By John Ighodaro & Sam Oyadongha
Posted to the Web: Thursday, September 22, 2005
*Dokubo's supporters on the rampage
*FG deploys troops in Port Harcourt
YENAGOA— EXPLOSIONS, Tuesday night, rocked Yenagoa, capital of Bayelsa State whose governor, Chief Diepreye Alamieyeseigha, was arrested last week in London for alleged money laundering.
About 11 hours later, supporters of Asari-Dokubo, leader of the Niger Delta People Volunteer Force NDPVF) went on the rampage in Port Harcourt, capital of the neighbouring Rivers State, demanding (Dokubo’s) immediate release.
But the Federal Government vowed yesterday that it would not succumb to any threat or intimidation. Indeed, government deployed troops to Port Harcourt to clear the street of security risks, while Warri and Yenagoa were placed on security alert.
Counsel to Governor Alamieyeseigha in a statement said his "unlawful arrest" was a dangerous precedent in Nigeria, and appealed to the people of Bayelsa State not to take the laws into their hands.
The Yenagoa explosions—four of them— came one after the other at about 11p.m. Tuesday on Aretahin Street. An uncompleted building was badly damaged. It was not immediately clear what could have caused the explosions.
Fun seeking residents of Amarata, Onopa, Swali and Ovom took to their heels thinking it was a mortal attack on the capital city. The fear stemmed from the ultimatum given by supporters of the NDPVF leader calling for his release and the statement of the Ijaw Youth Council (IYC) threatening British nationals and investments in the Niger Delta if Governor Diepreye Alamieyeseigha was not released immediately. back home. When contacted, the state Police Public Relations Officer, Mr. Andrew Oborududu (DSP), who confirmed the incident said the police had stepped up investigation in the matter. He said a police patrol team rushed to the scene on hearing the deafening blasts but that no arrest was made. He, however, dismissed insinuations linking the explosions to the arrest of Asari-Dokubo. Armed Mobile Police were sighted at strategic locations in the state capital with more concentration around the Yenagoa waterfront.
A cloud of apprehension was to hang over Port Harcourt 10 hours later after followers of the Niger Delta People Volunteer Force (NDPVF), Alhaji Asari-Dokubo, went on the rampage, demanding his release. He was arrested Tuesday by the Police and taken to Abuja.
As early as 10a.m, hundreds of the NDPVF’s members, most of them in white dresses took over areas of D_Line in Port Harcourt. Brandishing knives, bottles and machetes. They mounted a roadblock on Tombia Street and proceeded to burning tyres on the road, while demanding the release of their leader, Asari-Dokubo.
A top lieutenant of Asari-Dokubo, Mr. Erekosima, who spoke in Port Harcourt threatened, saying: "I am the second in command to Asari and I am saying that the world will hear it that we’ve gone round and have given a time frame that Alhaji Asari-Dokubo should be released and the time frame expired at 2.00p.m.today (yesterday).
"Meanwhile, we are saying that if the Nigerian State does not release Alhaji Asari at 2.00pm today (yesterday) whatever they see they should not blame anybody."
The Assistant Inspector_General of Police, Zone 6 Headquarters in Calabar, Mr. Yusuf Haruna, has, however, been drafted to coordinate the activities of the security forces that are on ground to maintain law and order.
Addressing newsmen in Port Harcourt, the AIG Zone 6 Headquarters Calabar and the Rivers State Police Commissioner, Mr. Samuel Adetuyi, Mr. Haruna said: "I am here to co_ordinate the activities of the law enforcement agencies and to reassure the people of the state that there is no curse for alarm and we are going to do all within the limits of the law to ensure that law and order is maintained in Rivers State.
"I wish to tell you that nobody is above the law. And it is the responsibility of every good government to see that lives and property of its citizen are well protected. And for that I am here to reassure you that the police have taken every step to make sure that no person is going to be molested. No person will be disturbed if the course of its lawful duties. Every person within the state is advised to pursue his legal business freely without any molestation.
"Any person who tries to disturb the peace of the state, we are definitely going to disturb his own peace too because it is a routine for any citizen when the government feels he has something to answer to be called and have a chat with and nothing has happened to this man and he is in safe custody and I can assure you nothing will happen to him. That’s why I advise every citizen in the state to go about his lawful business without molestation. The police are on ground to make sure that you are all protected."
Rivers govt reacts
Reacting to the development, the state Commissioner for Information, Mr. Magnus Abe, said: "The attention of the Rivers State government has been drawn to the state of unease in certain parts of the city of Port Harcourt. Information available to Government is that this is connected to the invitation of Alhaji Asari-Dokubo by the Inspector General of Police in Abuja.
"We have confirmed that Alhaji Asari-Dokubo is in safe custody of the Inspector-General of Police in Abuja. We, therefore, urge all members of the public to remain calm and law-abiding. The Rivers State Government is committed to the protection of the rights and liberties of all Rivers men and women, and indeed all people resident in Rivers State.
"In the interim, government would like to warn all those who are trying to capitalise on the present situation to harass innocent persons and cause a breach of the peace, to desist forthwith or face the full wrath of the law. Law-abiding citizens are advised to go about their business without fear."
Meanwhile, former Security Adviser to the Rivers State Governor, Chief Sara Igbe, in a radio broadcast, while condemning the arrest of Asari-Dokubo, appealed to members of NDPVF not to resort to violence as efforts were on to resolve the impasse.
His words: "In as much as we condemn the arrest, intimidation and embarrassment of our leader in South-South geopolitical zone, we must approach the situation with wisdom and caution so as to effect the release of our leader. I appeal to all youth organisations in the state and the Niger Delta to exercise restraint by stopping any from of violence."
