At the aforementioned public event, a commissioner had come to represent his Governor. The moment he stood up and tried to make excuses for his boss's absence, someone asked quietly: "is he in London?" The hall knowing what this meant started laughing. The commissioner didn't allow the joke to pass. He quickly explained that his Governor was in the country and that he would like to assure the audience that his boss would never have cause to dress like a woman. More laughter! Someone whispered that Alami will be a good subject for a home video title. Another fellow opined that he had a dream in which both Tafa Balogun and Alamiyeseigha appeared on either side of the late Pope John Paul II who was then on his sick bed. He, Pope John Paul, had summoned the two men to his bed side as he lay dying. Curious, the two Nigerians reportedly asked the Pope why he had sent for them; they wanted to know why they had been so honoured. To which the Pope replied that his ambition was to die like the Lord himself, in the presence of two thieves! While Tafa confessed his sins, and will embrace the glory of Heaven, so goes the dream, Alami remained very stubborn till the end. You know the rest of the story... Thus, Alamiyeseigha has become the butt of jokes in dinner halls.
In spite of his denials of having lived as a woman briefly, he is bound to suffer in the days ahead in the hands of stand up comedians: the tribe of Ali Baba, Tee A, Shedi Baba, Funky Mallam, Gbenga Adeyinka 1, Julius Agwu, Klint de drunk who will mine the Alamiyesiegha story for all its juicy details. Thus in spite of himself, beyond charges of money laundering and the impeachment sword that is now before him, Alamiyeseigha has already ended up on the farcical side of history. It is about the worst fate that can befall a man who before now paraded himself as the "Governor General of the Ijaw nation". It is not alright however that in government houses across the country, other Governors are laughing at him in his season of distress.
One known rival of the Bayelsa state Governor was said to have asked his wife how he would look in a woman's clothes. And his wife had retorted: God forbid! The Kano state Governor, Mallam Ibrahim Shekarau also reportedly granted an interview to the BBC Hausa service in which he publicly tongue-lashed his Bayelsa colleague, describing his conduct as "disgraceful and condemnable". He then added: "I have said it before, people should stop saying governors and chairmen are thieves. Let people say this or that person or the governor of so and so state, so or so local government has stolen (money). If they have evidence against such people, let them take legal action." Shekarau should have kept quiet, using a colleague's misfortune to play to the gallery is in bad taste...
A Pastor, in the course of the week, had also used the Alami case as a prayer point for his congregation. "May the Almighty", he announced, "I say may our Father in heaven... may He never put you in a situation where as a man you will have to wear a woman's skirts and run across the border". The chorus of Amen that followed was loud enough to bring down the roof. The Pastor, seeing how inspired the congregation was varied the prayer: "I say may the Lord of Lords, the Host of Heaven, the I am that I am spread His unconquerable wings of mercy and grace around you, may He never put you in a situation where you will have to borrow your wife's bra and pants!". The Amen that followed was even louder.
Another source of comic relief has been the Governor's tongue-twisting, poly-syllabic surname: Alamiyeseigha. Some people even call him Alamisejagajaga! Nobody ever seems to get the pronunciation right. For convenience purposes, it has been variously shortened to Alam, Alami, Alams, Alamsco, and the irony of the sound of the name has not been lost on commentators. Here is a Governor who has thrown his state into a state of alarm, and yet his own name is Alam, Alami, Alamsco. What he has done is alarming especially as he is trying to draw all Ijaws into his debacle. For example, one conspiracy theory that is being peddled between Amasoma and Yenagoa is that Alami's travails is yet another illustration of an on-going attempt to oppress and marginalise the Niger Delta. But does this make any sense at all? How can one man's travails translate into a regional attack? Every man ought to answer for his crimes; criminal responsibility is not transferrable.
