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Nigerian group warns Britain on arrest
(Saturday, September 17, 2005)
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A governor in one of Nigeria's oil-rich states has been arrested in London by British police in connection with an investigation of alleged money laundering, Nigeria's anti-fraud agency said Friday. Governor Diepreye Alamieyeseigha of the southern Bayelsa State, self-styled "Governor-general of the Ijaw Nation," was arrested Thursday afternoon at the Heathrow Airport. The arrest angered the Ijaws at home, who threatened Friday to attack British citizens and its investment including oil facilities for his release. "The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) has been informed of the arrest and questioning of Diepreye Alamieyeseigha by the Metropolitan Police, London," said EFCC spokesman Osita Nwajah in a statement. "The arrest was in connection with an investigation of allegations of money laundering being carried out by the Metropolitan Police," he added.
Calls to Alamieyeseigha's spokesman Preye Wariowei and his Information Commissioner Oronto Douglas were not answered. But Wariowei told Friday's The Punch newspaper that the arrest was "the handiwork of rumormongers aimed at tarnishing the image of the governor ahead of 2007 (general elections)." Alamieyeseigha's arrest may be connected to the transfer of the money believed to be between 10 million and 20 million pounds (18 million dollars and 36 million dollars) from an account with the HSBC, a prominent bank in London, Nigerian press reported. British police also seized some one million pounds and property valued at about 2 million pounds (3.6 dollars) during a search of the governor's house in London following the arrest. Some reports meanwhile quoted sources as saying that he may be detained by British police for some days for further interrogation.
Last week, Alamieyeseigha's three aides, including the finance commissioner, accountant-general and government house accountant, were detained and questioned by the EFCC in connection with alleged cases of diversion of public funds through purchases and awards of contracts. In a swift response, the Ijaw Youth Council (IYC), the largest Ijaw militant group, described the arrest as "a conspiracy" between the British authorities and Nigerian government and "part of a grand plan to destabilize the Ijaws." "We advise the British authorities and their collaborators in the federal government of Nigeria to immediately release our No. 1 citizen otherwise we cannot continue to guarantee the safety of their investment and citizens in our territories," IYC President Oyeinfie Jonjon said in a statement faxed to Xinhua. "The federal government in collusion with British authorities are set to deliberately provoke the people of the Niger Delta to violence so that they can invoke a state of emergency," the statement claimed. "We reject all such pretenses and we will resist all such evil plans of the politicians to take over the only Ijaw state in Nigeria ... the IYC is by the medium calling on the various youth groups and affiliate organizations to mobilize, be on full alert and await further notice," it warned.
Ijaw is the fifth largest ethnic group in Nigeria, the most populous country and the largest oil producer in Africa, while Bayelsa is one of eight states in Nigeria's Niger Delta where the vast majority of the country's oil is produced by such firms as British Petroleum and Royal Dutch Shell. The two firms also have hundreds of expatriate workers in the region. Kidnapping and armed attacks of expatriate oil workers as well as the shutdown of oil facilities are common there as local youthspress demand for cash, jobs and contracts.
Alamieyeseigha is the second Nigerian governor to be arrested in London over alleged money laundering in the past one year. Last year, Governor Joshua Dariye of the central Plateau state was also arrested in London but was then released on bail. Dariye returned to Nigeria where he enjoys immunity for prosecution as provided for in section 308 of the 1999 constitution, and has since refused to make himself available for further interrogation by British police.
Government officials in Nigeria, which is deemed as one of the most corrupt in the world, have accused many state governors and their officials of stealing public funds. Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo intensified its fight against corruption this year, which saw two ministers and his police chief sacked. But generally, the anti-graft drive has yielded little results so far. Last month, the FBI searched the US home of Nigerian Vice President Atiku Abubakar in connection with the alleged corruption investigation of US Congressman William Jefferson.
L-R Bayelsa First Lady Mrs Margaret Alamieyeseigha, Chief D.S.P. Alamieyeseigha, and Dr Steve Azaiki SSG Bayelsa State
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