DUBAI // Two days after a Dubai court ruled in favour of his extradition to the UK, the former governor of Nigeria's Delta state, James Onanefe Ibori, has announced he will stand for vice-president in Nigeria's 2011 elections.
Speaking to The National from the Dubai General Police HQ, Interpol section, where he is being held in custody, Mr Ibori said despite his detention he would nevertheless compete in the elections along with an unannounced Muslim candidate who will be revealed in November.
"These charges against me are all politically motivated and the people in power are trying to discredit me and dissuade me from registering for the elections in November," he said.
Mr Ibori was arrested at the Atlantis hotel on May 9, days after arriving in the country. An Interpol request had been filed by the London Metropolitan Police asking for his detention and extradition to the UK on suspicion of fraud.
A senior diplomatic source in London said the Metropolitan Police applied for Iboriís extradition from the UAE, rather than Nigeria, because the UK has an extradition treaty with the UAE, while Nigeria doesn't.
Ibroriís wife, Theresa Nkoyo, and his UK lawyer, Bhadresh Gohil, are currently on trial at Southwark Crown Court in London on money laundering charges.
Ibori's sister and his mistress are currently in a London prison after also being convicted of money laundering.
On May 10, Mr Ibori was released from custody in Dubai on bail. He was called to the Dubai Public Prosecutors office a month later for questioning after British authorities claimed he was intending to flee the country in a private jet.
Initially, prosecutors allowed Mr Ibori to remain on bail, but this was revoked by the Dubai Advocate General Khalifa bin Deemas.
According to Innocent Iyede, Mr Ibori's adviser, an election campaign has already been prepared. "We have prepared everything and we will be launching it soon," said Mr Iyede. "Our close allies in Nigeria have been repeatedly visiting him where he is being held in Dubai."
Asked about the extradition order, Mr Ibori said his legal team intended to appeal.
"We are awaiting the court to issue its reasons for the verdict, and we will appeal it at the Court of Cassation," said Mr Ibori. "We have a very strong case." A senior diplomatic source in London said: "We understand that Mr Ibori's return to the UK could still take six months or more if he chooses to exhaust the appeals system through the Dubai courts. Assuming that his appeals in Dubai fail, Mr Ibori will be returned to London to face money laundering and fraud charges.Ē
Mr Ibori was a founding member of the Nigerian president Goodluck Jonathan's People's Democratic Party. He was the governor of the resource-rich Delta state from 1999 to 2007.
During his term, Mr Ibori was one of the most vocal advocates for resource nationalisation in Nigeria. "He wanted to restructure the flow of funds in Nigeria," said Mr Iyede. "Money flowed from the government to the states, and he wanted to reverse the order so the states could benefit from their resources. Many resources are being taken by large corporations like BP and Shell because the government allows them to."
Mr Ibori said he intends to reduce the foreign control of resources in Nigeria. "The majority of our resources are being controlled by the British, and I want our country to benefit from them by restructuring the current system."
He says the extradition order is politically motivated, claiming it is part of a ploy by the Nigerian president Goodluck Jonathan to keep the presidency. "Mr Jonathan was not elected. In Nigeria the agreement is to have a northern president and a southern vice-president for two terms and then swap for the same," said Mr Ibori.
"The death of president Umaru Yar'Adua placed Mr Jonathan in power. Constitutionally, he is only allowed to complete his term in 2011 and is not supposed to run for election again," he said.
"I pose to him his biggest adversary and, therefore, all these ploys have been put in place to discredit me and keep me away from Nigeria," he added.
"According to the extradition request, the Nigerian authorities have not even asked for me. They have concocted this with the British to stop me from participating in the elections."
Mr Ibori said he will register his candidacy in November, when he will announce which of the four northern candidates has been chosen to run with him.
- Additional reporting by David Sapsted
This article has been altered from the original to include information that was removed from the editing process