Sources at the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) say the agency plans to arrest and try the deposed governor of Delta State and his deputy, Professor Amos Utuama, for money laundering and financial crimes relating to the looting of Delta state under the regime of James Ibori governor between 1999 -2007.
Uduaghan was removed from office yesterday via a ruling of the Elections Petitions Court of Appeal in Benin which nullified his flawed April 2007 election as governor. Uduaghan, who is a cousin of Ibori, was the secretary to the Delta state government during the intervening period. His name has featured prominently in the ongoing trial of Ibori’s estranged wife, Theresa Nkoyo at the Southwark Crown Court in London.
Prof. Utuama’s name has also featured prominently in the money laundering activities of Ibori. During his tenure as Ibori’s Attorney General, Utuama’s Prime Chambers account at Zenith Bank in Nigeria was generously used to transfer funds that helped spread bribes to a variety of lawyers and judges.
Though Mr. Uduaghan and Utuama have been involved in cases of corruption involving the Iboris, they enjoyed legal immunity from persecution on account of their positions as governor and deputy governor. They took advantage of those positions to help Ibori to seize and manage his own trial as he pleased.
Together, they set up a kangaroo Federal High Court in Asaba which was paid for, staffed and kitted by the Delta State government. It was no surprise when that court, last year, threw out 170 counts of money laundering charges against Ibori. The EFCC appealed the case and mounted fresh legal challenges against Ibori and his cronies. But the Delta State government funded militants to prevent the arrest of Ibori by the EFCC and the police until Ibori was safely ferreted out of Nigeria to Dubai where he was eventually arrested by the London Metropolitan police with the aid of Interpol and the Dubai police.
Ibori now faces extradition to the UK to face trial for money laundering. He has so far stalled his extradition by launching an appeal against a high court ruling which granted his extradition to London. If the EFCC successfully begins the prosecution of Uduaghan and Utuama, the duo will have a hard time rejoining the gubernatorial race that will be taking place in the next 90 days, as ordered by the court yesterday.
It would also mean that Ibori will face serious financial hurdles in resisting his extradition to London, in view of the fact that Uduaghan and Utuama have consistently used Delta State funds to support Ibori’s extravagant lifestyle as well as his legal bills in Dubai.