Governor Ifeanyi Okowa of Delta State and Sheriff Oborevwori, speaker of the Delta State House of Assembly, have described former Governor James Ibori, an ex-convict who served a 13-year sentence in Britain for laundering state funds, as an impeccable leader who fought for resource control in the country.
The two state officials lauded Mr. Ibori in separate statements released by their respective spokespersons to celebrate the former governor’s 58th birthday today.
In February of this year, Mr. Ibori was released from a UK prison after serving a term of 13 years for offenses that included the laundering of public funds which he laundered through British banks and other financial institutions.
Mr. Ibori entered a guilty plea that enabled him to evade a public trial. Before UK authorities pulled off Mr. Ibori’s conviction, Nigeria’s anti-corruption officials had failed in an attempt to prosecute the flamboyant ex-governor on similar offenses.
On Mr. Ibori’s return to Nigeria after serving his jail term, he was welcomed to his hometown of Oghara by a huge crowd, including state officials, who spoke about him in heroic terms.
An opposition politician in Delta State, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said he was ashamed that “Governor Okowa and the Honorable Speaker think of Chief Ibori as a man who made legendary contribution to the development of our state. And they are praising the man despite his theft of jaw-dropping sums of public funds from his people.”
Speaking through his spokesman, Charles Aniagwu, Governor Okowa stated, “Deltans and Nigerians cannot forget in a hurry how you labored to build the most virile, potent and unassailable political family in Delta State and beyond even as your legacies still dot the nooks and crannies of the state.
“On behalf of the government and people of Delta State, I felicitate with a leader par excellence, Chief James Ibori, on the occasion of his 58th birthday.
“It is our prayer that God will continue to protect you and grant you good health to render more services to mankind.”
In a similar vein, the speaker’s media aide, Dennis Otu, said: “The former governor we are celebrating today laid solid foundation for the rapid development of the state in his eight years as a governor. Deltans cannot forget in a hurry the transformation the state witnessed during the administration of the former governor.
“I rejoice with you as you are being celebrated today. I pray the Almighty God that has sustained you this far to continue the good work in your life.”
During the frenzied reception for Mr. Ibori on his return from incarceration in the UK, many Nigerian police officers were caught on various videos cheering on the former governor.