*FG deploys troops in Bayelsa
YENAGOA — EMBATTLED Governor Diepreye Alamieyeseigha of Bayelsa State has dispatched an emissary to President Olusegun Obasanjo, seeking a soft landing on account of his recent escape from London. This came as armed soldiers were deployed yesterday on the streets of Yenagoa, the state capital.
The army authorities reacting to public apprehension sparked off by the deployment said it was to “avert chaos, violence and to ensure that peace and tranquility reign.”
Speculations earlier in the day said the presidency had given Governor Alamieyeseigha up to 6 pm yesterday to resign, with the governor vowing never to do such a thing. Presidency sources, however, denied any such ultimatum.
Vanguard sources said the emissary led by the first military governor of the old Rivers State, King Alfred Diete-Spiff from Governor Alamieyeseigha pleaded for a soft-landing from the presidency.
Although the president was yet to respond at press time, it was gathered that the governor’s move came rather late because, as one source put it, “the man (Alamieyeseigha) is asking too late, having compounded Nigeria’s image problem.”
King Diete-Spiff had, weekend, told Vanguard that, weekend, high level consultations with all stakeholders in the Bayelsa crisis were in progress to resolve the problems between the governor and some members of the state Assembly.
He said some leaders from the South-South were meeting with all concerned to find a way out of the crisis and expressed the hope that everybody would smile at the end of it all. The royal father asked youths who were protesting against the governor’s return to remain calm, as demonstrations would not help the situation on ground.
He described the matter as delicate and called for restraint from all parties. King Diete-Spiff said the Alamieyeseigha saga was one of those things that could happen in a developing country like Nigeria, adding that government had been shut down in other countries. The former governor said this was not the time to blame anybody as the pride of the nation was involved.
For those calling on the governor to resign, he said: “That is their viewpoint but as far as the governor is concerned, he is back and ready to give service to his people.” He said he did not foresee the Federal Government refusing to listen to the leaders who were working on how to reconcile the warring factions in the state, adding: “Nigeria is a big country and I believe that we are matured enough to sit down and discuss our things.”
On the co-operation his group was receiving from the parties concerned in the crisis, he said: “We are on it. I can’t say more.”
The same presidency sources said there was nothing unusual in the deployment of troops in Bayelsa State. The state, said the sources, has always had military presence in view of its economic importance.
The armed forces corroborated, yesterday, the position of the presidency on the deployment of troops in Bayelsa State. In a statement, spokesman for the Joint Task Force otherwise known as Operation Restore Hope, Major S. A. Ahmed said: “Sequel to recent development in Bayelsa State, the security situation around Yenagoa and its environs has become most unstable and has degenerated to a level of total breach of peace and security with threat to lives and property around the vicinity.
"As a result of the unpredictable security situation, some establishments have been forced to close down. Also, the resurgence of armed militant youths both in support and against the governor of Bayelsa State has heightened the tension in the area.
"Intelligence reports have revealed that some of these militant youths roam the streets of Yenagoa dressed in military combat gear and are said to be armed. In the present circumstances, the peace and security of the state are gradually drifting toward chaos and anarchy.
"Therefore, to forestall the drift and restore the hope of law-abiding citizens, the Joint Task Force (Operation Restore Hope), in compliance with its mandate of maintaining law and order in the Niger Delta, deployed its troops to Yenagoa and environs on 28/11/05 to ensure security of lives and property.
“The deployment of Joint Task Force troops to Yenagoa and environs is to avert chaos, violence and to ensure that peace and tranquility reign amongst the citizens in the state. In view of this, the armed militant youths, either in support or against the governor, clad in military combat gear that roam the streets of Yenagoa are advised, in their own interest, to desist.
“The Task Force advises law-abiding citizens to cooperate with its men and go about their normal businesses without fear of molestation or harassment.”
The soldiers stationed armoured vehicles with military men in full combat paraphernalia in front of the Creek Haven, the seat of power in Yenagoa, and other strategic parts of the state, while military helicopters hovered around Government House on a reconnaissance mission.
Beleaguered Governor Alamieyeseigha resumed work, yesterday morning, from his Amassoma country home to find that soldiers and anti riot policemen had, over night, positioned a shatterproof vehicle directly opposite Government House but he quietly passed to his office to resume the day’s duty.
The troops, equipped with rocket launchers and bazookas took over Yenagoa at dawn just as pro-Alamieyeseigha and anti-Alamieyeseigha demonstrators marched round the streets in the morning to press home their particular demands.
The anti-Alamieyeseigha protesters carried a mock coffin of the governor and among them were some former special advisers, sacked by the governor before the current debacle. The armoured tank and military men in the Government House were stationed at the Arcade Ground, which is directly in front of the Government House.
At the state secretariat, they were at the entrance with machine guns on a tripod stand as well as grenade launchers, while at the House of Assembly Complex, the story was not different as the battle-ready military men cordoned off the complex. They were also armed with grenade launchers, machine guns and bazookas.
The House of Assembly premises has also been turned to a mini barracks of sort by the soldiers who relaxed with their kits.
