Ibori and the problem with my generation
Sir: Corruption, embezzlement, money laundering, fraud, stealing…these are familiar words to Nigerians. Maybe, we have become desensitised to their true meanings and consequences. When the news filtered in that James Onanefe Ibori had been released, I was shocked to see many Nigerians especially those from his state, Delta, celebrating him as a hero!
For the sake of those who are ignorant or simply uninformed, let me refresh our memories.
Ibori was jailed in the UK in 2012 for 13 years for embezzling £50million ($77m), while he was governor of Delta State between May 1999 and May 2007.
Way before then, he was in the UK in the 1980s and worked as a cashier at a Wickes DIY store in Ruislip, North West London.
Ibori, whose address was given while in court as Primrose Hill, North London, was convicted in 1991 of stealing from the London DIY store.
The former Delta State governor lied about his date of birth to hide his criminal conviction in the UK, which would have prevented him from standing for an elective position, when he contested the 1999 governorship election in Delta State on the platform of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP).
He became governor in 1999.
Ibori was arrested in Dubai in 2010 after evading capture in Nigeria.
The Odidigborigbo, as he is fondly called by his supporters, admitted to a 10- count charge of ‘conspiracy to defraud and money laundering’.
Sasha Wass, QC, prosecuting, told the court that Ibori “deliberately and systematically” defrauded the people he was elected to represent.
One of the counts Ibori admitted, related to a $37million (£23m) fraud pertaining to the sale of Delta State’s share in the privatised phone company V-Mobile.
Ibori reportedly bought:
a house in Hampstead, north London, for £2.2million;
a property in Shaftesbury, Dorset, for £311,000;
a £3.2 million mansion in Sandton, near Johannesburg, South Africa;
a fleet of armored Range Rovers valued at £600,000;
a £120,000 Bentley; and a Mercedes Maybach for 407,000 Euros that was shipped direct to his mansion in South Africa.
After the hearing, Sue Patten, head of the Crown Prosecution Service central fraud group, said it would bid to confiscate the assets, because Ibori had acquired his riches “at the expense of some of the poorest people in the world.”
Despite admitting stealing tens of millions of pounds from state coffers meant to help his people, Ibori still has some important friends and so he has now been released having agreed to be deported after serving half of his 13-year sentence.
However, Home Secretary, Amber Rudd says she won’t deport Ibori to Nigeria until he handed over £18million of “proceeds of crime”.
So, now that you’re all caught up, can I ask again, ‘Why is a convicted fraudster being hailed a hero’? Has this generation completely lost its way? Has poverty eaten into our minds so deep that it has blinded our eyes?