Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Comical James Iroha, Giringory Akabuogu, Bows off Stage Laughing

N290202-James-Iroha.jpg - N290202-James-Iroha.jpgTwo months ago, veteran actor, James Iroha, better known as Giringory Akabuogu was a happy participant in a landmark cultural fiesta: Igbotomma; that celebrates the passage of time in Item, Bende division of Abia State. As he joined his contemporaries to mark the attainment of the 70 years age grade, little did he know it would be their last happy event together. He died Tuesday at age 70.
A post on his Facebook page last December had issued an open invitation to all and sundry thus, “If you happen to be anywhere near Amokwe Item on the 27th of December, I would seriously like to have you come to mine for a very unserious event. I am being forcefully retired from traditional activities and apparently it will have to be celebrated, as in loads of wack, drinks and laughs. Come with your autograph books as some of my professional colleagues will be present, don't forget to update your insurance policies as there may be risks of cracking your ribs whilst laughing, (don't say I didn't warn you). Seriously guys, it will be a privilege to have you around for my ‘Igboto nma’.”
A leading member of the cast of one of the longest running comedy on Nigerian television -Masquerade (which later transformed to the New Masquerade) - Iroha was the creative powerhouse of the serial and it was a positive commentary on his humility that  he wrote and directed most of the stories but assigned the role of a houseboy to himself.
So for the duration of the Masquerade soap which held television viewers in Nigeria spellbound for close to two decades, Giringory and Clarus Mbojikwe (David Ofor) were faithful sidekicks (as houseboys) to Chief Zebrudaya Okorigwe Nwogbo alias 4:30 (Chika Okpala).
He was determined to offer a comic relief to his Igbo folks men and women who were still hurting from the pangs of the Nigerian civil war.
Giringory was one of the pioneer students of the Theatre Arts Department, University of Ibadan. Though a sound university graduate, he spoke the dialectal Pidgin English with impeccable speed and mastery, all embroidered with a tapestry of mischief in his character portrait.
In one of his interviews, he said: “I joined Theatre Arts in 1966 to make sure that people got entertained with what my mother was doing unknowingly. The passion to act was there, so I could not imagine myself doing something else. Even when I was doing a big administrative job in an office.”
Recounting how it all began, Iroha’s narrative had it that, “the original idea started as a radio programme, which actually started just after the war ended, all in a bid to cushion the pain and hurt that people felt. I sincerely hope it worked. Well the show got so popular that the idea of taking it to television became real, it was then that the name changed to Masquerade.”
According to one of his sons, Uche James Iroha, who confirmed the death, it came as a shock to them though he had been ill for a while.
A message posted on Facebook supposedly by one of his sons, Akwari, gave the period of his life as being between September 1942 to February 2012. He posted a moving epitaph thus: ”Not long ago a man we have all come to love, a man that has made us laugh, a friend to all but will always be Dad to my little sister Ugonma, my brothers Chiemela, Uche, Kelechi and me passed on.Chief James Udensi Akwari Iroha, OON, has passed on today. May his cheerful soul rest in the Lord.”
He also noted that as a child, his father always shared his fond memories about The New Masquerade. Quoting his father, he said: “I would not forget the fact that the programme itself was a kind of tonic for people's souls. It offered them a kind of break in their tension - charged atmosphere. People identified themselves with the programme because it was for the people and humanity.”
He said he appreciated what he was doing, not for money, not for wealth, but anywhere he went at that time, “people kept calling me Giringori! Giringori!! It made me feel fulfilled”.
Though it is sad that as a professional actor, the government did nothing before his death but some of his professional colleagues like Chief Zebrudaya and Ovularia came when Giringory’s wife died. “That was very encouraging,” James said.
But the man himself bore no grudge against government on his seeming neglect. Even as his later years were filled with tales of misery, poverty and ill-health, Giringory never lost his sense of humour. While hoping in the face of subjugating despair, he expected the best and would not blame the government for not paying his pension on time, reasoning that in the face of dwindling resources, government was likely to attend to the needs of its serving personnel before considering the plight of pensioners like himself.
Speaking to the Actors Guild of Nigeria (AGN) President, Mr. Segun Arinze, he said: “We at the AGN commiserate with his family.
“The Giringory Akabuogu I know in those days has made his mark in acting and he was one of the people that displayed passion in acting. After the civil war The New Masquerade helped to brighten the faces of the Easterners because they lost their loved ones, property and homes.”
His death yesterday brings to an end a period of personal suffering and ill health culminating in loss of sight. Incidentally, Clarus his co-traveller on the New Masquerade train is also reported to be blind.