Vanguard also sighted some of the troops at the roundabout leading to Swali Road, where they mounted a machine gun on one of the trucks and at Tombia junction, which leads to Amassoma, an armoured personnel carrier was stationed. From Mbiama to Yenagoa, there were at least four military checkpoints and at Ekeki area, they searched residents and motorists for dangerous weapons.
The military operation is not only on land as gunboats were also at the Yenagoa waterside with soldiers patrolling the vicinity. People who wanted to travel by boat to the hinterland felt uncomfortable when they saw the large presence of military men and turned back.
Commander of the JTF with headquarters in Warri, Brigadier General Elias Zamani in a statement said the deployment of soldiers and mobile policemen to Bayelsa was to checkmate the drift towards chaos and anarchy in the state.
Major Ahmed told Vanguard when contacted on why an armoured tank was particularly stationed in front of Government House, Yenagoa said there was no cause for alarm as the military men were in the state to ensure the safety of the governor and the entire Bayelsans.
From the entrance to Yenagoa on Mbiama-Port Harcourt Road to the town, military men were everywhere in the state capital, stopping and searching motorists and passengers for hazardous armaments.
There was speculations yesterday that the Presidency had handed an ultimatum to the embattled Bayelsa governor to resign by 6.00p.m, yesterday, but the “governor-general” of the Ijaw nation refused, saying he would defend the mandate freely given to him by the people of Bayelsa.
A government source said Gov. Alamieyeseigha told the Presidency that he would not be cowed by anybody to surrender his mandate except it was done constitutionally. The source said a delegation from President Obasanjo came to deliver the message to Gov. Alamieyeseigha and the governor passed his reply through the same source.
A top official also hinted that in view of the siege by the Federal Government and attempt to force him out of power, the governor resolved, yesterday, to start sleeping in his official residence as against his shuttling between his Amassoma hometown and Yenagoa since he returned.
Govt faults deployment of troops
The state government has also reacted to the deployment of soldiers and anti-riot policemen to the state, saying that it came to it as a surprise because “the city has been in a state of absolute calm and order.”
In the statement signed by Mr. Preye Wariowei, Chief Press Secretary to the governor, the government said: “It has been brought to the notice of the Bayelsa State government that His Excellency, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo, President and Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, has formally directed that military troops be moved to Yenagoa, and take over Bayelsa State.
“Indeed, residents of the city woke up this morning (yesterday) to witness truck loads of soldiers in battle gear and anti-riot policemen mounting road blocks and check points in various parts of the city. In addition, military helicopters have been on surveillance mission around the state capital, especially over Creek Haven, the seat of government. Needless to say, this development comes as a complete surprise because the city has been in a state of absolute calm and order.
“Clearly, the presence of the troops confirm the long standing speculation in the public mind of a conscious attempt by the Federal Government to provoke unrest in the state to justify the proclamation of a state of emergency, and consequently occasion the removal from office of His Excellency, Chief Diepreye Alamieyeseigha, Executive Governor of Bayelsa State.
“In a democratic government, which professes to place great store in due process, this latest act of intimidation and coercion amounts to a negation of all known tenets of democratic governance.
“Furthermore, it has been brought to the notice of the state government that the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) has directed banks to freeze all accounts of the state, ministries, parasatals and local governments in a bid to bring pressure to bear on civil servants and the good people of the state to rise against the government of Chief Alamieyeseigha.
“Accordingly, the Executive Governor has appealed to Brigadier General Zamani, the commander of the forces to exercise restraint over his troops who are on an arbitrary stop-and-search routine, not to molest the innocent citizens of the state as they go about their lawful duties. Chief Alamieyeseigha equally enjoins all patriotic sons and daughters of Bayelsa State to remain law-abiding in the face of this obvious and unnecessary provocation.
“According to him, this is a tempting period for the good people of Bayelsa State and the Ijaw nation as a whole. The journey ahead may be hard, long and tedious, it may even appear to be insurmountable. But, as always, we should look up to God who has always stood by the people of Bayelsa State,” the statement said.
Also commenting on the “siege,” the Ijaw National Congress (INC) condemned the deployment of troops in Bayelsa State, saying the state has been peaceful to warrant peaceful presence.
“We wish to inform the Nigerian public that Bayelsa State is now under siege. In the early hours of Monday, several lorry loads of soldiers, mobile police fully armed (including armoured tanks) occupied all the strategic points in the state capital and its environs despite the fact that Yenagoa and Bayelsa State in general have been peaceful.
“Needless to say that the accompanying dehumanisation process by the occupation forces has already commenced. We had earlier alerted the nation of the Federal Government’s determination to declare a state of emergency in Bayelsa State, which has so far proved difficult because of the peace that exists in the state despite the provocative attempts by the forces of evil to parade the streets of Yenagoa with rented youths from outside the state by agent provocateurs of the Federal Government.
“Meanwhile, we wish to appeal to all Bayelsans and Ijaw in general to remain calm. We shall emerge victorious,” the INC said in the statement signed by its spokesman, Mr. Izonfade.
The national vice chairman of the ANPP in the South-South, Chief Douglas Naingba, told Vanguard, yesterday, that the deployment of troops to the state was uncalled for and was causing unnecessary tension in Yenagoa and environs. He said what the Federal Government was exhibiting was not democracy and wondered what would happen in 2007 if the military were being used now to intimidate political opponents.
