A Southwark Crown Court in London has sentenced James Ibori, former governor of Delta state to thirtheen years in prison on 10 counts of criminal charges bothering on fraud and money laundering.

At the resumption of the sentencing on Tuesday, there were several Nigerians inside the courtroom showing their support for the former Delta State governor, amongst whom was former footballer and member of the Nigerian Football Federation, John Fashanu.

At 11:05am the court resumed sitting, with the court clerk requesting everyone within to switch off all mobile devices. Not long afterwards, James Ibori was brought into the courtroom by the bailiff.

Ibori’s counsel, Nicholas Pernell started by telling the court that Ibori was not to be blamed for the V-mobile telecommunications scam, but all the blame should be laid at the feet of Gohil, his former lawyer and the former Governor of Akwa Ibom State, Victor Attah.

The lawyer went ahead to declare that Ibori was responsible for supporting British industry even before he became governor.

Pernell told the court that Ibori was responsible for all the development in Nigeria, including the banking reforms and construction of low-cost housing and ensuring the shaky peace that currently exists in the Niger Delta today.

However, Ibori’s countenance made him appear unimpressed with his lawyer as his gaze was constantly shifty and a scowl repeatedly surfaced on his face.

To support his assertions of Ibori’s meek nature, Pernell called upon Fashanu to tell the court of this good side of Ibori, seldom seen and reported. Fashanu proceeded to inform the court that Ibori built the first shooting range in the country. He also added that he built 12 stadia across Delta state during his time as governor, thereby helping the careers of Nigerian soccer players such as Austin ‘Jay Jay’ Okocha and current Nigerian coach, Stephen Keshi, who had long hung his playing boots before Ibori became governor.

At 12:30pm, the Judge had heard enough from the defence team and called for a two-hour recess. 

On resumption, the judge pointed out that the 13-year sentence was not the end of the trial as the British legal system was also going to confiscate the property owned by James Ibori in the UK.

It will be recalled that the prosecution, on Monday, shockingly revealed at the sentencing of James Ibori that there was no plea-bargain but a voluntary confession of crimes committed by the accused.

The prosecutor, in her closing statements, described Ibori as a “common thief” and declared that “the amount of money James Ibori stole is unquantified”.  

She went through a list of the crimes committed by Ibori in the UK and Nigeria, dating as far back as 1991. She listed the several bank accounts held by the defendant, including 6 in Barclays, 2 in Citi Bank and several others in the Channel Island, accusing Ibori of listing his 4-month old baby as a director in one of the companies he allegedly used to defraud the oil-rich Delta State.

The lead prosecutor also accused Ibori of colluding with another former governor, Victor Attah of Akwa Ibom State, to form a phantom company called ADF which they used in siphoning over US$37 million from Akwa-Ibom and Delta State’s shares in V-Mobile Telecommunications.

Counsel for the defendant, Nicholas Pernell, agreed with the submission of the prosecution that indeed the amount siphoned in the V-mobile and Bombardaire scams amounted to over $50million, but pointed out that the Nigerian Military was responsible for creating conditions that encouraged Ibori to perpetuate the corruption crimes he was accused of. 

Ibori will serve his sentence in a UK prison.

Sylvester Awenlimobor

Sly is a social commentator who resides in Lagos and currently works as a relationship manager for a financial institution.

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