Published On: Fri, Jan 11th, 2013

Judge Decries Delay in Alleged Ibori $15m Bribe Suit

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RFCC Chairman, Mr Ibrahim Lamordi

THE Federal High Court, Abuja Division could not hide its displeasure at the snail like pace of proceedings in the suit brought before it over the ownership of $15 million which former Delta State Governor, Chief James Onanefe Ibori allegedly offered the former chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Malam Nuhu Ribadu.
The trial Judge, Justice Gabriel Kolawole said the endless filing of interlocutory applications by parties in the matter had hampered progress in the matter.
At the resumed hearing of the matter yesterday, Justice Kolawole stated this when EFCC’s counsel, Rotimi Jacobs (SAN) sought an extension of time within which to file a further counter affidavit to the processes filed by the Delta State Government, represented in the matter by the Attorney General of the State, Mr. Charles Ajuyah (SAN).
According to the Judge: “I don’t like the way we are wasting time on interlocutory applications without getting to the substantive matter. This is because of the interlocutory applications which counsel bring before the court.”
But Jacobs told the court that his application for an extension of time to file a further counter affidavit was brought pursuant to Order 48 Rule 4 of the Federal High Court Rules and within the inherent jurisdiction of the court, adding that the delay in filing in time was due to the work load on the part of the applicant.
He said reasons given by the applicant as stated in the application are cogent and sufficient to grant it, pointing out that the Delta State Government raised new issues in their reply to the counter affidavit, which he said needed to be addressed.
Ajuyah, in his submission prayed the court to refuse the application for want of merit. He argued that the applicant has failed to advance any reason upon which the court can act judicially and judiciously.
He said section 36 of the constitution, which the claimant cited, does not accord a party an endless right to file process in a matter.
In the centre of the ownership battle of the $15 million alleged Ibori bribe to former EFCC boss are the Federal Government, EFCC and the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) on one side and the Delta State government on the other side.
The money allegedly offered, as bribe by Ibori to Ribadu to compromise the investigation of the fraud allegation preferred against him, is being claimed and counter-claimed by the Federal Government and Delta State.
While the Federal Government is laying claim to the money kept in CBN custody since 2007 on the ground that Ibori denied ownership of the money, Delta State is however asking the court to declare it the bonafide owner of the money, having been allegedly offered by the former governor while in office.
It would be recalled that the Delta State government is claiming the ownership of the alleged $15 million following a court order that anybody or group claiming ownership of the money should indicate so before it would be forfeited to the Federal Government.
Delta State government formally approached the Court with an application seeking an order to release the amount to its treasury.
Following Ibori’s denial that he did not offer the bribe, the money had since 2007 been kept in the custody of the CBN for safe keep.
The Delta State Government averred that the money in a 35-paragraph affidavit in support of the application, said that the release of the money would facilitate the current developmental projects in the state.
The affidavit deposed to by one Nikiru Bridget Emakpor, a legal officer in the Ministry of Justice averred 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.
On that basis, the state said that the $15 million was the exclusive property of the state and is entitled to collect it as the bona fide owner, among others.

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