THE British authorities have replied Governor Diepreye Alamieyeseigha of Bayelsa State over his claim that his recent arrest in London on allegation of money laundering has a political undertone.
The British government said there was no iota of truth in the governor’s insinuation that his arrest was, indeed, influenced by his perceived political detractors in Nigeria.
According to the British High Commissioner to Nigeria, Mr. Richard Gozney, the Metropolitan Police were only discharging their duties as provided by the British law.
Gozney made the clarification in Enugu on Friday night shortly after the visit of 13 ambassadors from the European Union [EU] countries to Enugu State.
“The Metropolitan Police never allow themselves to be used. Not even Tony Blair [British Prime Minister] can use them. There is no way any minister, British minister or the Nigerian government could influence their action. They (Metropolitan Police) are there to implement the British law.”
He emphasised that the British government was not “persecuting any Nigerian, any group of Nigerians, or any ethnic group in Nigeria.”
Alamieyeseigha’s lawyer last week, issued a statement, alleging that his client’s arrest was orchestrated by his political enemies from Nigeria to scuttle his future political ambition.
He also argued that the governor had an immunity protecting him from arrest even outside the shores of Nigeria.
The envoy noted that the British government discovered that it was too soft in the past with “dirty money” and decided to tighten its system to prevent illicit funds from being taken to Britain.
To prevent ill-gotten wealth from going to Britain, Gozney said the British Government had to change its law about a couple of years ago.
“Partly, quite significantly, in response to pressures from public opinion, media opinion, political classes of all sorts here in Nigeria, we found out that we ‘ve been too soft in the past with dirty money and so we changed the law,” he added.
The law, according to him is, “ if you are a public servant, no matter where you are from if you get obvious new wealth, we will like you to explain it, and that is the British law. It has nothing to do with politics.”
Explaining further, he said that it was a crime for public servants, British or foreign nationals to hide assets, money, stocks or shares which are large or substantial in Britain, “If you can’t explain it, that is a crime in Britain.”
Alamieyeseigha, 53, a leading agitator to resource control, was intercepted and arrested at Heathrow Airport by the Metropolitan Police about two weeks ago for alleged money laundering.
The envoy stated that to prevent Nigeria’s stolen funds from being taken to British banks, his home government had been working closely with the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC). He described the cooperation between them as strong.
However, a leading light of the Ijaw nation, Chief Edwin Clark, who was in London at the time of arrest, said the governor’s arrest was political. (See interview on Pages 20, 21 and 58)
Asked if there were other corrupt Nigerian officials on the watch list of Britain, the British envoy said if there were, it would not be sensible for him to disclose that.
Following his arrest in London, some militants in the Niger Delta threatened to attack Britons and British investments in the region.
Armed militants temporarily seized a major pumping station in Niger Delta on Thursday to force the Federal Government to release the detained leader of Niger Delta People Volunteer Force, Alhaji Mujaheedeen Asari Dokubo.
But reacting to threats of the militants, Gozney said, “We ‘ve got every confidence in Nigeria security authorities, the police and others.”
He added that he was confident that the nation’s security operatives “take seriously the security of the British its investments and other foreign investments.”
Sunday PUNCH September 25, 2005
Alamieyeseigha: Ngige Condemns Britain
ANAMBRA State governor, Dr. Chris Ngige has accused British authorities of violating the Vienna Convention by humiliating Bayelsa State governor, Diepreye Alamieyeseigha in London. According to governor Ngige, the Bayelsa State governor currently being interrogated in London over money laundering deserved some diplomatic immunity by the virtue of the provision of the said convention.
“It is inhuman to put the governor on handcuffs. It is a slap on the territorial integrity of Nigeria”, governor Ngige said during an interview with airport correspondents in Lagos on Friday. “This man is a governor of a state and has full immunity. Are they telling me that the governor of a state is lower than a diplomat in Foreign Affairs Ministry who is a level 10 or 12 officer without knowing the implication of what they are saying.
“This man (governor) must be accorded consular immunity that is due to him until police investigation proves that he has committed the crime, he has done nothing wrong”, Ngige said.
He noted that the entire public was overwhelmed and carried away by sensational headlines, pointing out that the matter is still being investigated and urged concerned parties to be alive to their responsibilities.
25th September, 2005
Anti-corruption war: Military won’t be spared, says Obasanjo
President Olusegun Obasanjo has vowed to take the war against corruption to the doorstep of the military, just as he asserted that the anti-corruption war is already yielding good fruits.
The president, who made the assertion at the weekend in Kaduna at the Passing Out Parade (POP) of cadets of 52 Regular Course of the Nigerian Defence Academy (NDA), Kaduna, stressed that “wherever and whenever corruption rears its ugly head, we will take swift measures to stamp it out.”
Obasanjo, who was the reviewing officer at the occasion and represented by the Minister of Defence, Alhaji Rabiu Musa Kwankwaso, further stated that the anti-corruption war had led the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) to arrest several corrupt public officers, including high profile ones.
“Many of them are already being prosecuted while others are being investigated. By now, the rigour of our anti-corruption campaign is not in doubt and no sector, including the military, is spared,” he affirmed.
Obasanjo also enjoined Nigerians to do away with their wasteful ways as “we derive comfort from debt relief and the fight against corruption.”
He commended the National Assembly for approving the first step necessary for the nation’s freedom from external debt as well as the commitment to enact the enabling legislation “to curb irresponsible foreign and domestic borrowing by governments at all levels, which was the principal reason for our huge profile of local and international debts.”
The president further disclosed that the federal government has set up a committee to review the report of the National Political Reform Conference, even as the National Assembly has also started to study it with a view to passing it into law.
“Our hope is that the outcome of the conference will complement our efforts at economic reform and together put Nigeria on a higher pedestal of development,” he enthused.
A total number 115 officer cadets of the 52 Regular Course were commissioned into the Nigerian Army, Nigerian Air Force and Nigerian Navy.
The dignitaries that graced the occasion, which attracted a mammoth crowd, include the governor of Kaduna State, Alhaji Ahmed Mohammed Makarfi; the Minister of State for Defence, Chief Rowland Oritsejafor; the Chief of Defence Staff, General Alexander Ogomudia, and the Service Chiefs.
Eight of the passing out officer cadets who excelled during their academic and military training were honoured with Sword of Honour, Gold Medal, Silver Medal, Indian Shield and Foreign Cadet Award.