By Zik Gbemre
Regardless of the fact that a lot has been said, and quite a lot is still being said about the British Government’s intention to repatriate James Ibori’s loot stolen from Delta State to the Federal Government, and the demand to have the said stolen loot returned to the Delta State people, however, there are indeed pressing key questions that need to be asked to broaden the minds of the people on this issue.
Agreed that the former Delta State Governor, James Ibori stole so much money belonging to Delta State tax payers and the entire people living in the State, but there are angles many of us have not considered on this issue.
No apologies to Ibori at all, but no one is caring to ask further questions over his said “stolen loots”. For instance, was it possible for Ibori to have stolen all that money from the State Government treasury alone, without the abetment and complicity by some principal officers of the then State Government? Did Ibori govern the State alone? Of course, the answers to these questions are no! Ibori duly and officially appointed Commissioners and financial aides as part of his then State Cabinet. These Commissioners were approved by the then Delta State House of Assembly and all the Commissioners were sworn-in under oath by Governor Ibori then. Did Commissioner for Works, and Commissioner for Finance for instance, approve the looting of Delta State public funds under Ibori? Who was the Finance Commissioner then that aided the looting of the said funds, which many are now asking to be returned to the State? Who was the Works Commissioner at that time?
These questions are important to ask and consider because, though Ibori was Governor then, he could not have on his own, dipped his hands into the public purse to move the said loot out of the State’s coffers. How did those money get moved? Should Ibori take the entire blame alone? In other words, at the time Ibori governed Delta State, who were the Commissioners of Finance, Works, Education, Health, etc.? What were their roles in all of this at that time?
When we consider the fact that these are the largest Ministries and Government Departments, that are usually with the highest budgets and powers to do a lot of things, then we would understand why these questions are important to ask. The then Governor Ibori of Delta State, could not have stolen all that money alone without the active participation and conspiracy of these Commissioners then, especially the then Commissioner of Finance, and Commissioner for Works. No dime of Delta State could have been stolen/moved by Ibori without the authorization of the then Commissioner of Finance. He was the one in-charge of the State’s finance. But why has no one been beaming the search light on these former Commissioners under Ibori then? Why is Ibori the only one being castigated in this whole thing?
As noted by another concerned Nigerian on this issue: “It will appear reasonable to know about approvals that gave room for the looting of Delta state. Some key men may have also played some roles behind the scene, pooling the strings of corporate legal fraud of awarding questionable contracts and approval of money during Ibori’s administration. Two commissioners during Ibori’s administration should not be far away from a conspiracy that facilitated the laundering of funds from the oil-rich Delta State and substantive accounts.
“Records show how Chief Ibori had about 17 bank accounts linked to him in different locations across the world, large sums of money went into these accounts and Ibori never explained the sources of money in his accounts. Does his silence prove that his Commissioners did not play any role in terms of generating of the movement of the money? There is need for some of his then cabinet members to come clean and explain to Deltans. In 2004, Delta State Government officials were used to write cheques, which they subsequently cashed and then deposited into accounts linked to Ibori. These monies were later siphoned out of the local accounts to those his associates operated in the United Kingdom (UK) and elsewhere. The question is, who was the Commissioner of Finance, who approved the movement of the money from the government coffers? In June 1999, a Commissioner for Finance and Economic Planning was appointed, he served till 2003 and his tenure ended. In 2015, he was again appointed as Commissioner of Finance, for the third time he occupied that position until May 2019, nothing has been said about how billions left Delta state and out of the country.
“Delta state is richly blessed with LOYAL POLITICIANS and POWER SEEKERS who give no hoot of who did the looting but more interested in the political benefit and proceeds of corruption despite the economic gloom, unemployment, business collapses, industrial failures that now pervades Delta State. More to be bothered about is the plundering and exploitation of Delta state by politicians who live in affluence by taking the resources of the common man. It is a fact that over one hundred and eight of the ongoing roads projects, for which contracts have been awarded since 2015, were inherited from the Governors James Ibori and Emmanuel Uduaghan administrations. Many could be justified to think that the Commissioner of Works during Ibori’s administration may have approved fake contracts to fool Deltans and created a means by which misappropriation was normalized.”
