By Segun Amure, (The New Diplomat’s Abuja Bureau)
The kinsmen of former Delta Governor James Onanefe Ibori under the auspices of the Oghara Development Union have faulted the Government of the United Kingdom over the asset worth it said was forfeited by Ibori and associates.
The UK had on Tuesday signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the Nigeria government to return the sum of £4.2 million recovered from Ibori to Nigeria.
But the Ogbara Devt Union has claimed the UK underreported the money seized by £2 million as it claimed that £6.2 million was the actual money recovered, giving inside details of who forfeited what.
In a statement released by the Union’s General Secretary, Sunday Agbofodoh, the union called on the Nigerian government to insist that every single penny that has been forfeited by Ibori’s associates in the London trial should be returned to Nigeria.
The union also claimed that Ibori was not a poor man before he became governor in 1999 and described his trial and imprisonment as a witch-hunt.
The union submitted that he has been a successful business man before becoming Delta State Governor in 1999.
“It is on record that Ibori was a successful businessman before he became a Governor in May 1999, involved in oil logistics (Upstream) and trading (Downstream). One of his companies, MER Engineering (Nig Ltd), was established in 1992, seven years before he became Governor. He was publisher of a national newspaper called ‘Diet’, now called ‘Daily Independent.”
The statement reads, “the Oghara Development Union stands squarely with Chief Ibori in maintaining his innocence, and so without conceding that Ibori was guilty as charged, and specifying that the forfeited houses were not bought with illicit funds, we nevertheless call on Nigeria to insist that the full worth of the three buildings seized through a court order, be repatriated to Nigeria.
“The London Police filed in court a paper which showed that one of Ibori’s companies, Mer Engineering, was earning over $7 million annually.
“The forfeited London house linked to the First Lady of Delta State when Ibori was Governor, the Hampstead property, is owned by a family trust.
“The property was purchased by the company, MER Engineering, whose shareholding was held by his family trust.
“MER had obtained a facility loan from NNB, a Nigerian bank.
“The value of this property at the time of its purchase was £2.1 million, which was covered by the NNB facility of well over £3 million meant for working capital and financing of assets.
“The second property belonged to Miss Udoamaka Okoronkwo, and was purchased for £249,000 through mortgage.
“Miss Udoamaka is a successful business woman as can be seen from the facility letter dated 19 December 2005 from a bank in favour of her company, Sagicon Nigeria Limited for N121 million (£1.5 million).
“The third property, very modest, belonged to Ibori’s sister, a U.K resident, which she purchased for £140,000. Her husband is a former Federal Permanent Secretary.”
“As a court ordered that the buildings be forfeited, however unjustly, all the monies released MUST return to Nigeria. It is on record that Ibori was a successful businessman before he became a Governor in May 1999, involved in oil logistics (Upstream) and trading (Downstream). One of his companies, MER Engineering (Nig Ltd), was established in 1992, seven years before he became Governor. He was publisher of a national newspaper called ‘Diet’, now called ‘Daily Independent’.
“Also Ibori had a consultancy job with the Federal Government, with a tripartite agreement between him, the FG and the law firm Washington Christian of USA from which he earned between US$ 3 million to US$ 5 million annually, after successfully reaching the specified goals.
“His bank statements with the Bank of Austria, the Citibank, Barclays Bank and the Meryl Lynch for those years will also show that he had substantial wealth of his own before he held public office for the first time in May 1999. For instance, on March 11, 1998, his Bank of Austria account contained $557,100.00. His Citibank account contained even more; over $1.5 million dollars in 1998. In fact, the Nigerian and UK persecutors (instead of prosecutors) knew that Ibori was already a Citibank Gold and Private Bank Member and a Gold Card member of the British Airways before he became Governor. But they chose the rags to riches publicity stunt to justify their persecution of Ibori for political reasons. It is well-known that before Ibori became Governor, he self-funded his entire political campaigns – with all the party candidates in 1999.
“This should put to rest the lies that Ibori was not wealthy before he became Governor of Delta state.” The Oghara Development Union claimed.