Governor Ifeanyi Okowa of Delta State has reportedly authorized the release of N350 million to fund an elaborate church thanksgiving service and reception in honor of former Governor James Onanefe Ibori.
Mr. Ibori was released from prison in the United Kingdom (UK) last December after serving a 13-year jail term following conviction on charges related to corrupt enrichment and money laundering. Last Saturday, the ex-convict governor arrived at his country home in Oghara, headquarters of Ethiope West local government area of Delta State, and received an excited welcome from his friends, political associates and residents of the state.
Two sources in Delta State, one of them a senior government official, told SaharaReporters that Mr. Okowa released the funds in order to ensure that the reception for Mr. Ibori, scheduled to take place on Sunday at the former governor’s hometown of Oghara, would be a huge event.
Last Sunday, Mr. Okowa and his entourage, including many members of his cabinet, visited Mr. Ibori at Oghara to pay homage. The current and former governors held a close-door meeting that last several hours.
Speaking confidentially to SaharaReporters, an official of the Delta State government disclosed that Mr. Okowa decided that the state government must bankroll the events formally welcoming ex-Governor Ibori back to the state. The source said the governor’s decision was also “a way to show gratitude to Chief Ibori, who single-handedly made sure that he won the 2015 governorship election.”
The source said Mr. Ibori had done political favors that exceed the more than N350 million that Mr. Okowa has set aside to host the church thanksgiving and reception to welcome home the former governor.
“Chief Ibori not only saw Senator Okowa through all the hurdles in the PDP governorship primaries but made him the governor of the state right from his prison far away in London. Before now, the governor had always vowed to give Chief [Ibori] an elaborate reception for standing behind him politically,” the source said.
Our sources disclosed that a committee was taking shape to oversee the elaborate thanksgiving and reception. The venue of the church service is yet to be disclosed, but the reception is scheduled to take place at the Oghara stadium shortly after the church service.
Before filing this report, our efforts to speak with the Commissioner of Information in Delta State were unsuccessful, as he did not pick up calls to his mobile phone. However, an official at the Ministry of Information confirmed that the state was playing a big role in the forthcoming reception for Mr. Ibori.