Giringory’s death also comes on the heel of the death of Apena (Chief Christy Essien-Igbokwe), another prominent member of the New Masquerade cast who died last year.
His death has also put paid to a book project on the story of his life that he was working on.

Poverty, ill-health killed Giringori Akabogu

LAGOS — The dwindling ranks of the original cast of the iconic sit-com of the 80s, New Masquerade, shrank further, yesterday, when James Iroha a.k.a Giringori Akabogu succumbed to the vice grip of ill-health and poverty.
His son  confirmed his  death, yesterday, bringing to three the original members of the cast that have died recently.

The late James Iroha a.k.a Giringori Akabogu
Iroha was the  creator of the now rested  television drama, The New Masquerade, which ruled the screen in the early 80s, on the Nigerian Television Authority (NTA) Network.
He died yesterday at the age of  70. The New Masquerade  started as a radio programme in then East Central State Broadcasting Corporation radio, Enugu  which, at its prime, was the “King of Primetime” on the NTA Network. It ran as a 15-minute radio programme, known as The Masquerade.
The audio format was adapted for an audiovisual recording and was adopted by the NTA Network service in the early 70s. For almost two decades, the half-hour slapstick programme captivated a national audience.
His  son, Uche Iroha, confirmed the death of  his father to Vanguardon phone yesterday.
According to him, the legendary comedian died in the early hours of yesterday in an hospital in Onitsha, Anambra State, where  he was being treated for glaucoma.
Uche said Giringori developed high blood pressure and other  undisclosed ailments in the course of treating the eye problem.  He spent four days in the hospital before giving up the ghost.
Uche said: “His death was totally unexpected. On the day he was admitted into the hospital, he was his usual humourous self. He never gave any indication that he won’t  come back home. So, it was a rude shock  to us, when we arrived in the morning to be told by the doctor that our dad had passed on.”

Giringori‘s death another big blow —AGN

Meanwhile, the outgoing President of the Actors Guild of Nigeria, AGN, Mr Segun Arinze, has described the death of  Giringori as another big blow to the industry, adding: “Giringori was a fine actor with a high sense of professionalism. He will surely be missed.”

Zebrudaya expresses shock

Also contacted on phone, a former colleague and one of the main characters of New Masquerade, Chief Zebrudaya Okoroigwe Nwogbo alias 4:30 (Chika Okpala), expressed shock although he claimed that he had not been informed.
“I’m not aware of his death. About two people have called me already on phone to confirm his death. But I’m not aware. Though I have called his GSM line severally, it was switched off. I leave everything to God, I don’t know what to say at this moment until I confirm from the son,” Zebrudaya said.
Before his death, Giringori  cried out for rehabilitation, saying he was broke.
A retired Director of Programmes at the Abia State Broadcasting Service, Giringori recently retired from active public life at an elaborate traditional ceremony known as “Igboto Mma” in home town of Amokwe Item, Abia State, in December 2011.
  Giringori gave 40 years of his life to acting. But at 70, 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 the deadly 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 University of Ibadan  battled  with  illness  for over a decade. At one point, he was stranded for 16 days in India where he went for medical treatment.
Other members of the New Masquerade cast who have since passed on were Christy Essien-Igbokwe (Apena) and Claude Ake (Jegede Sokoya).

