A Federal High Court in Kaduna today denied bail to the former governor of Delta state James Ibori who is on trial for alleged graft amid protests from supporters outside the court.
“Chief James Onanefe Ibori wishes to reassure the people of Delta State and his supporters in general that he is still in high spirits despite the bail denied him on Monday, because he is assured of victory in the end as he is innocent of the charges brought against him at Federal High Court Kaduna” Said Ibori special assistant on media, Tony Eluemunor.
Shuaibu ordered that Ibori be remanded in the custody of the EFCC but the former governor opted for prison custody claiming unfair treatment by the agency.
Ibori, who was arrested on Wednesday and arraigned in court in Kaduna the following day, faces a 103-count charge filed by Nigeria’s anti-graft agency, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).
The court’s refusal to grant him bail caused a stir outside the court where several hundred Ibori supporters who had been bussed in for the occasion staged a protest.
The women supporters stripped naked while the men unzipped their trousers and exposed themselves in protest, the journalist who witnessed the event said.
The nude protesters then tried to gain entry into the court premises. They succeeded in breaking the barricade set up by the police but were held back by armed policemen.
Eight trucks of armed soldiers watched the scene from a distance but there was no incident of violence.
According to Eluemunor, “He also wants to make it clear that he opted to be remanded in prison custody than with the EFCC because some persons there have started to play God with him, restricting his visitors unduly, denying him access to his lawyers, and flouting the lawyer- client confidentiality by not allowing him and his lawyers hold a private discussion, no matter how fleetingly. The result he said is that for the four days he was in the EFCC custody, he never actually had a meaningful discussion with his lawyers; something that is taken for granted in every civilized society.”
Hundreds of specially clad traditional rulers, chiefs, present and past members of the National and Delta State Houses of Assemblies were at the court to register their support for their political leader, Ibori. As the court refused Ibori bail, many of them openly charged that the bail refusal was not a surprise to them as top EFCC officials and their media hirelings have been boasting that Ibori would spend the festive period of the Christmas and New Year in confinement to teach him a lesson for challenging the powers that be, especially for his unflinching support for President Umar Yar’Adua and his administration. They were disappointed that Ibori was denied bail though he was not charged for murder, they said.
According to them, “that was why EFCC chose to arraign Ibori in Kaduna, having been assured well before hand, of the result”. Several warned that pressure would be brought on him by the EFCC to enter into a plea bargain. In fact some claimed that a document has already been written, and all that remained was to force him to sign it. But Ibori has urged his people to share in his confidence that a trial is a marathon as opposed to a 100 metre sprint, and that his confidence in the Nigerian legal system remains unshaken.
Eluemunor continued, “He has also urged the youths of Delta State and the South-South in general not to take the laws into their own hands because of him as he spent his years in office trying to bring peace to that much neglected area. “We need peace, we deserve peace, and we must have peace, he said. A coalition of Niger Delta militant groups had vowed last week to unleash mayhem on the oil industry if Ibori was denied bail.”
After court had adjourned, thousands of youths from all parts of Delta State blocked the court’s entrance, chanting both war and pro-Ibori songs and kept those inside hostage for over 30 minutes. Particularly affected was the EFCC lawyer Mr. Rotimi Jacobs, who may never have received such a treatment before, as the car conveying him and his armed police guards, had to turn back and to be hidden at the back of the court until the youths had dispersed, when they ran after the car conveying Ibori out of the court. They stayed on both sides of the car proclaiming their support for the former Governor. It was only after Ibori’s car had left that the gate became open for others to pass. A part of the court wall was breached as at least of its two pillars were broken, but it was not clear whether they were felled by the angry youths or the policemen who tried to dislodge them.
Meanwhile, Ibori’s lawyers have sent in a written bail application instead of the verbal one it made last Thursday, over which the Judge said he had insufficient evidence before him to grant bail, and they have requested for hearing this Friday, after the Sallah.