By Elor Nkereuwem:
The immediate past governor of Delta State, James Ibori, who was recently acquitted of a 170-count corruption charges brought against him by Nigeria’s anti-graft agency, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), is not home free, as the agency has launched a fresh round of investigations on the activities of the former governor.
In addition to the fact that the EFCC has, since December 2009, filed a notice of appeal against the December 17, 2009 judgement which absolved Mr. Ibori of all wrong doing, the commission has begun this new round of investigations on the former governor following a petition by members of the Delta State Elders, Leaders and Stakeholders Forum, which was made available to the public last week.
Last week, the chairman of the EFCC, Farida Waziri, held a meeting with the acting president, Goodluck Jonathan, during which Mr. Jonathan re-emphasised the determination of the federal government to wage a vibrant anti-corruption campaign.
The latest petition against Mr. Ibori, 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 alleged illegal disposal of 528 million shares belonging to Delta State, in Oceanic Bank. The shares were said to have been disposed of in 2007 by government officials.
In the petition, which was also published in some national dailies, the group asked the anti- corruption agency to hold Mr. Ibori liable for the disposal of the shares. Mr. Ibori was alleged to have unlawfully used the 528.01 million units as “a collateral for a loan from Intercontinental Bank for his private company, Ascot Offshore Nigeria Ltd.”
Officials of the EFCC, who declined to be named, confirmed over the weekend that the agency has launched fresh investigations into several allegations against Mr. Ibori made by Mr. Clark, a delta chief and head of the Elders Committee of the ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).
“The EFCC has initiated investigations into some other allegations, including the ones made by Clark and co,” an operative of the agency told NEXT over the weekend.
However, the spokesman of the EFCC, Femi Babafemi, declined to speak on ongoing investigations against the former governor. “We are looking into the petition,” he said.
Old and new charges
Mr. Babafemi however confirmed that the commission was eager to go on with the earlier case, but that the appeal court was yet to fix a date for hearing on the matter.
“After the December 17th judgement, the EFCC on December 23rd filled a notice of appeal at the appeal court in Benin. We are just waiting for the appeal court to fix a date for the hearing,” Mr. Babafemi said.
The EFCC had slammed a 170-count charge of corruption on Mr. Ibori in 2007. After two years, a trial judge, Marcel Awokulehin, ruled the case in favour of the former governor in a Federal High Court sitting in Asaba, Delta State.
Mr. Ibori, however, still faces money laundering charges brought against him and some of his associates by the Metropolitan Police in London. The case is being heard at the Southwark County Court, London.
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