By Jackson Ola
The news of the death of a former governor of Bayelsa State, Chief DSP Alamieyeseigha, broke in the afternoon of October 10, 2015.
Alamieyeseigha would have been 63 in a month’s time, specifically on November 14. In a country where life expectancy is less than 55 years, according to the most recent World Health statistics, one could still say that, at 63, the former governor would be counted lucky.
Even then, his sudden death has raised questions on whether Alamieyeseigha died a natural death or whether he was unduly hounded out of this world as a result of the actions or inactions of some powerful individuals or authorities.
Perhaps, a historical account will help us out. In 2005, some state governors were suspected to be working with then Vice President Atiku Abubakar against the re-election of President Obasanjo.
Consequently, the Nuhu Ribadu-led Economic and Financial Crimes Commission(EFCC) was viciously deployed to cage them. Pronto, charges of corruption were
trumped up against the governors and some of them were impeached under strange circumstances. Later the courts were to pronounce their innocence and annulled the impeachment, as a demonstration of the fact
that any action anchored on injustice would ultimately suffer a reversal. Many of the governors who were then dubiously removed from office like Senator Joshua Dariye, Senator
Chris Ngige, and Governor Ayodele Fayose are, today, occupying important positions in the nation.
In the case of Alamieyeseigha, Obasanjo laboured to do him in without success. He therefore used his contacts in the United Kingdom government to put him under watch. This resulted in Alamieseigha’s arrest in London on charges of money laundering. Expectedly, prosecuting Alamieyeseigha became a difficult task even for the UK authorities as they searched his home repeatedly only to realise less than 70, 000 pounds, for which they laboured to find a section of their law under which he was charged to court.
For some strange and inexplicable reasons, Alamieyeseigha jumped bail and returned to Nigeria. Still towing a vindictive path, Obasanjo obligated the helpless Bayelsa State House of Assembly to impeach him.
His phony reason was that since he jumped bail in the UK, he had become a fugitive unworthy of holding public office. Alamieyeseigha was subsequently arrested by Ribadu’s EFCC. Curiously, the British authorities did not request for the extradition of Alamieyeseigha to continue his trial throughout the period he was detained by the anti-corruption body. Eventually, he was prosecuted by the EFCC and, following a plea bargain, he was released.
The claim that former President Jonathan protected him is preposterous and a non-issue. The whole of 2006 up to mid 2007 that Alamieyeseigha was with the EFCC, Jonathan was still the governor of
Bayelsa State with no control of Federal Government agencies. Even when Jonathan came to Abuja, he was the Vice President from mid 2007 to 2010, thus could not have prevented the Federal Government agencies
from extraditing Alamieyeseigha if ever the United Kingdom wanted him.
It is curious that 10 years after, the UK authorities now wanted Alamieyeseigha extradited as claimed by Prof. Itse Sagay, SAN. I am not a lawyer and will not dwell on the merit of the law, but I know that, certainly, criminal offences are not statute barred. I don’t want any lawyer, including Itse Sagay, who is now heading a Presidential Committee on Anti-corruption, to teach me the laws of criminal justice. However, clearly ,there are social and ethical questions we need to address:
If Alamieyeseigha had a strong case of money laundering, why was it that the UK authorities never asked for his extradition when he returned to Nigeria, especially all that time that he was being detained by the EFCC?
If he did indeed jump bail as alleged, why was it that the UK authorities did not ask the EFCC to send him back to the UK to face the law?
If he actually smuggled himself out of detention in the UK as was purported, how come no UK official was either queried or punished for negligence and laxity? I am not aware that the UK authorities ever investigated the escape of such high profile detainee from prison!
Why would the UK suddenly develop interest in reopening Alamieyeseigha’s money laundering case for a figure not exceeding 70, 000 pounds, and demanding his extradition, ten years later? And that is coming after he had been duly jailed by a court of competent jurisdiction in Nigeria and subsequently obtained presidential pardon?
Not many knew that Alamieyeseigha was recently in Dubai for treatment when Sagay raised the issue of his likely extradition to the UK for trial. The former governor had to abandon his treatment and
hurriedly returned to Nigeria to face his plight. The narrative of this move and the attendant celebration in certain quarters back home in Nigeria, is a story for another day,
especially as the hunted has gone to the great beyond. The UK may not be interested in his corpse for obvious reasons, but the question is, who is really interested in Alamieyeseigha’s incarceration?
It is no longer in doubt that his romance in 2005 with Atiku became his original sin, as he himself revealed in a newspaper interview. It is therefore not strange that former President Obasanjo’s attack dogs went after him.
It is instructive that, lately, Alamieyeseigha had been in the news. During the declaration of a second term-seeking Governor Seriake Dickson, as the PDP aspirant for the Bayelsa governorship race, the former governor made statements that may have been considered provocative to some people. He also granted newspaper interviews where he spoke on issues that might not have gone down well with some powerful people.
While reacting to the news of his passage, Governor AyodeleFayose of Ekiti State accused the APC-led Federal Government of hounding Alamieyeseigha to his death, because of his strong support for the Peoples Democratic Party and its candidate in the Bayelsa forthcoming gubernatorial election.
He said: “Obviously, the Federal Government was behind the plot to extradite the Alamieyeseigha to the United Kingdom to face fresh trial, a situation that made him to abandon his medical treatment in
“Even though I am not against anti-corruption fight, it is painful that in the present day Nigeria, political vendetta is being allowed to override the sovereignty of the country…. Having been tried and convicted eight years ago, served his sentence and forfeited properties to the Bayelsa State Government; methinks Alamieyeseigha
should have been allowed to live his life without unnecessary political intimidation and harassment.”
Many pan-Ijaw groups have also toed this path by demanding explanation from the All Progressives Congress-led Federal Government over its fanatical disposition towards releasing to another country, a
citizen of Nigeria that had been tried, convicted and later pardoned in accordance with the laws of the country.
Could this really be the reason why UK authorities wanted him back to the UK to be caged, so that he would not pose a threat to those who want to win the Bayelsa gubernatorial election at all costs?
I have no evidence that these claims are true. But the foregoing is in deed a wake up call for the South-south, especially the Ijaw nation, whose people are still being treated as second class citizens.
They must never go to sleep as far as the question of self determination and national recognition is concerned. To the extent that the minorities in Nigeria, especially the South-south people, continue to suffer marginalization, humiliation and needless exposure to external mortification without protection, the Ijaws would continue to fight for their right to exist.
- * Ola, a public affairs commentator, contributed this piece from Yenagoa, Bayelsa State