Ijaw insist on closing oil wells
Ijaw youths said they would make good their threat and shut down oil wells by mid-night if Dokubo was not released at the expiration of the 48-hour ultimatum handed down Tuesday.
In another reaction, the Arewa Youth Forum (AYF) yesterday condemned the arrest as barbaric and called for the immediate release of the NDPVF leader.
Reacting to street protests in Port Harcourt yesterday over the arrest of Alhaji Asari-Dokubo, leader of the Niger Delta Peoples Volunteer Force (NDPVF) in Port Harcourt, Comrade Joseph Evah, said the tension generated was a welcome development. "There is already tension in Port Harcourt because the deadline we handed the Federal Government is fast running out. So, foreign nationals should not hold the Ijaw responsible for what is about to befall them," he said.
Comrade Evah described the excuse that the government was holding Alhaji Asari-Dokubo on a holden charge as frivolous and ambiguous, noting that this is a democratic dispensation and not a military government.
FG deploys troops
The Federal Government yesterday ordered the deployment of troops in Port Harcourt, the capital of Rivers State even as security alert has been placed on the Bayelsa State capital, Yenagoa, and Warri in Delta State.
The troops deployment followed shootouts and threats to lives and security by rampaging youths of the Niger Delta People Volunteer Force (NDPVF) of Asari-Dokubo and other Ijaw militant groups in Port Harcourt between the early hours of Tuesday and yesterday.
Chief of Defence Staff, General Alexander Ogomudia, in a telephone chat, said the troops were currently patrolling the city of Port Harcourt to contain any attempt by the militant youths to take laws into their hands.
The action of the youths who were said to be in their hundreds, driving in open roof vehicles, dressed in combat gear and shooting sporadically into the air, followed what they called refusal of the Federal Government to heed their warning to release the Niger Delta warlord, Asari-Dokubo who was arrested by the Police and brought to Abuja on Tuesday.
According to General Ogomudia, the armed youths planned to move to Yenagoa in Bayelsa State to cause mayhem and violence but were prevented from doing so by troops of the 35 Amphibious Brigade of the Nigerian Army based in the Port Harcourt.
Also yesterday Minister of Information and National Orientation, Mr. Frank Nweke, emerging from Federal Executive Council (FEC) meeting, in Abuja said government would not succumb to any intimidation by the Ijaw youths that are threatening mayhem unless Asari Dockubo was released. Nweke said that the militant Ijaw Youth leader was being interrogated over his seditious comments, insisting that interrogation and investigation against his activities would continue unabated. "Only this morning I confirmed that Asari Dokubo was arrested, but the truth is that these matters are under investigation at the moment, especially that of Asari Dokubo and I have not received any security briefing on this.
"But I want to say that government remains committed to protecting the lives and property of Nigerians and to preserve the integrity of our country. And you would agree with me that there is no responsible government that would sit back and condone these kinds of inflammatory and seditious statements that have been credited to Dokubo."
DSP’s counsel speaks
And in a statement yesterday through his counsel, Mr. Charles Oditah (SAN), Governor Alamieyeseigha appealed for calm by Bayelsans.
The statement: "At about 2.30p.m. on 15 September 2005, the governor was unlawfully arrested by officers of the Special Unit of the Metropolitan Police aboard a British Airways aircraft which had just arrived from Germany where the governor had gone for medical treatment. The governor was interviewed by officers of the Metropolitan Police and released without charge. He is confident of returning home and resuming normal duties as soon as he finishes recuperating. In the meantime, he continues to be kept fully abreast of developments in the state.
"The governor notes that his unlawful arrest by the Metropolitan Police was apparently perpetrated with the full knowledge, co-operation and co-ordination of the Federal Government and the EFCC.. "It is apparent that the Metropolitan Police were informed of the governor’s movements by the Federal Government, hence his unlawful arrest aboard the aircraft. The incident of 15 September 2005 is an affront to the sovereignty and integrity of the Nigerian nation of which Bayelsa State forms an integral part. It does not augur well for our nascent democracy. Indeed, it is a deliberate attempt to weaken the institutions upon which our democracy is based.
"Like the Federal Government, Bayelsa State has three arms of government— the executive, legislature and judiciary. Accordingly, as the Head of Bayelsa State, the governor has immunity from criminal jurisdiction under all applicable laws including the laws of Nigeria, England and international law, contrary to the misleading information being circulated within Nigeria. Under all applicable laws, it is only the governor that can waive this immunity. He has not done so."
"The British Police claim that the governor is being investigated for money laundering offences. The governor has not been charged with any offence and indeed is innocent of any wrongdoing. He will demonstrate his innocence should it ever become necessary for him do so. Under the English law, a crime must be committed before anyone can be guilty of money laundering.
"On any view, if any crime has been committed by the governor and this is totally denied by the governor, the crime must have been committed in Nigeria. No one has ever alleged any wrongdoing against the governor in Nigeria, still less has any allegation of criminal wrongdoing been made against the governor. The British Police say they have been investigating the governor since March 2005. Yet despite six months of investigation— a period which is ample to discover a crime if indeed one exists — no allegation of any criminal conduct has been made in the United Kingdom or elsewhere against the governor. It should be emphasised for the avoidance of doubt that there is no law in the United Kingdom preventing anybody from bringing in or taking out cash, as long as the source and use of the cash is legitimate. Indeed, there is even no requirement in the United Kingdom to declare any cash brought in or taken out of that country.
"Given that no criminal allegation has or can be made against him, the governor is surprised that the British government thought it appropriate even to contemplate the investigation or to effect his unlawful arrest. The British government has acted unlawfully and improperly and in a neo-colonialistic and bigoted manner. The Metropolitan Police has allowed itself to be used as a tool in furtherance of the Federal Government’s overtly political objectives.