Some human rights activists have condemned the wild jubilations on the streets of Delta on Wednesday following the news that James Ibori, who was convicted in the United Kingdom for looting the treasury of the state while he was governor, had been freed.
Residents of Oghara, the country home of Ibori; Asaba, the state capital, and other places in the state staged wild celebration following the release of the former governor on Wednesday.
The Executive Chairman, Coalition Against Corrupt Leaders, Debo Adeniran, according to Punch, said the jubilations among the people of Delta demonstrated that stealing or fraud was a tradition among them and they did not see anything wrong about it because it was normal to them.
â€œIt is a demonstration that crime is a cultural act in that community; it shows that anything that has to do with stealing or theft doesnâ€™t mean a disgraceful act to them; it is a welcome cultural act to them and it has become their tradition. That is what they have demonstrated; that theft is their cultural way of life.
â€œIn other decent communities, stealing and theft and any other form of larceny are condemnable, a shameful act that nobody wants to identify with.
â€œWhat I see that Ibori has become is a king in a community of thieves.â€
Also, the Chairman, Civil Society Network Against Corruption, Olanrewaju Suraj, described the response of the Delta people as unfortunate and a demonstration of the low level of exposure among the people.
â€œThat response is rather unfortunate and it was unanimous in the South-South. The majority of the people there donâ€™t see their so-called own people as the enemies of the progress of the region. This was not about a Nigerian court convicting Ibori that you can say the trial was politically-motivated. He was convicted in the international jurisdiction of stealing the resources of the people of Delta and Deltans are now celebrating his release. It shows you the level of exposure of the people that are there.â€
The Executive Director of the Civil Liberties Organisation, Ibuchukwu Ezike, said the response of the people was not surprising as Nigerians were known to celebrate even the most shameful things.
â€œYou know Nigerians are shameless. What donâ€™t we celebrate here? We celebrate shameful things that nobody else would think are worthy of praise. You can imagine, a political class that ripped Nigerians off till everyone became poor, and whatever they steal from us, they give a small portion to the people and then we thank them for giving us what belongs to us.
â€œYou donâ€™t know how many people Ibori has put food on the table for; that he sent their children to school; those he had given employment and all that. In Nigeria, everybody says let us fight against corruption but whatever their person does is not a crime.â€
A Lagos-based lawyer, Mr. Wahab Shittu, said, â€œWhile the rest of the country see him (Ibori) as somebody, who has looted the treasury, his people continue to worship him as a hero and that tells you something; that there is a distinction between corruption and the politics of corruption and for us, who are committed to the fight against corruption, what is playing out can be regarded as an international shame or embarrassment.â€