The genesis of the governor’s arrest, Sunday Tribune gathered, was traced to when a woman was arrested in London with 30 million dollars which she said belonged to the Bayelsa State governor. “This woman was the one who exposed the four Bayelsa State executives arrested by the EFCC”, the source added. Sunday Tribune also gathered that Alamieyeseigha, on hearing of the arrest of his top aides, put a call through to a top Presidency chief whom he accused of witch-hunting him.
“He really talked down on him and threatened to come back home to fight the top Presidency chief to a standstill,” the source added. ‘His arrest, tip of the iceberg’.
The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), has overwhelming evidence on most of the alleged corrupt government officials, most especially state governors, even as the Commission’s chairman, Mallam Nuhu Ribadu, said the recent case involving the governor of Bayelsa State, Diepriye Alamieyeseigha, was just a tip of the iceberg. The EFCC chairman, who is on a working tour of Europe to advance the probe of the commission on some Nigerians in respect of alleged financial impropriety and looting, has, however, signified intention to address the media on his findings on returning to Nigeria.
Ribadu who spoke to some of the EFCC officials in Abuja from his base in Europe said the Commission was in constant touch with the London Metropolitan Police on the investigation of Nigerians who have been suspected to be keeping looted funds in foreign banks. The EFCC obtained the full mandate of President Olusegun Obasanjo to probe any Nigerian linked with cases of money laundering and siphoning of government funds as the president was said to have instructed him not to spare him (president) on the probe.
The EFCC embarked on a full scale international probe of alleged corrupt government officials in the light of allegation of corruption levelled against President Olusegun Obasanjo by the governor of Abia State, Orji Uzor Kalu. The president had met with the EFCC boss, advising him to do a thorough investigation on the allegation and then make his findings known to the public if he so wished. However, the EFCC which already has dossiers on most government officials in Nigeria with full report being compiled, took up the challenge, deploying the chairman to Europe to conduct full scale investigations on those already being suspected.
A release issued by the EFCC in Abuja at the weekend and signed by the Head, Media and Publicity, Mr. Osita Nwajah stated that the reported arrest of the Bayelsa State governor in London was in connection with on-going investigation of allegations of money laundering being carried out by the metropolitan police. The statement reads, “EFCC wishes to state that the commission is fully in the picture of the on-going investigation while it has close relationship with Metropolitan Police and other law enforcement agencies around the world.
What will happen next
Embattled Governor of Bayelsa State, Diepreye Alamieyeseigha, who was arrested in London on Thursday on allegations of money laundering, may not return to Nigeria soon, as plans are said to be afoot to get him home when he would be open to full-blown criminal trial. The implication of this plan by security agencies charged with handling of such matter is that the cover of the immunity clause enshrined in Section 308 of the 1999 Constitution has to be taken off him before he could be made answerable on the money laundering charges.
As things stand now, the governor who is still being held in London, can only stop enjoying the immunity from prosecution in Nigeria when impeached by the State House of Assembly. A security source told Sunday Tribune in Abuja that the Nigerian government wanted to prevent the scenario during the Governor Joshua Dariye’s money laundering saga when he escaped trial using the immunity clause once he stepped into Nigeria. The Plateau State governor was also arrested in London over allegations of money laundering when on suspension during the six-month emergency rule ordered by President Olusegun Obasanjo in the state.
All efforts by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) to prosecute Dariye after he returned to Nigeria was thwarted by the immunity he enjoys under Section 308.
Sunday Tribune gathered that the government agencies that would handle the Nigerian angle of the Alamieyesiegha’s saga have perfected plans to get the governor holed up in London, even if released on bail by the London Police, until his immunity would be off and full trial launched against him.
Since the Bayelsa governor is to face trial in Nigeria once a prima facie case is established against him in London, the agencies that would try him at home, according to our sources, would collaborate with the State House of Assembly to realise the desire to prosecute the governor.