It is more interesting that the villages of the key personnel in the Alam story have also featured prominently in the last week, Ordinarily, most Nigerians live in the cities; even governments do not always remember our rural areas. But when Nigerians have problems: when they are ill or they are running away from foreign tormentors, or when they die, they immediately return to their villages. They rediscover their roots and call upon their kinsmen to defend them. When the Governor of Bayelsa state first arrived in the country, his first port of call was Amasoma, his village. Similarly, when the former Acting Governor of Bayelsa state, also known as the Deputy Governor, Goodluck Jonathan found that his tenure/luck as acting Governor had been cut short before he even started to enjoy the office, he immediately went to Otuoke in Ogbia local government area. He shunned the state Executive Council meeting and refused to sign cheques. The returnee Governor had to storm Jonathan's village to bring him back to they city. Even then, this was not easy.
Jonathan's kinsmen blocked the entrance to Otuoke and formed a security wall of human bodies around his house. The governor was allowed access to his own Deputy, who stands to benefit in the event of any impeachment only when he, Jonathan, appealed to his people. For the most part, the people of rural Nigeria tend to be more brotherly and loyal. If only our leaders would learn to remember rural Nigeria for the purposes of development and not emotional exploitation. A third village that has also featured prominently is Amabulou, the so called Headquarters of the Egbesu, and the Ahoy cult where Alamiyeseigha is said to have his support base and the recruitment ground for his soldiers in the event of any confrontation. The Federal Government has since sent a task force of 10 boats and 200 amphibious soldiers to that village to prevent a breakdown of law and order.
Meanwhile in the cities, the lawmakers and Alami's commissioners are misbehaving. Members of the Bayelsa House of Assembly have started behaving like rain-soaked chickens, talking with both sides of the mouth on the question of impeachment proceedings against the Governor. They are creating a moral burden of their own, the details of which can only further expose the complexities of Nigerian politics.
Sunday 27th November, 2005
Alamieyeseigha may dissolve cabinet
•Presidency directs deputy to stay away
By Donald Ojogo
As the controversy over the escape of Governor Diepreye Alamieyeseigha from London while standing trial for alleged case of money laundering rages on, there are indications that he may dissolve his cabinet.
Reliable sources close to the governor in Yenegoa disclosed to Sunday Independent that about three of the present commissioners may, however, be retained.
According to the sources, the cabinet reshuffle is to enable the embattled governor to have a new focus for his administration, especially, in view of his travails.
The disclosures were made just as it was gathered that The Presidency may have directed the deputy governor of Bayelsa, Chief Goodluck Jonathan, to stay away from the governor and watch as events unfold.
Also, Nobel laureate, Professor Wole Soyinka has told Nigerians to expect more drama to unfold on the escape saga of Governor Alamieyeseigha.
The directive, according to a reliable source, might have informed Jonathan’s relocation to his private residence on Tuesday.
“Goodluck Jonathan has been warned to be vigilant and stay away from Alamieyeseigha whose mission is yet unknown. He has been asked to stay away from him and distance himself from the current development,” said a source.
Although the Special Assistant to the President on Public Affairs, Mr. Femi Fani-Kayode and the Attorney General of the Federation, Chief Bayo Ojo, declined comment on the directive for Goodluck to stay away from the governor, another reliable source told our correspondent that the directive was indeed given.
Meanwhile, Nobel laureate, Professor Wole Soyinka, has said the escape of the governor of Bayelsa State, Chief Diepreye Alaimseiye, from London, would generate series of drama in weeks to come.
Soyinka who spoke with journalists at the Ake Palace Square, Abeokuta, in Ogun State shortly after he was conferred with the traditional title of Akinlatun of Egbaland by the new Alake of Egbaland, Oba Adedotun Aremu Gbadebo, said so far, it was the words of the EFCC and the British Police against those of the governor.
“I have been reading all the various statements. He (Alamaeyesiegha) said he did not escape. If you believe in tradition, there is what we call ‘Egbe’ and ‘Ofe’, it could be either of those that brought him to Bayelsa. I don’t know about all these things.
“We have to ask him. It is only these words of the British Police and the EFCC against his own. So, when I see him I will be able to diagnose how he made it. It is a mystery to me.”