THE PUNCH, Wednesday, November 30, 2005
Alam, it's time to go
The embattled governor of Bayelsa State, Chief Diepreye Alamieyeseigha, was reportedly served a notice of impeachment by the state's House of Assembly some days ago. The House listed the grounds on which it sought the governor's impeachment to include his alleged involvement in money laundering, arrest by the British Metropolitan Police and subsequent trial in London; maintenance of foreign bank accounts, contrary to provisions of the 1999 Constitution; as well as corrupt enrichment of his wife and children. The lawmakers accused Alamieyeseigha of criminal diversion and misappropriation of public funds to facilitate his acquisition of N1 billion shares in Bond Bank Plc, purchase of Chelsea Hotel, Abuja, for N2 billion, acquisition of properties worth 10 million Pound Sterling in London, etc.
Indeed, a report by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, claimed that N1.7 billion was traced to the governor's various bank accounts. The governor was, in addition, accused of owning a multimillion dollar refinery in Ecuador, buying three properties in Lagos for N850 million, and laundering state funds through six companies, among others.
Governor Alamieyeseigha was arrested on September 15 at the Heathrow Airport and was standing trial in London for allegedly laundering about one million Pound Sterling. The governor was granted bail by the Bow Street Magistrate's Court under stringent conditions that restricted his movement in London. He, however, jumped bail and returned to Nigeria on November 22 and has since assumed duty as governor. Before his escape from London, Alamieyeseigha filed a suit at the Royal Court of Justice at Strand, Central London, where his lawyers claimed that he was covered by "sovereign immunity." The court, last weekend, threw out the case, thus paving the way for his trial whenever he is extradited.
President Olusegun Obasanjo, according to reports, has written the British Prime Minister, Tony Blair, expressing his disappointment over Alamieyeseigha's escape from London. The Federal Government was said to be weighing some options to facilitate the governor's return to London to face trial, some of which include his immediate extradition, based on an existing treaty between Nigeria and Britain; and impeachment before his extradition.
The weighty charges of corruption against Alamieyeseigha are enough grounds for his impeachment. What qualifies him for immediate removal and trial is the allegation that the governor embezzled huge sums of money meant for the provision of schools, clinics, potable water and other welfare needs of Bayelsans. In order to demonstrate that the Bayelsa treasury is not a mere extension of Governor Alamieyeseigha's private pocket, the impeachment proceedings must be carried to a logical conclusion.
But more importantly, Alamieyeseigha has desecrated his high office by jumping bail. The governor disgraced his office and ridiculed his people by acting as a common criminal when he abandoned his original travel papers with British authorities, forged new ones, and disguised as a woman in a desperate bid to run away from justice. The people of Bayelsa should, therefore, reject the ignominy of having a fugitive as governor.
The job of bringing Alamieyeseigha to justice lies squarely on the state House of Assembly. As Bayelsa people's representatives, the legislators must have taken note of the governor's desperation to use the immunity clause to shield himself from prosecution. The legislature must not be seen to be acquiescing in the abuse of immunity as a cover for raping the treasury.
It must not shirk its responsibilities to the impoverished state, most of whose virile youths are jobless, with no basic infrastructure and other necessities of life, despite the about N10 billion monthly allocation to Bayelsa over the years. The lawmakers must discharge themselves with integrity and shun all entreaties to betray their people. Alamieyeseigha must be promptly removed and brought to justice in order to show that Nigeria is not a haven for thieves, where the people have no respect for the rule of law and due process.
EFCC vows to get Alams, Dariye, Nyame
By Rotimi Ajayi
Wednesday, November 30, 2005
ABUJA— CHAIRMAN of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, Mallam Nuhu Ribadu, has vowed to go after the governors of Plateau, Taraba and Bayelsa States and speedily bring them to justice in respect of investigations of financial crimes and corruption against them.
Mallam Ribadu speaking in Abuja said the commission had no regrets over its involvement to get the Bayelsa State governor impeached. Jumping bail by the governor, he said, had shown that there was the need to ensure that the governors were made to face justice one way or the other within the ambit of the constitution provisions.
“Never again wherever you are, whether in the local government or state government, that you will be insulated from the war against corruption that is being waged by this government,” he told Vanguard in Abuja.
“We are bringing people to justice. What is going on, for example in the case of Bayelsa State, Taraba State, Plateau State and a couple of other states, we are going to bring them to justice. The same thing with local governments. We are also investigating them. We have already started charging serving local government chairmen and the entire management leadership of the local government to court for justice.
“Today, EFCC is investigating about 18 states in Nigeria. We are investigating over 50 local governments. The message is gradually getting down. We now see that never again wherever you are, you will not be insulated from the war against corruption.”
Speaking on Governor Joshua Dariye of Plateau State and his Bayelsa State counterpart, who jumped bail in cases of money laundering in London, the EFCC Chairman described the situation as very painful.
According to him, it was painful that in spite of the established charges of money laundering against the two governors they were still being protected in Nigeria.