A Southwark Crown Court in London on Monday sentenced two associates of a former governor of Delta State, Chief James Ibori — Ms. Christine Ibori-Ibie and Ms. Udoamaka Onuigbo — to five years in jail each.
A 12-man jury headed by Judge Christopher Hardy had last week found Ibori-Ibie, the only surviving sister of the former governor guilty of nine counts of money laundering, mortgage and wire fraud.
Onuigbo was convicted for only money laundering in a case number T20087009.
Both convicts were remanded in prison at Hardy’s order immediately the guilty verdict was passed by the jury.
A third accused person, Mrs. Bimpe Pogoson, who was Ibori’s personal assistant, was discharged and acquitted by the jury.
An online news agency, THE WILL, reported on Monday that the sentencing did not go without a drama at the courthouse.
It quoted a court official as saying that there was a restriction of people that thronged the court to witness the sentencing. The high number of people, according to THE WILL forced the court officials to move the sentencing from Court 8 which seats about 25 persons to Court 9 which is a little bigger.
Another Nigerian online news agency, Saharareporters, which put the number of Nigerians at the court at over 150, said that before Hardy read the judgment, the lawyers to the two women pleaded with him to temper justice with mercy.
The agency added that the lawyer told the court that Ibori had a “pervasive influence over the entire Nigerian government structure” that Ibori-Ibie and Onuigbo “couldn’t have rejected his overtures.”
According to the report, Hardy rejected their pleas and came down hard on the Nigerian judiciary, saying that it (judiciary) had “been usurped by Ibori.”
The judge said that Nigerians were the victims of the money laundering allegations against Ibori and not the two women who lived a life of luxury off them .
The agency added that Hardy pointed out that Ibori-Ibie and Onuigbo knew exactly what they were doing and, therefore, couldn‘t be described as victims.
After the sentencing, the Nigerians in attendance jubilated outside the courtroom.
Late last year, a Federal High Court judge in Asaba, Delta State, Justice Marcel Awokulehin, set the former governor free after throwing out the 170 charges of corruption brought against him by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission.
Ibori, who went underground after he was declared wanted by the EFCC over a petition by Delta Leaders, Elders and Stakeholders Forum, was arrested in Dubai, United Arab Emirates.
He was arraigned but was granted bail in the oil-rich emirate. The Metropolitan Police of London at which instance he was apprehended in Dubai, is currently seeking his extradition to London.