Former Delta State Governor, Chief James Onanefe Ibori regained his freedom a few minutes.
This followed a court order, according to his lawyers.
At 12. 20 pm, Wednesday 21 December 2016, Her Honour, Mrs. Justice Juliet May, Queen’s Counsel, dropped her verdict; she ordered the immediate release of Chief James Onanefe Ibori, said a statement signed by Ibori’s Media Assistant, Tony Eluemunor.
With that, Ibori’s lawyers won a major victory against the British Home Office, at the Royal Court of Justice, Queens Court 1, London, by successfully challenging the decision not to release Ibori who was due for freedom on Tuesday December 20, after serving his sentence. In a curious move, the British Home Office, instead of releasing Ibori on December 20, informed him that he would be detained on the grounds that his confiscation hearing had not been concluded.
So, in court, Ibori’s lawyers exposed the injustice in the indefinite detention the Home Office had planned for Ibori. They told the Judge that there were no grounds in law under which Ibori could be detained and that his detention for one day by the Home office was unlawful. Therefore, there was high drama in the British High Court as senior lawyers for the UK’s Home Office failed in their last minute bid to prevent Ibori’s release. The apparent decision to block Ibori’s release and detain him appears to have come from the highest echelons of the UK Government – the Home Secretary who was accused in today’s hearing of acting unlawfully and misusing her powers.
Sian Davies, the Crown Prosecution lawyer did not object to Ibori’s release and return to Nigeria, yet at the last minute the Home Office stepped in. There is clear discord between the two arms of the British Government.
Ibori’s team was led by Ian McDonald QC, the leading QC on immigration.
The visibly irritated Judge could not understand the Home Secretary’s position and at times was critical of the move to detain Ibori any further. Mrs Justice May rejected the Home Secretary’s requests for conditions to be imposed and ordered Ibori’s immediate release.
Ivan Krolic, who also attended, explained that Ibori’s confiscation proceedings collapsed in 2013, after the Prosecution was unable to establish any theft from the Delta State and any benefit for Ibori, from anywhere . A three-week hearing which heard live evidence was abandoned by the prosecutors – Wass QC and Shutzer-Weissman. Both prosecutors have since been dismissed from the case for gross misconduct.
Krollic further explained that British police officers in the case led by DC McDonald, have again been referred to the Independent Public Complaints Commission and now face a thorough investigation into their corrupt activities in this case. The CPS has confirmed officers in the case were corrupt. It has since disclosed substantial material evidencing the graft.
Ibori and others have long maintained that this prosecution was politically motivated. It was funded by the UK’s Department for International Development, DFID, whose senior employee was also the jury foreperson in one of the earlier trials.
The Ibori case has been plagued with British police corruption, exceptional prosecutorial misconduct and fundamental non-disclosure. A multitude of Appeals have now been launched or are in the process of being launched.
Eluemunor added that across the nation, there were spontanious eruptions of celebrations by Ibori’s supporters, especially in Asaba and Oghara, where people poured out into the streets to celebrate the good news that their champion has regained his freedom.