Poverty, ill-health killed Giringori Akabogu


  • James Ibori bought a portfolio of luxury London homes and a fleet of armoured Range Rovers
  • Fraudster may have stolen $250million from Nigerian coffers as he rose through the ranks
  • He spent £15,000 in two-day stay at London’s The lanesborough hotel
  • He owned SEVEN properties in Britain
  • Ibori, 49, siphoned off millions by inflating state contracts
His rise from DIY store worker to international playboy with a £250million fortune is the stuff of dreams.
A few years after quitting his £5,000-a-year job as a cashier for Wickes, James Ibori had become one of Nigeria’s most influential and richest politicians.
He wasted no time spending his new-found wealth on luxury homes, top-of-the-range cars, five-star travel and fees at exclusive boarding schools.
“Playboy lifestyle: James Ibori, 49, admitted a fraud totalling more than £50million. The former Nigerian state governor had a fleet of cars and six luxury properties in Britain”
But yesterday the 49-year-old stood shame-faced in the dock of London’s Southwark Court as he admitted stealing tens of millions of pounds from the oil-rich state he governed in Nigeria. Scotland Yard detectives believe his fraud could exceed £250million.
He was on trial in the UK because much of the stolen money was laundered through his London office.
Ibori moved from Nigeria to West London in the late 1980s and was found guilty of stealing goods from the Wickes store he worked at in Ruislip in 1990.
A year later he was convicted of handling a stolen credit card. He moved back to Nigeria and worked for its president, Sani Abacha, as a policy consultant.
Rising quickly through the ranks of the ruling People’s Democratic Party, he was voted governor of Delta State in 1999, winning re-election four years later.
In power, he systematically stole from the public purse, taking kickbacks and transferring state funds to his own bank accounts around the world.
“Luxury: Exclusive home that Ibori bought in Hampstead, north London, with £2.2million in cash in 2001”
He was helped by family members, including his wife Theresa, sister Christine Ibori-Ibie, his mistress Udoamaka Oniugbo, and Mayfair lawyer Bhadresh Gohil.
A massive police investigation into Ibori’s activities revealed he had bought six properties in London, including a six-bedroom house with indoor pool in Hampstead for £2.2million and a flat opposite the nearby Abbey Road recording studios.
There was also a property in Dorset, a £3.2million mansion in South Africa and further real estate in Nigeria.
“Extravagant: Ibori, 49, owned an apartment in this block on Abbey Road, London, opposite the famous music studios”
“Fleet of cars: The former Nigerian state governor owned a number of cars including this Bentley Continental worth in the region of £150,000”
He owned a fleet of armoured Range Rovers costing £600,000 and a £120,000 Bentley. On one of his trips to London he bought a Mercedes Maybach for more than £300,000 at a dealer on Park Lane and immediately shipped it to South Africa.
He bought a private jet for £12million, spent £126,000 a month on his credit cards and ran up a £15,000 bill for a two-day stay at the Lanesborough hotel in London.
Prosecutor Sasha Wass told the court Ibori concealed his UK criminal record, which would have excluded him from office in Nigeria.
“Extraordinary extravagance: James Ibori owned a fleet of armoured Range Rovers – including this one – bought with the proceeds of his £50million fraud”
“Large home: James Ibori’s home in Abuja, Nigeria. He was facing a jail sentence after admitting a £50million fraud”
‘He was never the legitimate governor and there was effectively a thief in government house,’ Miss Wass said. ‘As the pretender of that public office, he was able to plunder Delta State’s wealth and hand out patronage.’
The court heard Ibori abused his position to award contracts to his associates including his sister and his mistress.
Scotland Yard began its investigation into Ibori after officers found two computer hard drives in his London office that revealed his criminality.
“Fraudsters: Solicitor Bhadresh Gohil and James Ibori’s wife Theresa who have already been convicted of money laundering”
“Guilty: Ibori’s sister Christine Ibori-Idie and his mistress Udoamaka Okoronkwo who have both been found guilty of money laundering”
He was arrested by the Nigerian Economic and Financial Crimes Commission in December 2007, but two years later a court in his home town, Asaba, dismissed the charges saying there was not enough evidence.
When the case was reopened by Nigerian authorities in April 2010, Ibori fled to Dubai where he was detained at the request of the Metropolitan Police and extradited to the UK last April.
In a packed courtroom Ibori, dressed in a dark grey suit and black shirt, appeared in the dock to enter ten guilty pleas to fraud, money laundering and conspiracy on what was due to be the first day of a 12-week trial.
“Luxury: Homes he owned in Lagos, Nigeria, and Kenton, north-west London”
“Homes: An apartment owned by Ibori’s sister Christine Ibori-Ibie in Brent, north-west London (left) and a London property (right) owned by his mistress Udoamaka Onuigbo”
His wife, his mistress and his sister were all jailed for five years each for money laundering offences following earlier trials.
Last March, Gohil, 46, and described as Ibori’s London-based lawyer, was jailed for seven years for his role in the scam.
Attempts will be made to confiscate as much of Ibori’s money and assets as possible so that they can be returned to Nigeria.
The Met’s Detective Inspector Paul Whatmore said: ‘It is always rewarding for anyone working on a proceeds of corruption case to know that the stolen funds they identify will eventually be returned to some of the poorest and most vulnerable people in the world.’
Ibori will be sentenced on April 16 and 17
“Fraud: A flat owned by Udoamaka Onuigbo, Ibori’s mistress, in central London (left) and a property he bought in Shaftesbury, Dorset, for £311,000 in 2005 (right)”

