Former Governor of Delta State, Chief James Onanefe Ibori, has denied benefiting from contracts awarded by the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) as alleged by Niger Delta Minister, Godswill Akpabio.
In a letter sent to the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Femi Gbajabiamila, Akpabio had named serving lawmakers and former governors of Niger Delta states who benefited from the corruption that has become the lot of the NDDC.
One of those mentioned by the minister was Ibori, who governed Delta State from 1999 to 2007.
However, in a statement made available to the press by his media aide Tony Eluemunor, Ibori dismissed Akpabio’s allegations as ridiculous and unworthy of a response.
“Ibori did not want to join in the ‘dance in the market square’ going on in the NDDC right now,” the statement reads.
“He has decided to make this clarification for the records because friends and associates inundated him with phone calls this morning.
“So, he is stating categorically that he never solicited for, or was awarded, or indeed executed any contract with NDDC or any government agency, at any time, for that matter.”
The statement added that Ibori has not been accused of being a government contractor since he left office as governor.
“He (Ibori) has never been accused of being a government contractor, let alone a failed one hence he did not want to dignify the allegation with a response because it is ridiculous.
“So, Ibori is advising Akpabio, his brother, friend, and member of the former Governors Forum, to please calm down and focus on the task at hand,” the statement added.
Ibori said that it was thanks to him and other political leaders of the region that the NDDC was set up in the first place.
He said the governors at the time rose to override the veto of President Olusegun Obasanjo who refused to assent to the NDDC Bill.
“If not for the exemplary courage some of us exhibited, there would not have been an NDDC to bicker about today.
“Watching the level the NDDC has degenerated to, is a tragedy. We owe it a duty to the people of the Niger Delta to make NDDC work to ameliorate the sufferings of the people of the region and to realise the dream for which we fought for it to be set up.
“So, let everybody involved in the NDDC do their duties to the good people of the region,” Ibori said.
Convicted for grand theft
After fleeing Nigeria before the law could catch up with him, Ibori pleaded guilty to 10 counts of fraud and money-laundering at London’s Southwark Crown Court in 2012 and was sentenced to 13 years behind bars.
He served half of his sentence in pre-and post-trial detention and was released from jail in December of 2016.
He returned to a hero’s welcome in Delta in 2017.
Ibori is currently a patron of the Former Governors Forum.
Another former governor implicated by Akpabio, Orji Uzor Kalu of Abia State, has denied benefiting from NDDC contracts.