DRESSED in black - trousers, jacket and shoes - with a white shirt and red tie, the former Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) boss was led into the courtroom by one of a judicial clerks around 2.25 p.m.
Mr. Nuhu Ribadu performed the traditional oath swearing by placing his left hand on the Holy Quran as he was led to go through the lines to affirm that he would be giving truthful evidence.
Within a minute, Crown Prosecutor Sasha Wass started her cross-examination. Looking relaxed, calm and often responding to the prosecutor’s questions with a smile and “yes, mum,” Ribadu held the court spellbound as he disclosed how Ibori was ‘desperate’ for him to take a $15 million cash bribe which the former governor allegedly gave him in Senator Andy Ubah’s house in the presence of the then Head of Operations, Ibrahim Lamorde and another official of the EFCC, James Garba. Lamorde is now Chairman of the EFCC.
He also told the stunned courtroom how Ibori later allegedly sent four hired killers after him following the late President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua’s rise to power and the then Attorney-General of the Federation, Michael Aondoakaa, let the former oil-rich Delta State governor off the hook. Ribadu disclosed further, how, after he refused taking the alleged cash bribe, Ibori desperately begged him to “just pocket the $15 million and send me a clearance letter.”
Ribadu, who gave graphic details of how on a day Ibori was holed up at the Abuja residence of a former Kwara State Governor, Dr. Bukola Saraki, was moved to shed some tears towards the end of his over one hour of cross-examination.
He claimed that two assassination attempts were made by Ibori’s people on his life, one in Jos and the other in Abuja. He further claimed that Ibori promised he would “be dismissed from the Police Force” and removed as “EFCC Chairman,” the moment the administration of the late Yar’Adua came to power.
“Ibori was more influential” when Chief Olusegun Obasanjo’s government handed over power to the new administration in May 2007, Wass said.
The following is the excerpt of the dialogue that ensued between Wass and Ribadu, as the latter answered the former’s questions from the witness box:
Wass: I want to ask you please, about the post of governor. What sort of power do governors have?
Ribadu: The governors have executive power ... are immune from prosecution while in office.
I want to ask you about James Ibori, did you investigate him? How did you come to investigate him?
It came from petitions from the ordinary people of Delta State.
Asked how many times Delta people petitioned his office and who initiated EFCC’s investigations, Ribadu said: “I will say about five to 10 petitions. We also carried out our own investigations and gathered intelligence and information using our field officers and from banks.”
Asked what date the formal investigation into Ibori began, Ribadu replied: “It’s a date I can’t remember.”
As far as you are aware, did Mr. Ibori know he was under investigation?
He said he was aware
How did you know he was aware?
Ribadu: He got in touch with me.
Ribadu said as the end of his second term was approaching, and knowing that he could no longer be shielded by the immunity clause, Ibori became anxious and was desperate to bribe his way out.
Wass: I want to ask you in particular, April 25, 2007, can you help us with what happened?
Ribadu: At the time, James Ibori asked me to take money from him to stop the investigation.
Ribadu disclosed further that Ibori wanted to come to his house to hand over the cash, but he refused and he (the former) suggested they should meet at the EFCC office. Ibori rejected this suggestion as “he didn’t want anybody to see him,” Ribadu said.
Asked if he informed anyone else about his conversations with Ibori, Ribadu said he told his officials and alerted the Central Bank of Nigeria.
Asked why he thought Ibori offered $15 million, Ribadu said it was because Delta State had an allocation of about $1 billion and “James wasted or took about half of that.”
Wass: What happened after the money was handed over at Mr. Ubah’s house?
Ribadu: They - Ibrahim Lamorde and James Garba- drove directly to the Central Bank of Nigeria.
Meanwhile, Oando Nigeria Plc yesterday issued a statement on Ibori’s trial and its alleged links to him, saying: “As Southwark Crown Court in London proceedings are underway against Mr. James Ibori (known as ‘confiscation proceedings’), ex-Governor of Delta State in Nigeria, aimed making Mr. Ibori forfeit assets worth approximately £90 million to the Crown.
“These proceedings started on Monday, September 16, since when Oando Plc has been mentioned several times by a prosecutor.
“Mr. Ibori was convicted in 2012 of Fraud and Money Laundering. At his trial, he pleaded guilty to the charges and was convicted on that basis. Because he pleaded guilty, none of the allegations put forward in the prosecution’s case were ever tested.
“Now, we have situation where the Crown prosecutor is using untested evidence as the basis of its case in the confiscation proceedings. The prosecutor is presenting this evidence as factual and true, including, unbelievably, statements made by Mr. Ibori – a convicted criminal to the effect that either he, or his family own 30 per cent in Oando or in another statement ‘beneficial interest in Ocean & Oil.’
“These contradictory statements were not tested in the first court case and not can they be tested in the confiscation proceedings, as the defendant has elected not to participate. This is a dilemma for Oando as it is not a party to the proceedings – it is not the accused, the defendant or a witness. As Oando does not have a right to be heard, it cannot challenge the prosecution’s evidence where it touches upon Oando, for example by asking the following:
• ‘Exactly which company does Ibori say he owned 30 per cent of?’
• ‘Why are you making sensational statements about a supposed shareholding when in your own evidence you say Mr. Ibori’s statements are untrue?’
• Why do you allege he owns 30 per cent of the company while also admitting that he only has about 400 shares in Oando Plc? How do you account for the disparity between the company’s own share register and the statements you are making in court?
“Of its own volition, Oando approached the Metropolitan Police sometime in 2012 when it became apparent that the company’s name had been mentioned in the Crown prosecution case in relation to an alleged Ibori shareholding and transfer of money.
“Oando made available to the Metropolitan Police evidence of Mr. Ibori’s shareholding of the company at the time, which was approximately 400 shares. We also presented evidence that the transfers of money to Ocean and Oil Services Ltd to an Ibori controlled company was as a result of a legitimate foreign exchange transactions and without any knowledge at the time that the company was related to Ibori. Furthermore, there was no evidence of any transfer from Oando Plc to the Ibori controlled company.
“This evidence was ignored by the Crown it was not made available to the court and the prosecution is now trying to portray the payments made by Ocean and Oil Services Ltd as payments made by Oando Plc. Yesterday, to get around this hurdle of not having any links between Oando Plc and Ibori, the prosecution witness, Detective Constable Clerk, misled the court by saying Ocean and Oil Services and Oando Plc are “…the same company under a different name…,” clearly trying to establish a link that does not exist between Oando and Ibori.
“Oando as a responsible corporate with obligations to its shareholders will pursue all legal avenues available to right this wrong and seek compensation for any losses it incurs as a consequence of this inappropriate course of action.
“The UK prosecutor is making damaging statements about a very substantial oversees company without any reasonable evidence while our company cannot defend itself in return. This insidious grandstanding cannot continue. It is leading to unfounded speculation that we are determined to bring to an end. At this time, we have our counsel in court, to intervene as “a friend of the court” if any damaging statements are made in relation to Oando.”Source: THE GUARDIAN