James Onanefe Ibori (born 4 August 1959) is a Nigerian politician who was Governor of Delta State in Nigeria from 29 May 1999 to 29 May 2007. An ethnic Urhobo by descent, Ibori is a member of the People's Democratic Party (PDP). He is an influential leader in the Niger Delta region and a national figure in Nigeria.
Born to the family of late Chief Ukavbe Ibori and Mrs. Comfort Oji Ibori of Otefe in Oghara clan, Ethiope West Local Government Area of Delta State, he attended Baptist High School, Oghareki, now Oghareki Grammar School, before proceeding to the University of Benin where he obtained a Bachelor of Science degree in Economics and Statistics. Ibori moved to London, England in the 1980s where he married his wife, Theresa. He worked as a cashier at Wickes DIY store in Ruislip, Middlesex. In 1990, the couple were arrested for theft from the store, and fined £300. In 1991, he was convicted of handling a stolen credit card, and fined £100
Ibori's political career began in 1990 when he joined the National Republican Convention (NRC). In 1991, he was nominated to contest for the Federal House of Representatives seat, to represent Ethiope Federal Constituency. He lost the election to the Social Democratic Party (SDP) candidate.
When the Sani Abacha Transition Programme kicked off, he joined the Grassroots Democratic Movement (GDM). The GDM clinched a good number of local, state and federal positions, including one of the three senatorial seats in the state. The transition programme was abruptly terminated with the death of Abacha. Ibori then with the leaders of other defunct political groups in Delta State, formed the Delta National Congress (DNC).
The DNC later merged with many others of like ideas to birth the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). It was on the platform of the PDP that he contested and won the January 9, 1999 Delta State Gubernatorial Election.
Proposed as governor of Delta State, under Nigerian law Ibori had to swear that he had no previous convictions. Using the false birth certificate and passport that he had used for the mortgage application in London, he passed the tests falsely, and was elected to become the governor from 1999. In 2003, he was re-elected as governor for another four-year term.
At the PDP's ruling party's pre-election convention in 2006, Ibori was on hand to lift up the hand of the victorious Umaru Yar'Adua. After Yar'Adua was selected as their presidential candidate, Ibori was accused of bank-rolling Yar'Adua's 2007 campaign, and promised a Vice-Presidential position in return. But after Yar'Adua died in office, Vice-President Goodluck Jonathan succeeded Yar'Adua, an avowed political opponent of Ibori.
On 27 February 2012, accused of stealing US$250 million from the Nigerian public purse, Ibori pleaded guilty to ten counts of money laundering and conspiracy to defraud at Southwark Crown Court, London.
Following the guilty plea entered by Ibori, the EFCC brought before an Appeal Court the 6 year old ruling of a Federal High Court in Asaba which acquitted Ibori in 2009.They EFCC sought the court to set aside the ruling of the lower court on the grounds that the presiding judge, Justice Awokulehin, erred in law while delivering his judgement. A three-man panel of justices at the Benin Division of the Court of Appeal on May 15, 2014 ruled that the ex- governor has a case to answer. With this judgment, the coast is clear for Ibori to face further trial in Nigeria upon the completion of his jail term in London.
On Tuesday, April 17, 2012, Ibori was sentenced to 13 years by Southwark Crown Court for his crimes.Among possessions confiscated were:
After the sentencing hearing, Sue Patten, head of the Crown Prosecution Service central fraud group, said it would bid to confiscate the assets Ibori had acquired his riches "at the expense of some of the poorest people in the world".
James Ibori was released from prison in December 2016 after a court order. He served 4 years out of the 13 years he was sentenced to.
There is indication of his arraignment in Nigeria courts as it is believed that his conviction in United Kingdom is not related to several other financial improprieties committed by him.