The Federal Government has banned further visits to the former Delta State governor, Chief James Ibori, currently in Kaduna Prison over money laundering.
A Federal High Court sitting in Kaduna remanded him in prison custody following his arraignment for more than 100 corrupt charges.
Our correspondents learnt that the ban became necessary so as not to compromise the security of the prisons.
The government issued the directive banning visitors to the former governor on Friday to the Comptroller of the Prison, Alhaji Momoh Momodu.
It was discovered that the prison officials swiftly moved to enforce the directive as they rebuffed desperate attempts by some prospective visitors to have access to the politician.
The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission on December 13 arraigned Ibori for allegedly defrauding the state of more than N9bn.
He and four others were arraigned on a 103-count charge of money laundering and abuse of office.
The commission, in one of the charges, alleged that on April 26, 2007, the former governor made a cash payment of N1.8bn ($15m) to EFCC investigators in order to influence their investigation.
Ibori is due to appear on January 11 at the Federal High Court in Kaduna over corruption charges.
However, some members of the Delta State House of Assembly were lucky on Friday as they were able to visit him before the directive took effect.
But another team, led by the Majority Leader in the House, Chief Efe Afe, were turned back because of the ban.
Momodu confirmed the new security measures when he received eight members of the House in his office on Friday morning
He told them that he had just received very strict orders from Abuja to stop such visits.
The Majority Leader was said to have made spirited efforts to persuade Momoh to allow the team to see Ibori since some legislators from the House had the opportunity to do so a few hours before the team arrived.
But the comptroller said he could not flout the directive from Abuja, banning further visits to the former governor.
When our correspondent contacted him in his office Friday, Momoh confirmed the ban. However, he declined to expatiate on the reasons for the ban.
“I am sorry about the development. I have just received orders from Abuja, and there are very firm text messages on my phone to that effect. The order is that there should be no more visits until further notice,” Momoh stressed.
But Dr. Festus Okubor, who served as the Commissioner of Health and Information under Ibori, told our correspondent that some of the expected visitors to Ibori included members of his legal team. “Chief Ibori himself has said that he will like to see his legal team,” Okubor said.
“But because of his health condition, it is necessary for him to have enough rest. You will also understand that the Kaduna Prison only has limited manpower to monitor visitors. So, they had a deliberate decision to bring down the number of visitors, but it is not a matter of state policy. But in the meantime, like every detainee, he is entitled to see visitors he wants to see. So, the issue of restrictions will not arise,” he said.
However, in a contradiction, Okubor said the associates of the former governor had advised him to reduce the number of his visitors because of his bad health.
He said, “Because of his health condition, and the fear that it may deteriorate, we have advised that the number of visitors be controlled. Ibori has been sick for a very long time; he has been hypertensive for a very long time. When he was in office, in 2005 or 2006, there was a time we almost lost him; he had to be flown abroad. Those symptoms are recurring.
– The Punch