Lagos, Nigeria (PANA) - The burial of the former military leader of Biafra, Dim Chukwuemeka Odumegwu-Ojukwu, and James Ibori's admittance, in London, that he stole from the government coffers when he was in power as State governor dominated front pages in Nigeria this week.
On Friday, the remains of Odumegwu-Ojukwu, the man who led his breakaway Biafra Republic in a 30-month war against Nigeria, were interred in his hometown Nnewi in south-east Nigeria.
The body which arrived in Abuja from London on Monday was taken round some States for people to pay their last respects. Odumegwu-Ojukwu died at the Royal Berkshire Hospital in London 26 November 2011, after a protracted illness. He was 78.
"Exit Of Ikemba" was the headline in the Guardian on Saturday which appropriately called him "Ikemba" (meaning the peoples' strength or General of the Peoples Army) following the way he prosecuted the war against Nigeria.
The paper reported that at about 3.15pm local time on Friday, the brown casket bearing his remains was lowered into the specially built resting place in his Nnewi home, signalling that the earthly journey of the man admirers called "General of the Peoples Army" had finally come to an end.
But even in death, the Ikemba still towered like the hero he was. A staccato of gun salutes heralded his burial. Crowds surged, gaily dressed men and women, dignitaries including governors, federal legislators, businessmen, traditional dancers and ordinary folks alike all struggled to catch a last glimpse of the 'Eze Igbo Gburugburu' (King of the Igbos) before he was finally buried. Simply put, people came from all walks of life to bid the former military governor of old Eastern Region goodbye.
Tribune newspaper, with the headline "Tears, Encomiums As Ojukwu Goes Home", quoted President Goodluck Jonathan as describing the late ex-Biafran leader as a selfless leader who fought against injustice while alive, just as the South East Governors said that Ikemba’s burial had brought to an end the wounds and pains of the Nigeria Civil War.
Jonathan, who poured encomium on the late Ikemba of Nnewi shortly before the Igbo hero was lowered into the mother earth in front of his modest compound in Nnewi, commended Nigerians for gracing the final journey of one of Nigeria’s greatest leaders.
According to President Jonathan, many Nigerians had not witnessed a burial like Odumegwu-Ojukwu’s which showed that he was the man of the people who fought for the benefit of his people.
He stated that Ojukwu was one of the few leaders, who left a legacy that spoke volumes of his selfless service to his fatherland, saying, “Ojukwu left a clean record. In Africa, we have leaders who after their death, even their corpses were not allowed into their country but Ojukwu’s burial is today the highest in the history of Nigeria.
“I came here today with my family because I consider myself as part of the Ojukwu family. When my father died, he drove to my remote village and ever since, he has treated me as a son. His burial is personal to me,” Jonathan added.
The Sun captioned its story "Nnodu Nma (the final goodbye)...Ikemba goes home in a blaze of glory...Farewell, the people’s General". According to the paper, the Igbo icon and leader of the defunct Republic of Biafra, Dim Chukwuemeka Odumegwu-Ojukwu, was committed to mother Earth.
It said that since his death, no moment has been spared by the Igbo nation in particular and Nigeria in general in ensuring that he is given a burial that befits his gargantuan status.
Since his demise, Odumegwu-Ojukwu has been celebrated in major cities across the globe, especially in Europe and America. Back home in Nigeria, his journey to the grave has been most momentous.
Other headlines on Odumegwu-Ojukwu were -- Thisday (Encomiums as Odumegwu-Ojukwu Goes Home); Punch (Ojukwu buried amid praises); and The Nation (Civil war now over, says Obi).
The papers also reported the death of James Iroha, alias "Giringori Akabogu", the long-standing Nigerian actor and cast in the now rested soap opera "New Masquerade". Aged 69, the actor died on Tuesday.
The Vanguard headlined its story on Giringori as "New masquerade actor Gringory dies at 69", reporting that the circumstances and place of his death are yet to be made available. According to the paper, his son, Akwari James Iroha, confirmed the death on Facebook.
But in its second story, the Vanguard said Poverty and ill-health killed Giringori Akabogu. The paper said that before his death, Giringori cried out for rehabilitation, saying he was broke.
Giringori gave 40 years of his life to acting. But at 69, he died a pauper. Recently, he was compelled to make a desperate appeal to Nigerians in a national daily: “I am almost begging for food…I need money to pay my rent, buy my medicine. Now there is nothing between poverty and me. I am just nose-to-nose with poverty.”
He was afflicted in both eyes by glaucoma and cataract, for which he had undergone several operations both at home and abroad with no success. His family and friends rallied round him to look for a permanent solution to his predicament.
The 1966 graduate of the University of Ibadan battled with illness for over a decade. Other members of the New Masquerade cast who have since passed on were Christy Essien-Igbokwe (Apena) and Claude Ake (Jegede Sokoya).
While Thisday headlined the Giringori story "James Iroha, populary known as Giringori, is dead", the Punch treated the story as "Breaking News: Gringory Akabogu dies at 69".