According to Soyinka, all the Babalawo and the Hare Krishna, Roman Catholic, Celestial Church of Christ, worshippers of God of Iron, among others to come together to hold a conference and decide how it was that Alamieyeseigha vanished from Great Britain and landed in the Bayelsa. We would look forward to a lot of drama in this nation.
As tension continues to mount in the state, the state’s Commissioner of Police, Mr. Oliver Ozuchukwu, has been redeployed.
Alamieyeseigha was arrested in September at Heathrow Airport and some £1m worth of cash allegedly found in his London home.
He was granted bail on condition that he remained in the UK, surrendered his passport and reported regularly to the Metropolitan police.
The head of Nigeria's anti-corruption body, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Nuhu Ribadu, told the BBC's Hausa service that Alamieyeseigha had "forged documents" and "dressed as a woman" to escape the UK.
Presently, more than 500 eagle-eyed Ijaw youths are providing security for Governor Alamieyeseigha. This new twist is coming on the heels of the withdrawal of the embattled governor’s security aides and an alleged plot to eliminate him.
Sunday Independent learnt that the youths were first drafted to the State House after the governor alleged that his life was no longer safe and that there was a grand design to kill him.
The governor has relocated to Amasoma, his hometown for “obvious security reasons” and is carrying out government activities from there, according to one of his aides.
Security operatives attached to the governor were said to have been withdrawn on the orders of the federal government.
Some of the youths were said to have vowed to put their lives on the line to defend the “Governor-General” of the Ijaw nation.
The deputy governor of the state, Dr. Goodluck Jonathan, was also alleged to have moved out of his official residence over threats to his life.
Also, at least, four of the state commissioners are said to be contemplating throwing in the towel. Though they were not bold enough to say so publicly, one of them confirmed the development.
There has been an unusual withdrawal of funds by depositors at the Yenagoa branch of a new generation bank. While the bank witnessed mass withdrawal, others in the state refused to honour cheques from the state government.
The state government, however, said its interests in both the hospitality and financial subsector were meant to boost the revenue base of the state, according to a statement signed by the Acting Chief Press Secretary, Preye Wariowei.
Investigation in Bayelsa and Lagos State, however, revealed that some of the state commissioners might be contemplating resigning their appointments following pressure on them to endorse the governor’s request that alleged ownership of Chelsea Hotel, Abuja, by Alamieyeseigha be changed to that of the state.
According to a source in Yenagoa, Alamieyeseigha brought up the matter at the first executive meeting he had with the commissioners after his escape from London.
At the meeting, he allegedly tried, albeit unsuccessfully, to convince the state executive council members that the hotel was bought by the Bayelsa State government. Although some of the commissioners were not in agreement, the governor was said to have had his way, as many members of the executive are his loyalists.
The dissenting members of the exco wondered why the issue was being tabled after the EfCC report had revealed that the property belonged to the governor. They simply saw it as a face-saving measure by the governor in the face of his current travails.
Seventeen lawmakers of the Bayelsa State House of Assembly had Tuesday served the state governor a notice of impeachment.
They, among other things, accused him of purchasing Chelsea Hotel, Abuja, for the sum of N2bn which he allegedly bought in the name of one of his companies.
They said they were acting on a report and findings of the EFCC on investigations into allegations of criminal diversion and mis-appropriation of public funds against Alamieyeseigha.
A commissioner, who however, spoke on the basis of anonymity, told Sunday Independent that Bayelsa State actually owned the hotel.
He said that the purchase was part of an investment drive embarked upon by the state to guard against the rainy days.
“We have bought shares from Oceanic Bank, Linkage Assurance and some other companies, including Chelsea Hotel. What do you want us to do if oil dries up tomorrow? The Chelsea Hotel case was not an isolated one; it was part of the state’s investment drive. The Ministry of Finance was given a mandate to look into it and we worked with an agent,” he added.
The commissioner confirmed that about N1.5 billion had so far been paid for the hotel.
