides the 107 count-charges brought against Mr. Ibori by the EFCC in 2007, the commission is preparing fresh charges against the former governor following a petition signed by some leading citizens of his state.

The latest petition, signed by 10 leading citizens of Delta State headed by a former minister of information, Edwin Clark, includes a demand for a probe of the former governor over the alleged illegal disposal of 528 million shares belonging to Delta State, in Oceanic Bank.

The EFCC responded by launching investigations.

The investigations led to the unravelling of some facts, which have now led to the latest move to interrogate the former governor.

Mr. Ibori allegedly sold off Delta State assets to fund private investments while he was still in office.

“The search has to do with the N44 billion loan which he took from Intercontinental Bank. He used Delta State shares in Oceanic Bank as security for the loan. He later asked the bank to sell off the shares, over 500 million units, to repay the loan,” our source said, adding however that Mr.

Ibori’s disappearance has now stalled the EFCC’s investigations.

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