By Ken Tadaferua
For those anxious for James Onanefe Ibori’s touchdown in Nigeria, patience has to be a virtue. For the Ogidigboigboi is not coming home just now. Why? London is not done with him yet.
London lawyers are circling like vultures over Ibori’s head forming an apparent evil looking halo even as the British Home Office seeks to squeeze and confiscate, as much as possible, what they willfully describe as Ibori’s loot in London’s real estate and banks and even beyond.
Indeed, but for Mrs Justice May, the London high court judge who granted Ibori’s emergency appeal for release, our former governor would still have been locked behind bars. The Home Office lost its plan to block Ibori’s release on grounds that the hearing for Ibori’s assets confiscation is inconclusive.
Ibori is out of the slammer. But he cannot leave London until after the assets confiscation hearing is heard sometime soon, January, February, March…… one is not too sure. But certainly in 2017.
So the Delta government welcome planning committee along with Ibori’s boisterous political acolytes and well wishers may have to wait until sometime in 2017 and maybe beyond, to have a glimpse of the revered Ogidigboigboi on Nigerian soil. So for his enthusiastic worshippers, patience must indeed be a virtue.
But this article is essentially not about Ibori, even if he sets the tone. It is about London, that rapacious capital of England. London is a city of sophisticated roguery. Much of its politicians, civil servants, courts, lawyers and real estate dealers are a sophisticated lot of unforgiving, greedy and grabbing rednecks.
London holds out its image of the world’s most opaque business capital as a bait to thieves around the world seeking to hide the billions looted from dirt poor, frontier countries, particularly African countries where the rogues in power appear so deranged and cursed that they impoverish their peoples to pile their national wealth in London and other such sophisticated rogue cities.
London lawyers, in particular, are specialists in the setting up of shell companies, with the most opaque of legalities so that the company owners are never revealed to the public. With such legalized illegalities, tons of looted monies from impoverished third world are moved into London banks and to buy top end London properties at astounding prices with no questions asked.
If the details of thousands of those shell companies were made public, it will shock Nigerians to know the vast numbers of loaded bank accounts and high end properties valued in thousands of millions of pounds which thieves from Nigeria own in London. And the silence of the omertà is maintained by the UK financial authorities until any of the rogues break the code by making his nuisance value, a public spectacle.
London courts would dutifully jail any of the “alien” rogues who is unfortunate to have his dirty, stinking underwear exposed to public glare. London cannot bear being called a rogue city so if you fail the secrecy test, you are ruthlessly sacrificed on the public alter.
But if the London courts can get away with it, such as if the exposed fraud being contested did not happen on British soil, then the London courts can joyfully adjudicate and share looted assets among thieves (check out the Dan Etete and rogue Malabo story).
Thereafter London’s mafia politicians and civil servants move to confiscate the foreign rogue’s looted assets into the greedy red maws of Her Majesty Treasury where it is lost forever and ever and ever.
London never returns loot stolen from foreign countries. Like Charles Dicken’s Fagin, the celebrated “receiver of stolen goods”, London snaps up all stolen loot without as much as a wink of shame. The UK rogue legal system allows London to receive and confiscate monies stolen from abroad and never, with display of ruthless national shamelessness, return the monies to the countries where the loot came from. That is unlike say Switzerland and some other countries that have been returning Abacha loot to Nigeria.
The World Bank estimates a conservative $40 billion (forty billion dollars) stolen by corrupt leaders of poor countries are stashed in overseas banks and properties. London is a major receiver of these illicit funds. Transparency International notes that £23 – £57 billion of dirty money is laundered in the U.K. by rogues and criminals from all over the world. Indeed London reeks.
Anthea Lawson is a British investigative journalist who works for Global Witness, a campaign organization that investigates the links between natural resources, conflict, corruption and environmental degradation. In a FEDx HousesOfParliament presentation titled, How London Fuels Corruption, she said she was ashamed of London.
Lawson detailed how London fuels corruption in some of the poorest countries in the world. One example she gave is the celebrated billion dollar corrupt oil deal involving Dan Etete, a former Nigerian minister of petroleum, Shell Petroleum, Eni Oil and an aggrieved middleman. Shell and Eni had paid $1.1 billion for Nigeria’s most lucrative off-shore oil block from an illegally set up company called Malabu Oil & Gas.
It turns out that Malabu is owned by Etete and that of the $1.1 billion paid to the federal government as a mere conduit pipe, $800 million was wired off immediately to rogue registered shell companies owned by private individuals, who ended up buying private luxury jets and armoured luxury cars.
But there was a snag which made the billion dollar deal public. A middleman had dragged Etete and the oil companies to a high court in London seeking ten percent cut of the corrupt deal. Guess what? The London high court, as Lawson put it, decided that the middleman is entitled to the ten percent cut, without questioning whether the British court should be dividing the proceeds of corruption. The judge threw morality of the law out the window.