Thursday 17th November, 2005
Complexities of constitution without immunity clause
By Chukwuneke Anagbogu
The ongoing anti-graft war, the prattling all over the place especially in the media about transparency, accountability and probity on the part of elected political office-holders in the country, have indeed all contributed to the renewed clarion call from many quarters for the outright removal of the part of the Constitution conferring immunity on some public officeholders. Then, the recrudescence of glaring official corruption among officeholders has led some political officeholders to (probably by way of exonerating themselves from the overt corruption observed among their colleagues) advocate for its removal.
The reasons being given by those who canvass for the removal of immunity clause, like those mentioned above are not without merit. And as held by Justice Chukwurah Nnamani in his "Immunity Clause and the Supreme Court," published on page 27 of Vanguard, Friday, January 21, 2005, an abuse of the immunity would (and does) bring untold hardship to complaint and justice administration.
But as we shall see presently, there are some complexities in the criminal justice system that can constitute a cog in the wheel of the law, and of course ridicule our justice system should immunity be expunged. Black’s Law Dictionary (fifth edition) simply defines immunity to mean, inter alia, "Freedom from duty or penalty. But the provisions of section 308(1) of the 1999 Constitution, whose full text would not be rendered for lack of space, insulates such public officeholder from civil or criminal proceedings being instituted against him, or being arrested or imprisoned or compelled to appear in court. Section 308(2) also protects the public officeholder in his official capacity only in civil matters in which he is a nominal part. The immunity by virtue of section 308(3) is enjoyed by the President and Vice-President, Governors and Deputy-Governors of the States during their period of office. And by the proviso to section 308(1), account shall not be taken of his period of office in ascertaining the expiration of period of limitation.
In explaining the nature and implication of the immunity clause, the Supreme Court, per Iguh, JSC, in TINUBU Vs. I.M.B. SECURITIES PLC  16 NWLR (pt 740) 670 at 695 held that:
"The immunity granted to the incumbent of the relevant office under Section 308(1)(a) of the Constitution prescribes an absolute prohibition on the courts from entertaining any proceedings, civil or criminal, in respect of any claim or relief against a person to whom that section of the Constitution applies during the period he holds such office. No question of waiver of the relevant immunity by the incumbent of the offices concerned or, indeed, by the courts may therefore arise."
Similarly, it has been held that one to whom the immunity applies cannot pursue an appeal that lies against him. According to the Court of Appeal in INDUSTRIAL AND COMMERCIAL SERVICES (NIG.) LTD & ANOR Vs. SOLCOOR INCORPORATED & ANOR  8 NWLR (pt 822) 223 at 234, "if a plaintiff to whom section 308 did not directly apply could initiate or continue proceedings against a person to whom section 308 applies, the later cannot pursue an appeal against any decision of the court of trial, the reason being that to allow that person to pursue an appeal is akin to a continuation of the proceeding before the lower court."
Consequently, such an appeal would be declared incompetent and as such liable to be struck out.
Having seen the provisions of section 308 and its implications, it is germane to examine the complexities or better put, the problems inherent in removing the immunity clause from the Constitution. As we may know it, apologists of the immunity all point to its use by those to whom it applies as a cover to commit criminal acts (especially corrupt offences), knowing that they are ‘immuned’ from criminal prosecution. This being the case, the probable question that arises now is: who is in charge of criminal prosecution?
A crime, we know, is an offence against the state. Accordingly, the state institutes criminal proceedings through the office of the Attorney General of the Federation or State, depending on if it is a federal or state offence. Sections 150 and 195 establish the offices of Attorney General of the Federation and State respectively. According to these sections, the Attorney General doubles as the Chief Law Officer and a Minister or Commissioner of the Federation or State as the case may be. Pats-Acholonu, JCA (as he then was), in GUARDIAN NEWSPAPERS LTD Vs. AG. FEDERATION  5 NWLR (pt 398) 703 at 730 in highlighting the function of the Attorney General, stated succinctly that:
"Both at common law and by virtue of our constitution, the ... Attorney General represents the State in all actions against the State. He can do this in person or through the other law officers of the State below him."
