Nigerian anti-corruption officials arrest former governor James Ibori

Friday, December 14, 2007

Nigerian police arrested former Delta State governor James Ibori Wednesday on charges of abuse of office, corruption, and money laundering.

According to a statement by Nigeria's Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, Ibori was picked up at a private residence in the Asokoro District of Nigeria's capital city, Abuja. Ibori was to be arraigned yesterday at the Federal High Court in Kaduna. He is facing a total of 103 charges.

James Ibori had been governor of Delta for the past eight years, until leaving office in May, 2007. Although he earned a modest US$25,000 per year as governor, he had reportedly accumulated more than $35 million in foreign accounts. Ibori's UK assets have been frozen while the Metropolitan police investigate further. Should the money be deemed the proceeds of crime, it could be transferred back to the Nigerian government.

Nigerian President Umaru Yar'Adua was elected in May on a platform of battling corruption in the government. Since taking office, Yar'Adua has overseen the arrest of five other former governors on corruption offences. James Ibori had supported the president in his election bid.

Law enforcement officials and anti-corruption advocates in the UK and Nigeria have complained that the Nigerian attorney-general was interfering and slowing down investigations. The attorney-general, Michael Aondoakaa, has denied the allegations.

In a December, 2007 paper by the global corruption watchdog Transparency International, entitled Report on the Transparency International Global Corruption Barometer 2007, Nigeria was determined to have one of the highest rates of corruption, evaluated as a percentage of citizens reporting they paid a bribe to obtain a service.