Nigeria’s anti-corruption agency, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) has again appealed to former Delta State governor James Obori to make himself available and answer new allegations of corruption and money laundering while he was governor.
This comes as the former governor has reportedly filed a 10 billion Naira (about $67 million) libel suit against the EFCC for declaring him a wanted person.
Ibori reportedly said through his lawyer Monday he will not appear before the EFCC until a court decides his case.
EFCC spokesman Femi Babafemi said the agency has no intention to infringe on Chief Obori’s constitutional rights.
“The commission has a petition accusing the former governor of Delta State of quite a lot of things, especially the diversion of the shares of the Delta State government in Oceanic Bank International to guarantee a 44 billion Naira loan in Intercontinental Bank for a private company called Ascot which is allegedly linked to him," he said.
Babafemi said the petition, brought by a group known as the Delta Elders and Stakeholders Forum also alleges that Chief Ibori equally directed that the shares be sold to offset part of the loan already granted the company.
He said the allegations against Chief Ibori are new, contrary to claims by Ibori’s lawyers that the allegations had already been investigated.
“We can’t reinvestigate a matter that has been decided in court and for which we are also in court to appeal against the judgment of a Federal High Court," said Babafemi. "It’s a completely different case that we are investigating. And that’s why we assured, in our statement, the former Delta State governor to please come out the EFCC will not in any way infringe on his rights."
Babafemi said the EFCC is guided by the rule of law, and if the agency finds any criminal information on the former governor it would definitely take him to court.
He said Ibori remains a wanted man, and that if he does not make himself available the commission would initiate a man hunt by both the public and security forces.
“We have been looking for him for over four weeks now. Since he has failed to show up, the first step we took was to declare him wanted," he said. "What that means is that there will be a coordinated man hunt for him by not just security agencies but by members of the public as well who may have information as to his whereabouts."
Babafemi denied the new allegations against Ibori were politically motivated as punishment for what some have called the former governor’s alleged support for ailing Nigerian President Umaru Yar’Adua.
“There is no truth in it that the investigation of allegations against him are politically motivated. How would you then reconcile the fact that somebody that faced trial even under the administration of Umaru Yar’Adua, how would you reconcile the fact that the same person again, under the same administration is facing another round of investigation?” Babafemi asked.
Babafemi said he is not aware of any political influence over the EFCC. He said claims of political motives behind the new allegations against Ibori are part of an attempt by those who would want to get away with committing crimes.
He said the Ibori case is part of the progress the IFCC is making in the fight against corruption in Nigeria.
Babafemi said since 2008 when Farida Waziri took over the leadership of the EFCC, the commission has filed about 50 high profile corruption cases in court compared to just 10 under the previous leadership.