Jubilation as Ibori returns to Oghara, thanksgiving service holds Sunday
Former governor of Delta State, James Onanefe Ibori has at last returned to his Oghara, Delta State home after incarceration in UK prison for money laundering offences. The small community of Oghara erupted in ecstasy as Ibori’s motorcade from Benin airport zoomed into view. He arrived Abuja aboard a British Airways flight about 4.30am Saturday and was later interrogated by the Department of State Services (DSS). The visit to DSS was said to be a mere formality and he was accompanied by his cousin, Dr. Emmanuel Uduaghan, the immediate past governor of oil-rich Delta State.
Originally billed to fly to Osubi airport in Delta State in a chartered flight, Ibori reportedly made a decoy and flew to Benin from where he was driven to his hometown. Inside sources said a thanksgiving service would be organised for the man referred to as Odidigbodigbo on Sunday. Ibori kept his return under wraps as only a few members of his circle knew about it.
A family source said they decided to mute his return because they did not want unnecessary colouration of the return by well-wishers.
His arrival today still caught many loyal aides by surprise, though Ibori had told Reuters and BBC earlier in the week that he would return within days to Nigeria.
Ibori was released from British prison in December after serving half of his 13-year sentence, taking into account pre-trial detention.
He was jailed for money laundering, an offence for which his wife, lawyer and some close relations were also jailed for.
In several interviews, Ibori did not rule out a future role in politics.
“What happens in African politics – you are in it until you die,” Ibori told Reuters in London on Tuesday.
“I am a politician, I will always be a politician. I play the politics in my party and in my country for the good of my people,” he said after a court hearing, part of ongoing legal proceedings in his case.
Asked if he would run for office again, Ibori said he was barred from doing so for 10 years because of his conviction, but that he intended to appeal to have that conviction overturned. The appeal would centre on an allegation, made by one of Ibori’s former associates, that a British police officer had taken bribes in return for inside information on the case before Ibori’s conviction, and that prosecutors had covered it up.
British police say the allegation was investigated, resulting in no arrests or charges.
The state prosecution service says material supporting the allegation exists and it initially failed to disclose that to Ibori’s defence team, but it is confident Ibori’s conviction remains valid. Court proceedings are ongoing.