Indications have also emerged that the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) on whose platform the governor came to power would play a major role in getting the state legislators to strip Alamieyesiegha of his immunity through impeachment. Though, the governor is reportedly in control of the state chapter of the party and the House of Assembly, Sunday Tribune scooped that the national leadership of the party may want to demonstrate its total commitment to Obasanjo’s anti-corruption crusade, by mobilising for Alamieyesiegha’s impeachment.
The party said on Friday that it was waiting for official briefing by the British Embassy in Nigeria, before any action is taken on the governor. The party recently suspended Governor Dariye from the party over the money laundering allegation against him, while the EFCC is still insisting that Dariye must face trial despite a court of law affirming the governor’s immunity from prosecution. The possibility that the Bayelsa governor may also be arrested immediately he returns to Nigeria is also not foreclosed.
Our source stated that the EFCC might not be running against the law, if it arrests the governor on his return to the country, because the Commission had consistently maintained that beneficiaries of the immunity clause cannot lay any claim to it now, until the Supreme Court makes definite pronouncement on it.
The Commission’s Director-General, Emmanuel Akomoye, at a public function recently disclosed that ”only a few months ago, we brought a government official covered by Section 308. We are on the verge of getting the law looked into for repeal. At this stage, until the Supreme, Court pronounces definitely on immunity, that section does not cover anybody who has violated the law”. However, Bayelsa State Commissioner for Information, Oronto Douglas, has said that the state government is still gathering facts over the arrest of the governor. Though the state government had earlier denied the arrest, Oronto told our correspondent in a telephone chat that the state government would not rush into any action without getting all the facts of the matter.
Twist in Bayelsa gov’s £1m scandal •Another person claims ownership
Yusuf Alli, Bukola Ojeme and Bisi Olaniyi
An incredible twist surfaced on Saturday in the arrest of Governor Diepreye Alamieyeseigha of Bayelsa State over money laundering charges in London when another person went to the Scotland Yard, claiming that he owns the money found with the governor.
The Metropolitan Police allegedly recovered £1 million pounds sterling during a search on Alamieyeseigha’s house in London.
Detectives arrested the governor on Thursday at the Heathrow Airport.
Security sources told Sunday Punch that the man, identified as Ogbomo (surname withheld) on Saturday, left Nigeria shortly after Alamieyeseigha was apprehended in London.
Although details of the man were sketchy as at press time on Saturday at 9 pm., he is said to hail from Bayelsa State as well.
Scotland yard detectives were reportedly sceptical about his claims, though they granted him audience to state his case on the matter.
It is yet to be seen if the appearance of the new man on the scene can save the governor from his current travail, but in many countries, including those in Europe, it is also an offence for anyone to be an accessory on money laundering.
A competent security source in Nigeria corroborated the information about the seeming mysterious appearance of the man at the Scotland Yard on Saturday.
“It is true that we have received reports on the fact that a gentleman has gone to the Scotland Yard, claiming that the money belongs to him. But we still don’t have the details about his personality. All I can tell you now is that there is a strange dimension to the whole episode,” the source stated.
Alamieyeseigha, 53, appeared in a London court on Friday and was granted bail, while the case against him was adjourned till November 15.
He was believed to be on his way to Nigeria en route London after undergoing medical checkup in Germany before he was apprehended for alleged money laundering.
Reports said on Friday that the Metropolitan police seized his passport, ostensibly to restrict him to Britain because of his court trial.
A highly placed government source, who spoke to Sunday Punch on condition of anonymity, confirmed that it was true that somebody flew to London on Saturday to claim that the £1 million found on the governor was his, and not the governor’s.
“We heard too that someone had gone to London to tell the Metropolitan Police that he and not the governor, owed the money,” he said in confidence
When contacted on phone by Sunday Punch, the Bayelsa State Commissioner for Information, Mr. Oronto Douglas, tactically confirmed the sudden appearance of the strange man at the Scotland Yard.
“If you are getting that report, you must be getting the correct report. So, there is nothing more for me to say on that issue,” the commissioner said and cut the phone.
