...Alamieyeseigha: The Constitutional Questions
Deputy governor addresses state
By Oma Djebah in Lagos and John Iwori in Yenagoa, 10.01.2005
The arrest in London and the subsequent prosecution of the Bayelsa State Governor, DSP Alamieyeseigha, has not only thrown the state into political uncertainty, it has raised several constitutional questions.
This is coming as the Deputy Governor, Dr. Goodluck Jonathan, yesterday made a radio and television broadcast to the state to mark the Independence day and the 9th year anniversary of its creation.
While Jonathan continues as acting governor, there is no constitutional power backing him since the governor has neither resigned nor impeached while there are actions he cannot take.
For instance, the deputy governor cannot in his acting capacity make appointments and cannot initiate or sign appropriation bill into law which means should Alamieyeseigha stay in London beyond December, Bayelsa may not have a budget for next year.
THISDAY checks at the weekend also reveal that members of the Bayelsa House of Assembly, including the Speaker, apparently aware of this lacuna, have decided to go incommunicado.
In the 1999 Constitution currently in operation, a situation where a Governor can no longer carry out his function is envisaged but the framers never imagined that a chief executive of a state would be held by police authorities abroad.
Alamieyeseigha was arrested at the Heathrow airport, London on his way from Germany by men of the Metropolitan Police and was charged for money laundering. He has since been remanded in prison custody by a British court following his failure to secure a bail.
With the trial in London, analysts argue that there are three possibilities. One, the governor could win his appeal for bail this week in which case he may return to Nigeria at the earliest possible date. Two, he may also win his appeal for bail but told to remain in London for the trial proper. The third possibility is that he could earn a jail term after the trial. The last two possibilities will leave Bayelsa State in the lurch.
The posers being raised by analysts now are: Can a governor run the state from a foreign prison? Does the constitution anticipate or contemplate a situation where a governor would be incapacitated, rendered incommunicado or in police custody abroad? What really is the fate of Alamieyeseigha in the light of these possible eventualities, when viewed from the point of view of the constitution?
Section 189, subsection 1(a) of the 1999 deals with incapacitation of Governor or Deputy Governor. According to this section, the Governor or Deputy Governor of a state shall cease to hold office if "by a resolution passed by two-thirds majority of all members of the executive council of the state, it is declared that the Governor or Deputy Governor is incapable of discharging the functions of his office".
Analysts contend that presently, Alamieyesigha is incapable of discharging his function as governor but the lacuna here is that the Constitution apparently envisages "incapacitation" on health grounds.
According to subsection 1(b) of section 189, "the declaration in paragraph (a) of this subsection is verified, after such medical examination as may be necessary; by a medical panel established under section (4) of this section in its report to the speaker of the House of Assembly."
In this Section, legal analysts note that the constitution may not have contemplated a situation where a governor or deputy governor may be detained or jailed in a foreign land because he has no immunity covering him as is now the case with Alamieyeseigha who has been remanded in prison custody for alleged money laundering in the UK.
Another scenario is provided for in section 109 which states that whenever the Governor transmits to the Speaker of the House of Assembly a written declaration that he is proceeding on vacation or that he is otherwise unable to discharge the functions of his office, until he transmits to the Speaker of the House of Assembly a written declaration to the contrary such functions shall be discharged by the Deputy Governor as Acting Governor.
According to section 191 (1) the Deputy Governor of a State shall hold the office of Governor of the State if the office of Governor becomes vacant by reason of death, resignation, impeachment, permanent incapacity or removal of the Governor from office for any other reason in accordance with section 188 of this Constitution.
These questions, according to analysts may be tested in the days and weeks to follow depending on how the London trial goes.
Meanwhile, Bayelsa State Deputy Governor, Dr. Goodluck Jonathan yesterday regretted that the governor for the first time since he was elected on May 29, 1999 could not physically address the people of the state.
In addressing the state, Jonathan said it was "a duty that should ordinarily have been undertaken by His Excellency, Chief (Dr.) Diepreye Alamieyeseigha the executive Governor of Bayelsa State. We regret that for once, he is not here to celebrate with us for reasons that have become public knowledge.
“Knowing how much he loves his land and people however, I am convinced that he is with us in spirit and we have his generous goodwill to forge ahead in spite of the current situation of things.
“Indeed I have no doubt that he is concerned about the safety of the state he left behind. We have cause, therefore, to apply the best form of diplomacy and dialogue in all we do”, he said.
