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Friday, 10 January 2014

PRESIDENTIAL PARDON LOADING: U.K to transfer James Ibori and other 751 prisoners to Nigeria Prison

THE Federal Government, on Thursday, signed a Prisoners’ Transfer Agreement (PTA) with the United Kingdom for the transfer of James Ibori, a former governor of Delta State, alongside other 751 Nigerians in British prisons, to complete their jail terms in Nigeria.....

Ibori, was sentenced to 13 years in prison for corruption and money laundering charges at the Southwark Crown Court 9 in London, in April 2012, and has been incarceration in the country.

However, the signing of the PTA by both countries signalled the fact that James Ibori and others would be repatriated to complete their jail terms in Nigeria without a choice.

Minister of Interior, Comrade Abba Moro, who received the UK Minister of Justice, Mr Jeremy Wright, in his office, after the agreement was signed by Wright for UK and Nigeria’s Minister of Justice and Attorney General of the Federation, Mohammed Adoke, said the bilateral agreement allows the return of prisoners to serve out their sentences in their home country, where both jurisdictions are in agreement.

In addition, the British government has also promised to give the country £1 million [about N280 million] to assist on comprehensive reformation of Nigerian prisons for the comfort of the inmates. About 15,316 Nigerians are in various prisons abroad, with the largest number of 752 serving time in the UK.

Moro also disclosed that an implementation committee, comprising the two, would be put in place immediately, stressing that it was in the mutual interest of both countries that what was agreed on is implemented.

He assured that the Nigerian government, anchored on transformation agenda, would not sign an agreement that it was not prepared to implement. He pledged to do everything within his powers to ensure that the agreement on prisoner exchange becomes effective before the end of this year, now that the agreement has been signed.

“I think that it is in the mutual interest of the two countries that the agreement reached should be implemented to the letter, especially with the kind of traditional historical relationship that Nigeria shares with the United Kingdom, we have no reason to say one thing and do another. This government, anchored on transformation, is desirous of ensuring that we do things very differently from the way we were doing things in the past which have not given us results.” Moro said.

He equally assured the visiting minister that even though Nigeria is grappling with prison congestion, it would not hamper the prisoner exchange, pointing out that already, arrangements have been put in place to reconstruct some of the prisons and provide six new ones, in various locations, for the transfer arrangement and that they are going to be built to international standards and best practices.

On the question of suitability of prisons in Nigeria for the high profile inmates like Ibori, the minister said it was not for the government of Nigeria to glorify any prisoner, saying, “I don’t think there is anything fantastic about somebody who has gone to another country, infracted on the laws of that country and had to be repatriated to serve out the terms.

“But I can assure you that Nigerian prisoners who would be returned to Nigeria would be treated humanely and appropriately reformed and assisted to reintegrate into the larger society.

“Nigeria has designated six prisons for the purpose of prisoners’ transfer. Five prisons whose contracts were awarded in the 80s are now set for completion. We are working on five medium capacity prisons that would meet best practices and international standards that would be used to accommodate the prisoners that would be transferred from some of these countries with whom we enter into any agreement.

“But every country has its own unique system and facilities. Nigerian Prisons system may not be as sophisticated as the UK prisons but the people are serving the prisons terms in UK also left Nigeria as it is before they went to UK to commit the crime they committed of which they have been incarcerated. So, they will come back to Nigeria not to meet any strange things but to meet the usual Nigerian standard that all of us are used to here,” he said.

Moro commended the British government for assisting Nigerian in the reforms and transformation going on presently in its prison system, especially in the provision of necessary facilities that would make the prisoner transfer viable assuring that the Federal Government is committed to the fulfillment of the terms of the agreement.

Also, Jeremy Wright further disclosed that under the agreement which he signed, several Nigerians in British prisons, including, James Ibori, former governor of Delta State, who still have more than six months to stay in prison, would be repatriated to complete their jail terms in the country.

He told the minister earlier the importance of the two countries respecting the agreement, adding stressing the need for the state of prisons in Nigeria to be improved considerably, than what are available now.

Jeremy, who led a five-man delegation to the ministry remarked that even though the prisoners were paying for the crimes they might have committed, conditions in detention centres where they are staying should be made humane.

The British minister of justice thanked the Federal Government and the minister of interior for making it possible for the two countries to finalise the agreement which would lead to the mutual exchange of prisoners assuring also that every effort would be made to foster the cordial relationship between Nigeria and the United Kingdom.

“We believe that the agreement today is a positive step in furthering our mutual relationship and partnership with Nigeria for prisoner exchange,” he said.

James Ibori had earlier pleaded guilty to a number of corruption and money laundering charges against him, put at about $250million, before Judge Pitts. This includes the V-Mobile and Bombardaire scams, which amounted to $50million. Ibori and Victor Attah, former Akwa Ibom State governor, also formed a phantom company called ADF to siphon US$37.5million from Delta and Akwa Ibom States’ shares in V-Mobile.

He was accused of embezzling these funds during his tenure as governor and using most of them to live a lavish lifestyle and acquire property and assets around the world.

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