Governor Alamiesiegha and the immunity question
By Onyebuchi Aniakor
Posted to the Web: Friday, October 14, 2005

Governor DSP Alamiesiegha of Bayelsa State left the State under his watch for Germany to check up on his heath.Thereafter as has been widely reported the governor left Germany for Britain to check up on his loot. Chief Alamiesiegha got to Britain alright: straight into the waiting hands of the London Metropolitan Police who were on hand to welcome His Excellency; and to secure the Governor’s assistance in their investigations of suspected money laundering and other related activities involving the person of the Governor. Presently, Chief Alamiesiegha is on remand in prison custody; and, would so remain until October 6, 2005 when he would have his day in a London Court or, assuming his counsel succeeds, on such a day that the appellate Court overturns the remand order.
The Governor’s travails have, however, aroused a robust debate, opinions and arguments on certain questions of international law; and, in particular, whether or not His Excellency is entitled to diplomatic immunity; and, thus immune from arrest, detention and prosecution in Britain, in particular and, outside Nigeria, in general. This debate, no doubt, was occasioned by, amongst other reasons, the fact that Chief Alamiesiegha is a governor of a State - a constituent unit of Nigeria; and, also, as claimed in certain quarters, the fact that the Governor was traveling under a diplomatic passport.
Such a debate is commendable. But, unfortunately, the issues have inadvertently, or, if we may say so, mischievously been allowed to degenerate, as with most things Nigerian, into parochial sentiments, ethnic politics and untowards angst; fuelled as they were by an improper appreciation or; and, which is worse: a deliberate misapprehension and misrepresentation of the salient issues. And, these need not be so.
In the first place, the question which, invariably, arises is the extent, if any, of the diplomatic or other immunity which could be said to be available, outside Nigeria, to the "Head of State of Bayelsa", as the Governor was described by his lead counsel in London in his first press statement on the issue? This is important: for it needs to be pointed out that as distinct from Chief Alamiesiegha’s constitutional immunity, under our municipal laws, as a State Governor; the issue of diplomatic or any other such like immunity under international law is a different ball-game altogether.
Under international law, the concept of State Sovereignty; and, of course, Sovereign Immunity flows upon the recognized and accepted independence and equality of States. It is on this basis that municipal courts of one country are not permitted to manifest their power over foreign States without the latter’s consent. And, for these purposes, a State is deemed to include the Sovereign or other Head of State in his public, as distinct from his personal capacity, the government or any department of government.
Since, it cannot, conceivably, be contended that the Governor is a diplomatic agent: the latter is defined under article 1(e) of the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations, 1961; so as to qualify him to seek the protection of the Convention, we need not concern ourselves, here, with the available protection under this Convention. Equally, it cannot be contended that the Governor embarked on his trip as one of his Country’s Consuls or that he was on a special or ad hoc mission to deal with some defined issues on behalf of his country, so as to avail him of the protection provided under either the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations, 1963 or the Convention on Special Missions, 1969; much less, under the Vienna Convention on the Representations of States in their Relations with International Organisations of a Universal Character, 1975.
This, now, leaves us with only the Head of State immunity as the only likely umbrella in the search for the Governor’s protection. The Head of State immunity, as was held in the case involving General Noriega, an ex-Panamanian Head of State in the United States in 1990, is grounded in customary international law; and, in order to be asserted, such a government official must be recognized as Head of State.

Could Chief Alamiesiegha, then, be said to qualify, in the present or any other circumstances and in his capacity as Governor of Bayelsa State to be properly or in any other manner whatsoever, to be called a Head of State? Although, there has been, in the past, some controversy under international law as to the status of components units (such as Bayelsa State) of federal States (such as Nigeria); this is no longer the case in Europe, at least, since 1972 under the European Convention on State Immunity; or, in England, since 1978 under its State Immunity Act. Under both the European Convention and the English legislation, constituent states of a federal State do not enjoy immunity.
Though the European Convention provides for an exception whereby federal State parties may by notification declare that their constituent states may invoke the benefits and carry out the obligations of the Convention; this, however, remains unhelpful to the Governor on two grounds: one, Nigeria is not a State party to the European Convention; and, secondly, Nigeria cannot, therefore, even if it so desires, make such a declarative notification.
The Governor’s fate, therefore, ultimately hangs on the provisions of the English State Immunity Act. As earlier stated, under this legislation, the component units of a federation are not entitled to immunity. In appropriate cases, however, the Act may be available to the constituent territories of a federal State by specific Order-in-Council. No such Order-in-Council has, to our knowledge, been made in favour of Bayelsa State or any other constituent state of the Nigerian federation.
Be that as it may, however, the generally accepted practice in international law on State Sovereignty and Sovereign Immunity is that whilst these are ascribed to and covers sovereign acts; the contrary is the case with non-sovereign acts. Thus, unless the activity in question falls within one of the categories of strictly political or public acts, namely; internal administrative acts, legislative acts, acts concerning the armed forces or diplomatic activity and public loans, no such immunity would be available.
In the instant case, we are yet to be informed that any of the Governor’s activities in England falls within any of the above categories. According to Lord Wilberforce in the English case of 1’ Congresso del Portido (1983) A.C. 244 p. 267: "It is not just that the purpose or motive of the act is to serve the purposes of the State; but that the act is of its own character a governmental act, as opposed to an act which any private citizen can perform."
In the final analysis, it needs to be pointed out, in passing, that even in cases involving diplomatic agents, who, under international law are extended some of the highest degrees of diplomatic protection for the purposes of carrying out their duties for their home State; in the face of criminal charges, however, waiver of immunity is routinely sought from the sending State and occasionally granted. This is so, since the immunity here, as with such other like immunities, being an attribute of State Sovereignty is the right of the sending State and not an individual right. Additionally, where a diplomatic agent is in a State which is neither the receiving State nor a State of transit between his home State and the receiving State, there will be no immunity.
Our Governor is, of course, not a diplomatic agent; and, even then he was not in transit between any sending State and a receiving State. Alas, he may, perhaps, only be properly said to have been on a frolic: all of his own.