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

$50 Billion Stolen From Africa Each Year

Former South African President, Thabo Mbeki, says an estimated 50 billion dollars is smuggled from Africa illegally every year.
Mbeki made the statement in Johannesburg at the inauguration of a U.N. Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA) investigative panel, saying such money could be used to develop the continent.
UNECA constituted the panel, chaired by Mbeki, to investigate illegal financial flow out of the continent.
Mbeki said the loss should be addressed before it undermined Africa’s development.
“Almost 25 billion dollars comes into the continent; that means it loses twice the capital it receives in financial assistance.
“The panel will study the flow of money and understand how it is done.
“The African continent will expect the panel to provide practical measures to stop the flow,” Mbeki said, stressing that it would take a year for the panel to complete its work.
“This is a matter of importance to the continent. In the end the investigation should result in action taken by the continent and individual countries.
“As a panel, we have no punitive measures. The panel will make proposals to those with punitive power and explain how the flow of money is done,” Mbeki said.
He said the panel would provide sufficient information about the different methods of the outflow. “These are over-invoicing and under-pricing of exports and money laundering strategies,” Mbeki said.


 Ex-Governor James Ibori, who confessed to embezzling millions of public funds in London on Monday, laundered proceeds of his corruption through friends, associates, sister, wife and mistress. Below are some of the properties acquired with his extensive fraud...

Property: * 7 Westover Hill, Hampstead. One of James Ibori's London properties. Bought in 2001 for £2.2 million in cash. 

* 42 Great Ground, Shaftesbury, Dorset. James Ibori's property in the West Country Bought in 2005 for £311,000 

* Abbey Road, one of James Ibori's London properties 

* Jame's Ibori's Abuja Mansion 

* Mayflower Lodge: One of Udoamaka Onuigbo's London properties 

* Kingfisher Way: One of Udoamaka Onuigbo's London properties 

* Udoamaka Onuigbo's luxury house in Lagos 

* Woodhill Crescent, Kenton: One of Christine Ibori-Ibie's London properties 
* Uphill Drive: One of Christine Ibori-Ibie's London properties 

* Bentley 

* Range Rover and Many more

Breaking News: Gringory dies at 69

Mr James Iroha, aka GringoryVeteran actor and member of the rested soap, New Masquerade, James Iroha aka Gringory Akabogu has died at 69.
The actor, who was 69 in September 2011, died on Tuesday, although the circumstances and place of his death are unclear.
Before his death, Gringory was living in abject poverty and cried out in vain for rehabilitation.
He was said to be suffering from an eye ailment.
His son, Akwari James Iroha, confirmed Gringory’s death in a post on Facebook.
He wrote, “Sept 1942 _ Feb 2012. Not long ago a man we have all come to love, a man that has made us laugh, a friend to all but will always be Dad to my little sister Ugonma, my brothers Chiemela, Uche, Kelechi and me passed on.
“Chief James Udensi Akwari Iroha OON has passed on today. May his cheerfull soul rest in the Lord. Akwari James Iroha ( for the family).”
Gringory retired from active public life at a traditional ceremony in December 2011 known as ‘Igboto mma’ in Amokwe Item, Abia State.
The soap was immensely popular in the 1970s and 1980s and was a family delight.
Other departed members of the cast are Christy Essien-Igbokwe (Apena) and Claude Ake (Jegede Sokoya).

Monday, February 27, 2012

James Ibori: How a thief almost became Nigeria's president

James Ibori (file photo) 

The story of how James Ibori went from convicted thief in London in the 1990s, to become governor of a wealthy oil-producing Nigerian state and then to a British prison is a remarkable one.
It is the story of a wily political operator, backing the right political horses and shifting allegiances when expedient.
Given slightly different circumstances, according to one observer, it could have seen Ibori in the presidential villa rather than a British jail cell.
Ibori's defence in the face of allegations had always been that he had a successful business career and had made money independent of government.
But in 1991, he was working in a hardware store in the London suburb of Neasden.
(left-right) James Ibori"s wife Theresa Ibori, his sister Christine Ibori-Idie, and his mistress Udoamaka OkoronkwoSome of Ibori's assets were in the name of his wife, sister and mistress
The prosecution in this trial told a judge he was earning around £15,000 ($24,000) a year.
He was caught by his employer allowing his wife to walk through the till he was manning without paying for goods.
They both pleaded guilty at Isleworth Crown Court and were fined.
In 1992, he was convicted for possession of a stolen credit card, which had £1,000 spent on it, and was again fined in a UK court.
'Murky business'
Ibori then returned to Nigeria intending to become a political operator. The country was about to be tipped into a tumultuous period.
Military leader Ibrahim Babangida had scheduled elections to return Nigeria to democracy in June 1993.