Global Financial Integrity, an organization which works to curtail international illicit financial flows, undertook a 39 year (1970-2008) study of illicit financial flows from Africa. Its report: Illicit Financial Flows from Africa: Hidden Resource for Development, estimates that a staggering $1.8 trillion was stolen from the African continent during this period in the form of over invoicing or trade mis-pricing, services mis-pricing, smuggling, bribery and direct stealing. The report states that “Nigeria, is by far the dominant driver of illicit outflows from the Sub-Saharan region “losing capital at the rate of nearly $10 billion dollars a year.”
Where is much of these illicit outflows going? London. And when it gets there, it never comes back. Not even when Margaret Thatcher in the 1980s hypocritically threatened to expose Nigeria’s wealthiest rogues. She never did. Why? The loot of the wealthiest Nigerian rogues is in and working for the good of Britain.
So too did Prime Minister David Cameron publicly declare in 2016, without shame, that Nigeria is fantastically corrupt. What he did not say is that London is a crooked city, a receiver of stolen goods. Here was Cameron, like Thatcher, both prime ministers of the UK, which capital, London, that cesspool of global corruption, that receiver of stolen goods, posturing as superior models of integrity.
Worse than the posturing and all the noise of fake civilized decency, is UK’s mean pinching of a few million pounds from the billions of illicit funds they rake in, to publicly donate as aid to the countries the stolen monies come from.
These meaner than rattlesnake British leaders pinch a measly £257 million as annual aid to Nigeria and make a huge din of global publicity about supporting the poor and infrastructural development of the perpetually poor sub Sahara African country called Nigeria. Slavery cannot be worse than this neocolonialist deception driven in the main by our own leaders. A crying shame indeed.
But who do you blame? The mean leaders of the United Kingdom or the sharks called lawyers of London? They use the stolen monies for themselves and their country. If some stupid dummies want to plunder their own countries and allow others to rape their countries, so be it. Just as well then, that Britain dutifully receives all the loot from the bloody idiotic natives from Nigeria.
We ought wonder: What the bloody hell is wrong with our leaders who loot our treasuries to fill Her Majesty Treasury? Why do they impoverish their people only to stuff personal bank accounts and acquire real estate in the UK, USA, France, South Africa and else where. Do they see it as good business decisions as in investing in predictable markets or show off of luxury power? For how do you explain Etete buying a massive chateau in France? Is it exotic taste or bland stupidity?
From the north to the south and from the west to the east of Nigeria, the story is the same up until today. A breed of ravenous men, proud in their stupidity, hailed by dumb followers, steal and haul our patrimony to private foreign bank accounts. After loading the illicit funds abroad for themselves, they return to raise fuel price, raise electricity tariffs, raise taxes on cars and generally make life a nightmare for honest citizens.
Why stash billions of dollars needed to grow Nigeria into a prosperous, productive country into personal foreign accounts. Are our leaders mad? Why would Abacha steal from his own country and stuff the billions abroad for himself and his family. Why would Ibori pay millions of pounds in cash for properties in London among other properties around the world. Why? Just why?
London makes it easy for international robbers. With such legal loophole of shell companies, cities like London, Dubai and others are haven for country looters, drug and weapon dealers. It is easy to hide the loot, and enjoy the spoils. The rogues and their families enjoying luxurious jet set lifestyles at the expense of millions of children and women dying of preventable diseases, lack of portable water, poor electric power, horrible roads, terrible state of schools, hospitals and industry.
They and their children live in opulence, quaff champagne in top flight London clubs, are in the best schools in London, drive plush cars and fly private luxury jets while millions of people in their home country have no food to eat, do not attend school and have no jobs. They have floods of the blood of the innocents on their heads. They are responsible for the deaths of women who die daily in child birth due to lack of clinics or medication, of the millions of children dying from malaria and dysentery, of the rancid smell of grinding poverty enveloping the greater population. London is also directly or vicariously responsible.
I can understand that the Brits do not give a damn, after all the harvests from the looting benefit their pockets and national economy. But I just cannot understand Nigerian leaders and elite. Even during colonialism the British and indeed the West did not have it so easy exploiting our country and continent. Then they had to bring in administrators, build infrastructure and govern with arms of force to clean out our resources. Today, our leaders just steal and move humongous billions of dollars to them. How then can one be angry when a white man scoffs at the stupidity of the black man, calling him a buffoon?
Perhaps, time has come for my people to think. Time has come to ask what we gain when we help oil companies, in particular, the Royal Dutch Shell Company, to fleece our oil and pollute our lands for a few crumbs. Time has come to learn from the experiences of folks like Ibori. For after jailing him, they would wring him dry of his assets. Those assets are lost to London for ever. Then the same London will sneer, and rightly too, as he returns home to a hero’s welcome. It is not new in Nigeria. Abacha’s son returned a hero to Kano. Alamieyeseigha returned a hero too.
But the biggest challenge is not those who return home to hero’s welcome. The real challenge is the huge number of unveiled Nigerian thieves who continue to maintain massive bank accounts and own huge swaths of properties in London and other major cities of the world. It is the smug sanctimonious posturing of London as a decent city when in truth it is no more than a hardened receiver of stolen monies, of illicit funds, which it never returns.
Someday the people of this country, this Nigeria, indeed this continent, Africa, will wake up. Meanwhile let the celebrations to welcome Ibori wait awhile.