From the forgoing, we can see the enormous powers of the Attorney General. These are further provided in section 174 (for federal) and section 211(1) of the Constitution (for the state). According to section 211, "the Attorney General of a State shall have power:
(a) to institute and undertake criminal proceedings against any person before any court of law in Nigeria other than a court-martial in respect of offence created by or under a law of the House of Assembly;
(b) to take over and continue any such criminal proceedings that may have been instituted by any other authority or person; and
(c) to discontinue at any stage before judgment is delivered any such criminal proceedings instituted or undertaken by him or any other authority or person."
Two main powers of Attorney General are identifiable. One is the power to institute, take over or continue any criminal proceedings. The other is the power to discontinue any criminal proceedings at any stage before judgment. We take them, seriatim.
On the power to institute a criminal proceeding as granted by law (for example section 72 of the Criminal Procedure Law of Lagos State, Vol. 11, 1994), there is every likelihood that in the absence of immunity, the Attorney General may feign ignorance of the offence of the boss, the President or Governor or their deputies. The simplest reason is that the Attorney General is either appointed by the President (pursuant to section 147 and 150) or Governor (pursuant to section 192 and 195 of the Constitution) and as such holds office at his pleasure. The other is the undue influence the President or Governor may wield on him.
Perhaps the more powerful and, probably, the more questionable power of the Attorney General is that mentioned in sections 174 (1)(c) and 211 (1)(c): the power to discontinue a case otherwise known as nolle prosequi. Section 73(1) of Criminal Procedure Law, Laws of Lagos State, 1994 provides that:
"In any criminal proceedings for an offence against a law of the State and at any stage thereof before judgment the Attorney General of Lagos State may enter a nolle prosequi, either by stating in court or informing the court in writing that the State intends that the proceeding shall be at once discharged in respect of the charge or information for which the nolle prosequi is entered."
The major insurmountable problem in the power of nolle prosequi is that section 174(3), which is in pari material with section 211(3), both of the Constitution, provides that "in exercising his powers under this section, the Attorney General of the Federation shall have regard to the public interest, the interest of justice and the need to prevent the abuse of legal process." Of course there is the problem of determining what may or may not amount to "public interest" and "interest of justice."
The Attorney General therefore has unfettered powers in deciding what constitutes public interest. It has been held in THE STATE Vs. ILORI & 2 ORS (1983) 1 SCNLR 94; (1983) 2 SC 155 that his powers in regard to the above discussed is "subject only to ultimate control by public opinion." Implicit in this is that the Attorney General has the sole responsibility of deciding what amounts to public interest. Consequently, it is submitted that the test is rather subjective than objective. This apart, there is a high degree of likelihood of abuse of the legal process. And there has been recorded cases of such an abuse, one of which has been reported by Professor Peter Oluyode in hisConstitutional Law in Nigeria, and need not derail us here.
It can be gleaned from the foregoing that removing the immunity clause from the Constitution would be disastrous and in addition, make the judicial process look preposterous, given the role of the Attorney General (who is appointed by the officeholder) in the prosecution of a criminal action. It is suggested instead that efforts should rather be made in urging the legislature to wield its axe of impeachment against a defaulting officeholder. Though the processes of impeachment provided in sections 143 and 188 of the Constitution are rigorous, the strain it would cause the officeholder would serve as adequate caution.
This writer reiterates what he wrote in his "Need for Retention of Immunity Clause in the Constitution," published in Daily Independent of February 24, 2005 at page B11, that the removal of immunity would rather bring distraction to the officeholder since it is most likely to be used by his detractors or political opponents to score cheap political point. Consequent upon this is that the officeholder may start to develop a more sophisticated means of siphoning government fund and try to cleverly close up loopholes.
In all, immunity should not be tampered with. It is a policy legislation meant to remove distraction from officeholder, which is not even absolute. The beauty there, however, is that section 308(3) provides that it applies only during the period of office of the officeholder.
Consequently, time limitation for the commencement of criminal proceedings shall not be taken into view of his period in office, so that he can still answer for his crimes or civil wrongs after he shall have vacated his position.
Anagbogu is of the Faculty of Law, Nnamdi Azikiwe University, Awka, Anambra State