Having considered these questions, l strongly believe that all the former Commissioners, particularly the Finance Commissioner under James Ibori back then when he was Governor, should be banned by INEC, and outrightly rejected by the people of Delta State from contesting as Governor of Delta State or any elective position in the State Government for that matter. The people of Delta State cannot have these set of politicians ‘regroup’ today to remain in the political space of Delta State. These people never meant well for Delta State. If they did, we would not be in the mess we are in today in the State. What were the bank account details of these people before they became Commissioners under Ibori? Where were they living then? And where are their homes now? How would they have come with practically nothing into the State Government, and suddenly elevated their status having aided in the looting? And now, they are regrouping to be in the next Government after Governor Ifeanyi Okowa.
Do they think that Deltans are foolish? Even if the majority of the people have been foolish for so many years, it is now time for them to retrace their footsteps and become more sensible to know that anybody who was part of that Ibori’s reign of terror and financial recklessness, does not believe in the progress of the State. And should be seen for who they really are; scavengers who only want to come and destroy the State further. Indeed, Deltans must arise and stop all these people.
It is no longer news, rumour or allegations that Ibori looted the Delta State treasury to a bleeding point, judging by all the recoveries made so far by the British Government. But all of Ibori’s former Commissioners should not be allowed to ever contest as Governor of Delta State, or any other position for that matter. It is apparent to all Deltans that they all colluded with Ibori to steal the State’s funds with reckless abandon and impunity. I repeat, Deltans should demand and ask for all their bank details as supposed public officers, before they were appointed by Ibori as Commissioners, and what the said accounts became withing the period of that Government.
It is also time for the anti-graft agencies like the EFCC, Code of Conduct Bureau (CCB) and ICPC, to look into the personal accounts of all Ibori’s former Commissioners, including the assets they owned before they were appointed as Commissioners in Delta State. We can no longer seat back and allow these evil to slide. These people need to be exposed for all to see them for who they really are.
We just can’t allow these ‘public rogues’ to go back to the Delta State Government House and other political offices. I would also urge that all past Delta State Commissioners under Emmanuel Uduaghan and Ifeanyi Okowa, should also be made to face the same sanctions like those under Ibori, and be banned by INEC, rejected by the people, and be investigated by the EFCC/ICPC and Code of Conduct Bureau (CCB). Even those Commissioners under Okowa, who are now aspiring to govern Delta State as from 2023, the anti-graft agencies, which include the EFCC, ICPC and Code of Conduct Bureau (CCB), should beam their searchlights on all of them whom have become billionaires overnight. They need to answer some of these questions. What earned them the money, which they now want to use to buy the peoples’ votes in the quest to become Governor of Delta State?
The INEC, EFCC, ICPC and Code of Conduct Bureau (CCB) should rely on the Ibori’s court judgment in the UK as clear evidence to investigate and ban these former and current Commissioners of Delta State (which include Uduaghan and Okowa as prominent cabinet members of Ibori’s administration), from contesting in any election in the whole of Nigeria. The entire world is watching to see how the Federal Government and its agencies will handle this whole issue.
The bottom line is that we cannot blame Ibori alone without these Commissioners and aides under Ibori’s Government then. We simply cannot allow this madness (as usual) any more. The backwardness in the State is bad enough. The people of Delta State must first take hold of their own collective destiny, as responsible indigenes of the State, and citizens of the Country. As noted by the said concerned Nigerian in the above quotes: “Delta state must be liberated from the economic killers, looters And Job-Men who lack consideration of the fact that Delta state as a state to invest the money they have collected from the state through various means. Delta State should hold its leaders accountable to invest in the state, not outside, those without investment in Delta state should not be taken seriously in 2023.”
Let us be frank with ourselves, many of us as elders, have children, grandchildren and great grandchildren as the case may be. What future are we going to leave for that younger generations? What is our future for the children? What is our plan? Having inherited the State from our founding fathers, but only to destroy it to the point that Delta State is today one of the most backward States in the country, despite its enormous wealth and resources – posterity will not forgive us if we fold our hands and allow this State to be continually enslaved and further destroyed by these set of political leaders. This nonsense has to stop!
March 15, 2021
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