*Onyebuchi Aniakor, Senior Partner, Onyebuchi Aniakor & Co. Legal Practitioners.

Bayelsa lawmakers, exotic cars disappear from Yenagoa streets
•EFCC officials invade Yenagoa
Bayelsa State legislative quarters and those occupied by other government officials in the capital, Yenagoa have turned virtual ghosts towns as all human activities have ceased in the residential areas since the weekend.

This may not be unconnected with the presence of a large contigent of officials of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) in the capital and the invitation for all the legislators to appear at the Commission’s office beginning yesterday.

The latest development comes on the trail of disclosures that the House leadership has postponed indefinitely the date of resumption after a mini recess.

Unlike in the past, the legislators have recently become averse to both social and official functions and have withdrawn their official executive jeeps from the ever-busy Mbiana-Yenagoa road, which links the residences of top government officials and major public destinations in the state.

NewAge learnt that the EFCC’s summons of the lawmakers may have to do with allegations that each of them received a N1 million kick-back from the N2.4 million approved for each member for constituency projects. Meanwhile, residents of Yenagoa are reacting to the recent developments involving the state’s executive and legislative arms, with many being of the opinion that the onus is on the officials of state to prove their innocence. According to Mr. John Kemebi, a civil rights leader, "the possibility of the lawmakers escaping the anti-graft dragnet depends on their ability to prove their uprightness and transparency and if possible conduct the EFCC'S officials to the project sites in their constituencies.

He noted that the genuiness of some members on whose sites work was in progress would be betrayed by others who may have not moved a single trip of gravel/sand to their site.

While the EFCC'S operation continues, members who were met in the state capital, Yenagoa by NewAge unanimously said "no comment" as they did not want to be quoted or have statements credited to them. The parking lot of the state Assembly largely empty of the posh cars of the lawmakers, while only cleaning staff and security men were seen around the complex.
Beyond the disappearance of the lawmakers, the chairmen of the original eight local government councils have also hidden themselves for fear of beingwhisked off by the anti-graft commission, even as they have become jittery over the reckless expenditure of public funds, as well as their ostentatious lifesytle in and out of the state.

NewAge Online.

Gov’s daughter sells $1.7m house in US
THE daughter of Governor Diepreye Alamieyeseigha of Bayelsa State has reportedly sold her five-bedroom house in the United States for $1.7 million (about N247 million). The house, which reports said she lived in as a student, is situated on 15859, Aurora Crescent Drive in Whittier, California.
The five-bedroom, five-bathroom mansion is said to occupy a land area of about 5,378 square metres and was sold by the lady, who recently graduated from the university, to one Nadeen Adeela, whose nationality is not known, for the said $1.7 million. The lady, whose name is Oyindoubra, relocated to Nigeria in July this year purportedly to take care of “family business” while her father is currently embroiled in a legal crisis in London over the ownership of a house in London.
Alamieyeseigha, reports said, has also been discovered to own another house in Potomac, a small city in Maryland, United States, where many Nigerian leaders have been found to own expensive houses. Potomac, to some Americans who are baffled by the stupendous wealth displayed by Nigerian leaders, has been described as an extension of Nigeria.
This is because it is a place that has become the greatest attraction on earth for Nigerian politicians. Reports said Vice President Atiku Abubakar has a mansion there. His close neighbour is Governor Orji Uzor Kalu of Abia State and in this neighbourhood also is the palatial mansion of the Finance Minister, Dr. (Mrs) Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala.
Okonjo-Iweala’s house is located on 11320, Palatine Drive, about four kilometres away from Alamieyeseigha’s house located on 504, Pleasant Drive, Rockville, Maryland. Okonjo-Iweala’s house is valued at about $1.4 million. It is, however, not known whether Okonjo-Iweala acquired this property before she became the finance minister or when she was with the World Bank.
It was gathered that the $900,000 two-storey building owned by Alamieyeseigha was bought in the name of his alleged front company, Solomon and Peters Limited in January 2003. This same company was also said to have paid for the house on Edgeware Road, London, which is believed to belong to the governor.

Governor Alamieyeseigha, who has just been granted bail by a UK court, is facing trial on money laundering charges. He was arrested by the Metropolitan Police at the Heathrow Airport on September 15, 2005 on arrival from Germany. A subsequent search of his London home allegedly revealed a stash of over one million dollars in cash.
Members of the governor’s nuclear family are also being investigated by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC). These family members include his wife, son, Tonbra, daughter, Oyindoubra, and the governor’s cousin who is reported to be on the run from law enforcement agencies.