Also during the week, the papers were awash with reports of how former governor of south-south Delta State, James Ibori, pleaded guilty to a 10-count charge of money-laundering and conspiracy to defraud.
Chief Ibori who was arraigned before the court was accused by the British police of stealing US$250 million (about 160 million pounds) over eight years. About US$35 million of his alleged UK assets were frozen in 2007.
The Vanguard on Tuesday headlined its story on Ibori as "MONEY LAUNDERING: Ibori pleads guilty to 10-count charge", reporting that as his trial at London’s Southwark Crown Court was about to begin, Chief Ibori changed his plea to guilty and admitted stealing money from Delta state and laundering it in London through a number of offshore companies.
Following Ibori’s plea, the Metropolitan Police spokesman, Paul Whatmore, told the court that: “We will now be actively seeking the confiscation of all of his stolen assets so they can be repatriated for the benefit of the people of Delta state.”
Chief Ibori, who will be sentenced on 16 April this year, was arrested in 2010 in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, and then extradited to London for trial.
In a twist to the story, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) announced during the week that Ibori will still stand trial whenever he returns to the country.
The EFCC, according to a statement signed by its Acting Head of Media and Publicity, Mr. Wilson Uwujaren, said it “received with happiness, the news that Ibori had pleaded guilty to fraud, stealing and money laundering charges before a Southwark Crown Court in London".
"This, indeed, is a welcome development which vindicates the Commission’s position ab initio that Ibori had a case to answer.”
The Tribune on Tuesday ran the same story under the headline "I stole N37.5bn" while the Nation's caption was "I’m guilty of stealing, Ibori tells UK court".
The Punch, taking stock of ibori's wealth, said the former Delta State Governor Ibori rose from a mere store worker to international playboy with a 250-million-pound fortune.
According to the paper, "A few years after quitting his £5,000-a-year job as a cashier for Wickes, Ibori had become one of Nigeria’s most influential and richest politicians, wasting no time spending his new-found wealth on luxury homes, top-of-the-range cars, five-star travel and fees at exclusive boarding schools."
It said that on Monday, the 49-year-old stood shame-faced in the dock of London’s Southwark Court and admitted stealing tens of millions of pounds from the oil-rich state he governed in Nigeria. Scotland Yard detectives believe his fraud could exceed 250 million pounds.
And the Guardian, with the headline "Delta awaits return of Ibori’s loot", reported that the Delta State government is eagerly waiting for the British government to fulfil its promise to return to the people the money and assets it seized from the former governor of the state Ibori.
Delta State Information Commissioner, Mr. Chike Ogeah, said that the state government would demand that the loot be returned immediately to the state’s treasury as ordered by the court.
Ogeah explained that since the laundered money by Ibori, who ruled the state between 1999 and 2007, rightly belonged to the state government as declared by the court, the government would set machinery in motion to ensure that the assets are retrieved.
"Ribadu Promises Red Card for Oil Thieves" was the headline of the story in Thisday on Wednesday. The story said Malam Nuhu Ribadu, a former chairman of the anti-graft agency "EFCC", on Tuesday promised a tough regime for unscrupulous players in Nigeria’s oil sector, declaring emphatically: “The game is over.”
Speaking after the inauguration of the Petroleum Revenue Special Task Force by the Minister of Petroleum Resources, Mrs Diezani Alison-Madueke, Ribadu said existing operational modalities in the extractive sector were opaque, hence the need to enthrone sustainable and acceptable moral standards.
The 21-member task force was set up by the Federal Government to enhance probity and accountability in the operations of Nigeria’s petroleum industry.
The Punch headline on the story was "Ribadu task force gets 60 days to clean up oil industry", with the story saying that the Federal Government on Tuesday gave the Petroleum Special Task force 60 working days within which to probe and clean up the oil industry.
The Nation's headline on Wednesday was "Ribadu flashes red card to ‘unscrupulous’ oil players".
Still on the economy, the papers reported that President Jonathan, his vice Namadi Sambo and State Governors are now to pay personal income tax.
The Tribune on Tuesday captioned its story "Jonathan, Sambo, govs to pay personal income tax", reporting that in line with the provision of the reviewed personal income tax, the president, vice-president, state governors and their deputies are now to pay personal income tax on official emoluments.
The chairman, Joint Tax Board and the Chief Executive of the Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS), Mrs Ifueko Omoigui-Okauru, made the disclosure in Abuja, on Monday, while addressing a press conference on the Personal Income Tax Amendment Act 2011.
According to the FIRS boss, the affected political office holders, who hitherto only pay tax on non-official emoluments, would now have to pay tax on their official emoluments, as compiled by the Revenue Mobilisation Allocation and Fiscal Commission (RMAFC)
According to Thisday whose headline was "President, VP, Governors to Pay Tax from April 1", the new development followed the signing into law of the Personal Income Tax (Amendment) Act 2011 by President Jonathan.
Before now, only their non-official income was subjected to taxation.
-0- PANA VAO/MA 3March2012