Jonathan who has been holding forte since the problems of Alamieyeseigha started, enjoined the people of the State to continue to maintain peace, even as he lauded them for the role they have played to sustain Nigeria.
He concluded: “You will agree with me that the contribution of Bayelsa State to the existence and survival of Nigeria cannot be quantified. We have given our lives and natural resources to protect the sovereignty and integrity of Nigeria. That goes to show how much faith we have in our nation”.
Alamieyeseigha went to treat heart problem, not for cosmetic surgery – Bayelsa govt
•State assembly postpones sitting indefinitely amid talk of impeachment
By UBONG UMOH, AUSTIN EBIPADE, Yenagoa and MARTINS ANUFORO
Bayelsa state government yesterday said its embattled governor’s trip to Germany was to correct a heart problem arising from his overweight and not for cosmetic surgery to reduce the size and shape of his stomach as widely publicised.
The statement signed by the Chief Press Secretary to the governor, Mr. Preye Wariowei in an apparent reaction to reports that Governor Diepreye Alamieyeseigha had travelled for “tummy tuck” came just as pressure continues to mount on the state law makers to commence impeachment proceedings against the governor.
Said the statement: “Our attention has been drawn to widespread insinuations in the media that His Excellency, Chief DSP Alamieyeseigha, JP, Ph.D, Governor of Bayelsa State, had gone abroad to have a cosmetic “tummy tuck” surgery performed on him. Those who hold this view seem to believe that the governor merely went abroad for a vain non-medical surgical intervention.”
The statement continued that: “due to age and a natural tendency, “Alamieyeseigha had become overweight. “In the past, the governor, an ardent swimmer had used that and other exercises, to manage his weight. In the past six years, however, the pressure of office has impacted on His Excellency’s ability to exercise regularly. The situation was such that his heart came under severe pressure due to his weight problems,” the statement said.
Adding that Alamieyesegha was also having blood circulation problem that was threatening to get out of hand, he had two main options: either exercise till the excess weight was managed or do a surgical intervention, to free his heart of the pressure. “The reality of time constraint favoured the surgical option, and this inexorably led to the surgery in Germany,” the statement said.
On the tummy tuck theory, the statment said, “it is cruel in the utmost, to insinuate that the governor was pursuing vanity, when indeed he was on a mission to save his own life. Let those who rejoice at the adversity of others remember.”
But apparently weighing the possibility that Alamieyeseigha may not be allowed by the British authorities to return to his duty post any time soon, pressure continues to mount on the state’s lawmakers to impeach him.
Indications to this effect emerged weekend in Yenagoa, the state capital. NewAge learnt that the leadership of the state House of Assembly has postponed the resumption date of the House indefinitely following the intense pressure being mounted on the legislators by the governor’s backers and those pushing for his constitutional removal from office.
Sources close to the Speaker Byelayefa Debekeme disclosed that he had allegedly informed colleagues that the House would not resume this week as earlier slated. He has however, not named a new date.
Amongst the names being bandied for consideration as the embattled governor’s replacement , should he be impeached include his current deputy, Dr. Goodluck Jonathan.
However, Goodluck may not be easily swayed to take over his boss’ job, considering that the deputy governor has been at the head of the vanguard insisting on the governor’s innocence since his arrest in London on Thursday September 16 on charges of money laundering.
In fact, the deputy governor recently led delegations from the state to lobby both the presidency and the national secretariat of the PDP to intervene on the governor’s behalf.
Meanwhile, the 2005 world-wide Igbo Day celebration has been shelved in Bayelsa State in solidarity with the state governor currently marooned in London.
Making the disclosure in Yenagoa, the Bayelsa State Chairman of the Ohaneze Igbo Youth Council, Mr. Sunny Anthony Chukwuezi said that while the event kicked-off in Enugu State with a football match between the Old Rangers FC versus Vasco Dagama, in Yenagoa the usual carnivals were absent.
Chukwuezi said the Igbo decide to show solidarity with the government due to the sustained peace, freedom devoid of molestation, as well as the provision of constant power supply by the Alamieyeseigha led government in the state.
Noting that the Igbos are currently restructuring and repositioning themselves ahead of 2007, Chukwuezi urged Nigerians to concede the presidency to the south east zone that only tested power for barely six month in 1966 military era.