It’s my money, he tells court
The controversy over who owns the $15 million bribe money of former governor of Delta state, Mr James Onanefe Ibori, took a new twist yesterday as one Chibuike Achigbu filed an application at the Federal High Court in Abuja, saying the money in contention belonged to him.
In an application filed on his behalf by 10 lawyers, three of whom are Senior Advocates of Nigeria, Achigbu said that he gave the money to Dr. Andy Uba, a former aide to the then President, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo, for the purpose of financing the Peoples Democratic Party during the 2007 general elections.
He claimed that he first sought legal advice on whether he could raise money to donate to support the PDP and its candidates throughout the federation for the purpose of winning the elections.
He also said that he set a target of N3 billion which he intended to raise through himself and his associates.
He said that by April 2007, when the election had drawn near, he had raised money in excess of N2 billion, after which he realised that such donations could only be made and accepted through a financial institution.
According to him, in order to legitimately apply the fund, he approached Uba to seek relevant agencies of government to investigate and certify that the funds were raised honestly and in good faith, with a view to donating same to finance the PDP.
He said that Uba advised him to deliver the fund to him for onward transmission to the EFCC, being the agency of the federal government sufficiently equipped to give a clean of legitimacy to the fund before it could be donated to the PDP.
“Andy Uba was a Special Assistant in the Presidency who offered to take custody of the fund with a view to inviting EFCC to carry out the audit and certification before being donated to the PDP,” Achigbu said in the affidavit before the court.
Achigbu said after he had delivered the money to Uba, he rumours about an attempt by Ibori to bribe the chairman of the EFCC.
He said that he had nothing to do with Ibori, the rumour did not strike him as having any bearing with the fund he delivered to Uba for clearance by the EFCC.
He explained that due to the political ambition of Uba to become the governor of Anambra state, he lost contact with him and was not able to reach him to ask for an update regarding the fund.
The lawyers said: “That it was not until several months after Uba’s election was voided at the Supreme Court that he (Achigbu) succeeded in making contact with him.
“That Uba, in a telephone conversation he had with him sometimes in the early part of the year 2008, confirmed that, as agreed, he did invite the EFCC to take custody of the purported unclaimed fund and revert on their investigations about its suitability for the purpose that the fund was intended.”
Achigbu said that he, however, did not believe Uba and suspected that he had diverted the money to fund his electioneering expenses when he was campaigning for governor of Anambra state.
He said that he chose not to pursue the case any further because he “took the view that God had sufficiently avenged Uba’s betrayal when his election, funded with the money, was voided by the Supreme Court less than a month into his tenure in June 2007.”
The lawyers in the suit included Chief Adeniyi Akintola, Okey Amaechi and Abiodun Owonikoko.
It would be recalled that the Delta state government had formally laid claim to the ownership of the $15 million bribe money.
The money was allegedly offered by Ibori in 2007 to the then chairman of the EFCC, Malam Nuhu Ribadu, to compromise the probe of a fraud allegation against the Delta state governor.
Ibori, 49, was jailed for 13 years last April 17 in London over his part in a $250 million fraud of state funds, but will spend four and half years behind bars.
Following denial by Ibori that he never offered bribe to Ribadu, the money had been kept in the custody of the Central Bank of Nigeria for safe keep.
The Delta state Attorney-General and Commissioner for Justice, Charles Ajuyah, at the Federal High Court in Abuja, recently claimed that the money legitimately belonged to Delta, and urged the court to order its return to its treasury since the money in dispute was allegedly offered by Ibori while he was in office as governor.
In a 35-point affidavit in support of the application, the Delta state government asserted that Ibori was a governor of the state between May 29, 1999 and May 29, 2007, the period the money in dispute was allegedly offered by Ibori.
“The $15 million is the exclusive property of the state and it is entitled to collect it as the bona fide owner,” the affidavit said.
The affidavit also indicated that the state did not formally apply for payment of the money in view of the pending appeals to the Supreme Court and the Court of Appeal because it did not want to prejudice the appeal cases.
It further claimed that all monies, assets and properties recovered from Mr. Joshua Dariye, a former governor of Plateau state, were returned to Plateau state just like those recovered from Diepreye Alamieyesigha of Bayelsa were returned to Bayelsa state.
Delta state argued that with this precedence, there should be no legal basis to treat its case any different from others and that it was in the interest of justice that the money should be released to Delta.
Filed Under: News