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Bayelsa Gov risks 15 years jail, says Gani Fawehinmi

Posted by By EMMA EMEOZOR on 2005/09/30 | Views: 1064 |

Bayelsa Gov risks 15 years jail, says Gani Fawehinmi


At a time a London court has remanded embattled Governor of Bayelsa State, Chief Diepreye Alamieyeseigha in police cell over allegation of money laundering, Lagos lawyer and Senior Advocate of Nigeria, Chief Gani Fawehinmi says the governor risks a maximum imprisonment of 15 years if convicted.

At a time a London court has remanded embattled Governor of Bayelsa State, Chief Diepreye Alamieyeseigha in police cell over allegation of money laundering, Lagos lawyer and Senior Advocate of Nigeria, Chief Gani Fawehinmi says the governor risks a maximum imprisonment of 15 years if convicted.


In a statement made available to Daily Sun Thursday evening, Gani drew attention to the Criminal Justice Act, 1993 promulgated in UK to make money laundering a very serious crime.


"By this law, any governor, like Diepreye Alamieyeseigha who brings in money into the United Kingdom, which is a product of corrupt practices at home in Nigeria can be arrested, tried and convicted in the United Kingdom," Fawehinmi said.


On Wednesday, Alamieyeseigha was arraigned at the Bow Street Magistrate’s Court in London. He was slammed with three-count charge on money laundering totalling £1.8 million (N408.6 million). The governor pleaded not guilty, but was refused bail. He will remain in police custody until October 6 when the case is expected to come up for further hearing.


Gani said beside the Criminal Justice Act of 1993, there are other legislations on money laundering promulgated by the Parliament in England. These legislations, he said, "make it an offence for any bank or bank manager or bank official who fails to report to the British Police any lodgement in the bank account which is more than $10,000."


He said "in some cases, the failure to inform the police of lodgement above $10,000 carries a maximum imprisonment of 15 years."
The lawyer said that Alamieyeseigha’s situation was a precarious one, because, according to him, "the British are not joking with their anti-corruption war" unlike, "here at home that anti-corruption crusade of the Federal Government is half-hearted."


Perhaps to put to rest arguments that President Olusegun Obasanjo could influence the release of Alamieyeseigha through his friendship with British Prime Minister, Tony Blair, Fawehinmi stressed the degree of independence the British police exercise in the discharge of their duty. "In England, the police and other law enforcement agents are not subject to the control of the prime minister."
The lawyer dismissed the argument in some quarters that British police ought not to have arrested and detained the governor, saying: "The law creates offences which relate to the laundering of money which is the proceeds of criminal conduct other than drugs trafficking and terrorism. One of the implications of this Act is that you can be prosecuted in the United Kingdom for laundering the proceeds of criminal conduct even though the conduct all took place overseas."


On the question of immunity, Gani said Alamieyeseigha has no immunity in Britain.
"As far as international law is concerned, Governor Diepreye Alamieyeseigha has no immunity from arrest in any country outside Nigeria."
He said "under the United Kingdom Act stated above, Governor Diepreye Alamieyeseigha has no immunity and he can be arrested, criminally investigated, criminally tried and criminally convicted if he has criminally committed any offence."


Fawehinmi explained that under international law, only the head of a sovereign state enjoys immunity, stressing that by state, he meant "nation state and not a geographical or political division within a nation state, like Bayelsa State."


He also spoke on UK Immunity Act of 1978, saying the Act "is worthy of consideration in the Diepreye Alamieyeseigha debacle. Under the Act, no governor of Nigeria has immunity in the United Kingdom."
The lawyer explained that Section 14 of the Act "which is the heart of the legislation, applies to any foreign or Commonwealth State other than the United Kingdom."


Quoting relevant sub-sections of Section 14 (1) of the Act, Fawehinmi said, it applies to only sovereign or other head of that state in his public capacity, (b) the government of that state and (c) any department of that government, but not to any entity (hereafter referred to as a "separate entity") which is distinct from the executive organs of the government of the state and capable of suing or being sued."
According to the legal luminary, "the customary international law recognises nation state and not a geographical or political division within a nation state as deserving immunity for the head of that nation state.


"None of the 36 governors enjoys any immunity under the customary international law. Consequently, Governor Diepreye Alamieyeseigha does not enjoy any immunity outside Nigeria," he said.
Throwing more light on the immunity clause in the constitution of Nigeria vis-à-vis international law, Gani said, "Section 308 of the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 has no extra-territorial application and therefore the immunity therein is not enjoyed outside Nigeria by the governor."
Fawehinmi further explained that even the immunity international law confers on the head of a sovereign state is subject to certain exceptions.


The most notable of the exceptions include, "where the head of state engages himself in drug trafficking," as was "the case of General Manuel Noriega, the head of state of Panama Republic."
The second most notable exception, according to the lawyer, is "where the head of state has committed war crimes." Citing the example of ex-Yugoslavia president, Slobodan Milosevic who later became the president of Serbia in 1989, Gani said "Milosevic was indicted on May 27, 1999 while in office as a serving president of Serbia for war crimes and crimes against humanity committed during Kosovo war, genocide in Bosnia and war crimes in Croatia.


"Milosevic was arrested on April 1, 2001 on charges of abuse of power and corruption. On June 28, 2001, Milosevic was handed over to the United Nations International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia where he is currently standing trial."


Fawehinmi believes international law and convention, as well as British legislation on corruption have made irrelevant Section 308 of the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. "What is the essence of keeping in our constitution Section 308, which gives immunity within Nigeria to the President, Vice President, governor and deputy governor from criminal prosecution when such immunity is useless abroad," he asked.

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Fay(Katy, Texas, US)says...

Actually translates to bravehearted.