James Ibori: The story so far

  • 1958: Born in Delta state, UK police believe, saying he previously lied about his age
  • 1980s: Moved to UK
  • 1991: Convicted of stealing from DIY shop Wickes
  • 1992: Convicted of credit card fraud
  • 1993-4: Allies himself to Nigeria's then military ruler Sani Abacha
  • 1999: Elected Delta state governor
  • 2007: Stepped down as governor
  • 2007: UK assets worth $35m frozen
  • December 2007: Arrested in Nigeria on corruption charges
  • 2009: Nigeria court dismisses charges
  • April 2010: Ibori's supporters attack police as they try to arrest him
  • May 2010: Arrested in Dubai
  • 2011: Extradited to UK
  • 2012: Pleads guilty to money-laundering in London court
Ibori worked for the governorship campaign of a friend.
The experience gave him good connections with the parties that would eventually merge to form the People's Democratic Party, currently ruling Nigeria.
The 1993 elections were cancelled by Mr Babangida, who told Nigeria he would maintain control of the country.
Later that year, Gen Sani Abacha staged a coup, removing Mr Babangida but cementing the military's grip on power for another five years.
According to Anthony Goldman, who worked as a journalist in Nigeria for many years and has followed Ibori's career closely, this is when Ibori made his first shift of political master, offering his services to Abacha.
"He had an unspecified role in security," Mr Goldman said. "That could be anything, it was a very murky business."
Abacha was accused of murdering political opponents and ruthlessly crushing dissent and pro-democracy movements.
In the mid-1990s, Ibori was questioned by the Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) in the US about how he came into the possession of millions of dollars that he transferred to accounts in the US.
The FBI suspected the money came from advance fee fraud, the infamous Nigerian 419 scam, but he was able to prove the money came from his work with Abacha, Mr Goldman said.
Abacha died in 1998 and Ibori switched horses again, attaching himself to influential northern politician Atiku Abubakar, who went on to become vice-president.
Medically impossible
In 1999, Ibori took out a mortgage on a property in Abbey Road, London.
To do that, he got a new passport with a false birth date to mask his previous convictions.
James Ibori in police hand-outJames Ibori has now been convicted three times in the UK
The birth date he chose was in fact medically impossible as it was only a month after his sister's birthday, the prosecution told the court.
Ibori was installed as the governor of the oil-rich Delta State in the 1999 elections.
In order to take office in Nigeria, he had to swear an affidavit that he had no convictions. To do this, he used the same birth date he had made up to acquire his mortgage.
It was this evidence that would, in a London court 14 years later, spell the end for Ibori.
Soon after he became governor, Ibori paid off the Abbey Road mortgage in cash.
He went on to buy three other properties in the UK. He paid £2.2 million in cash for a house in the plush London suburb of Hampstead.
Bankrolled election
In 2005 the Metropolitan Police began to take an interest in Ibori after they came across a purchase order for a private jet, made through his solicitor in London.
It was just after this that Ibori shifted horses again, switching his allegiance from Mr Abubakar to the then President Olusegun Obasanjo.

Start Quote

Then Mr Ibori would have met Queen Elizabeth at the state house, instead of serving at her pleasure”
Anthony GoldmanNigeria analyst
In 2006, President Obasanjo recruited Ibori to help him force through a change in the constitution to allow him to run for a third term as president.
When that plan failed, Ibori promised his allegiance to Mr Obasanjo's anointed successor, Umaru Yar'Adua.
At the ruling party's pre-election convention in 2006, Ibori was on hand to lift up the northern governor's hands in a display of victory - hours before delegates from the People's Democratic Party (PDP) voted to select him as their candidate.
Ibori then bankrolled the 2007 Yar'Adua election campaign.
Mr Goldman says he understands Ibori was promised the vice-president's job, in return for his support.
But Mr Yar'Adua, who had been ill for many years, died in office.
His Vice-President Goodluck Jonathan succeeded him and remains Nigeria's president.
Despite being a fellow former governor of a neighbouring oil state, Ibori and Mr Jonathan were by now political enemies.
In 2010, President Jonathan set the country's anti-corruption police, the Economic and Financial Crimes commission on him, but their officers were ambushed when they came to arrest him.
Ibori left Nigeria shortly afterwards.
He went to Dubai, whose government arrested him and transferred him to the UK to face trial.
Mr Goldman says had Yar'Adua lived, and made Ibori his vice-president, he would have had a clear run to become president.
"Then Mr Ibori would have met Queen Elizabeth at the state house, instead of serving at her pleasure," Mr Goldman said.