Meanwhile, security sources told Sunday Punch that the build – up to the governor’s arrest on Thursday, actually began about two weeks ago with the visit of two detectives from the Scotland Yard to Nigeria to ascertain his alleged involvement in shady financial deals.
The British detectives whose names were given as Sergeant Bob Ingram and Constable Peter Clarke, came from the Financial Investigation Unit, Specialist Crime Directorate of the Metropolitan Police, New Scotland Yard.
The detectives reportedly contacted officials of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), to assist them with documents in respect of petitions against the governor over the offences.
They were said to have specifically demanded for copies of the statement made by the state’s Commissioner Finance, Mr. Solomon Apreala, when he honoured the invitation of the EFCC for interrogation.
Sunday Punch was informed that the Commissioner for Finance was questioned over large payments into some offshore accounts from the State Treasury.
“The state governor has been the subject of a discreet investigation that has spanned several months. His arrest is merely the product of several leads which the British police and the EFCC has been following,” he said.
“You will recall the arrest and questioning of the State Commissioner for Finance. He was questioned over some large offshore transfers that looked suspicious. Details of the information we have and the efforts of the British Police helped us in tracing some of those monies, which clearly constitute money laundering offences in both Nigeria and Britain.”
The commissioner, the state’s Accountant-General, Elder Stephen Inanamu and the Government Accountant, Mr. Olaitari Ikemike were arrested and quizzed at the EFCC in Port Harcourt, the Rivers State capital on September 5, 2005.
The British detectives were reportedly stunned by the alleged revelations contained in the statement of the commissioner and consequently requested to be provided with the copies of the statement.
Part of the statement alleged that huge sums of public funds were siphoned abroad through one of the new generation banks (All States Trust Bank).
“The documents showed illegal transfer of off shore funds. So, the detectives asked for copies that they can take to London to facilitate their investigations on the alleged money laundering charges preferred against the governor,” an EFCC source said.
The EFCC, in a statement by the Head of media and Publicity, Mr. Osita Nwajah, confirmed the collaboration between the commission and the Scotland Yard on the case involving the governor.
“The EFCC wishes to state that the commission is fully in the picture of the on-going investigation and also that the EFCC has close collaborative relationship with the Metropolitan Police and other law enforcement agencies around the world,” Osita stated.
It was gathered that the British detectives, who were guests of the EFCC for two days, compared notes with operatives handling the domestic aspect of the investigation and concluded that, an iron- cast money laundering charges could be pressed against him.
“Once the detectives returned to London on Wednesday (September 7), it was only a matter of time. Of course, his movement was being monitored even before his eventual arrest,” the source said.
EFCC Chairman, Mallam Nuhu Ribadu early last jetted out to London in what the source also confirmed as part of the preparation for the governor’s eventual arrest, saying, “ the Chairman travelled to London with some operatives to make sure nothing went wrong,” Sunday Punch was told last week. Ribabu has since left for Asia.
However, Bayelsa State Commissioner for Finance, Mr. Solomon Apreala, who reportedly made a statement, which recently attracted the Scotland Yard police, has denied making any statement.
Apreala, in a telephone interview with Sunday Punch on Saturday, said, “I have never made or issued any statement to anybody. It is the handiwork of rumour mongers.”
Meanwhile, a group called The Niger Delta Civil Society Coalition, in a five-paragraph statement in Port Harcourt on Saturday, signed by its Chairman, Mr. Anyakwee Nsirimovu, lauded the Metropolitan Police for being alive to their responsibilities.
While also reacting to the arrest, the Concerned Bayelsans International, in an eight-paragraph statement on Saturday, signed by its Secretary-General, Mr. Moses Mananari, saluted the courage of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission and the British police for effecting the arrest.
The group said, “We commend the bold attempts at helping to rid Bayelsa State of fraudulent miscreants, parading themselves as political leaders, but who are bent on perpetually enslaving generations of our people and the state, easily the richest in Nigeria, for their own selfish interests.”
SUNDAY PUNCH, September 18, 2005