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Alamieyeseigha Appeals London Court Ruling

Posted by By Yusuph Olaniyonu, Moses Jolayemi and Abimbola Akosile on 2005/10/02 | Views: 332 |

Alamieyeseigha Appeals London Court Ruling


Bayelsa State Governor Diepreye Alamieyesei-gha will today at a Crown Court in London challenge the decion of a lower court, the Bow Street Magistrate Court which refused him bail and ordered that he be remanded in prison.

...Takes case to Crown Court • Gani: Gov has no immunity abroad


Bayelsa State Governor Diepreye Alamieyesei-gha will today at a Crown Court in London challenge the decion of a lower court, the Bow Street Magistrate Court which refused him bail and ordered that he be remanded in prison.

But yesterday, civil rights activist Chief Gani Fawehinmi (SAN) said the embattled governor has no immunity outside the country and therefore can be arrested, investigated, tried and convicted.

Though Alamieyeseigha's lead counsel, Professor Fidelis Odittah, a Queens Counsel and Senior Advocate, refused to confirm that his chambers will today argue the appeal when THISDAY contacted him on phone, family sources close to the governor confirmed that the appeal will be heard today.

The source noted that Odittah's chamber was busy yesterday trying to get the case listed for hearing today at the Crown Court in Southwalk.

According to the source "we cannot allow the governor to be languishing in prison when he has not been found guilty. The lawyers have been instructed to challenge that ruling and we have been told they will argue the case tomorrow."

It is believed that Odittah and his team will anchor their arguments today on Alamieyesei-gha’s health, his position as a governor which they believe should confer immunity on him and his past record.

These same grounds had been canvassed on Wednesday when the Crown Prosecution Service arraigned the governor on a three-count charge of money laundering.

But London Metropolitan Police yesterday however refused to confirm the appeal in court by Alamieyeseigha's counsel. It said it would not make an hypothetical statement on the issue it was not aware of. Responding to THISDAY's enquiry yesterday a spokesperson of the Metropolitan Police said.

"We are not going to make an hypothetical statement on an issue we are not aware of."

What is of concern to the police, the spokesperson said, is to ensure that the embattled governor is brought to court on October 6 when he is due to reappear for the continuation of the trial.

"It is not for us to confirm whether or not his counsel is filing an appeal in court. That is not for us to confirm. You'll need to check that with the court. All we know is that he appeared yesterday (Wednesday) and will appear again on the 6th of October."

In Lagos, however, Fawehinmi said Alamieyeseigha cannot plead immunity abroad as he is not covered by one. Citing different statutes and international conventions Fawehinmi said only the head of the nation state - President Olusegun Obasanjo - is covered by immunity in other countries.

"In Nigeria, the Head of the Nation State of Nigeria is General Olusegun Obasanjo. By the political divisions in Nigeria there are 36 geographical states with 36 Governors but none of them is the Head of the Nation State of Nigeria. None of the 36 Governors enjoys any immunity under the Customary International Law. Consequently, Governor Diepreye Alamieyeseigha does not enjoy any immunity outside Nigeria.

"The only immunity a Governor of any of the 36 States enjoys within the territorial jurisdiction of Nigeria is that provided in Section 308 of 1999 Constitution. Section 308 has no extra-territorial application and therefore the immunity therein is not enjoyed outside Nigeria by any Governor," Fawehinmi said.

Quoting the United Kingdom State Immunity Act of 1978 and the Criminal Justice Act, 1993, he added, "the Criminal Justice Act, 1993 was promulgated in the UK to make money laundering a very serious criminal offence. By this law, any Governor, like Diepreye Alamieyeseigha who brings in money into the UK which is a product of corrupt practices at home in Nigeria can be arrested, tried, and convicted in the UK".

"Although the Head of State of a country enjoys immunity outside his country under international law, this immunity is however subject to certain exceptions, notably engaging in drug trafficking and committing war crimes (e.g. Manuel Noriega, former head of Panama Republic, who is serving a 40-year imprisonment in USA for drug trafficking and money laundering offences; and Slobodan Milosevic, former President of Yugoslavia, who was indicted for war crimes on May 27, 1999, and is currently standing trial before the United Nations International Criminal Tribunal).

"There are other legislations promulgated by the Parliament in England, which make it an offence for any bank or bank manager or official who fails to report to the British Police any lodgment in the bank account which is more than $10,000 and in some cases, the failure carries a maximum imprisonment of 15 years. Let Nigerians understand that the British are not joking with their anti-corruption war.

On Vienna Conventions, Fawehinmi argued, "it is preposterous and smacks of gross intellectual deception and fraud for any one to argue that a Governor in Nigeria has immunity under the Vienna Conventions. The Convention which was signed at Vienna (Austria) on April 18, 1961 and entered into force on April 24, 1964, has 53 Articles.

Article 1 (definition section) limits application of the Convention to the diplomatic mission and allied matters. The definition does not however apply to persons who are non-diplomat".

"Whether under the 1961 or 1963 Vienna Convention, there is nothing in the two Conventions that give immunity to a governor being the head of political division within a country like Nigeria. After all, he is not the Head of a Sovereign State in international law. He is not a member of a diplomatic mission abroad, and not a member of our consular missions anywhere in the world. As far as international law is concerned, Governor Diepreye Alamieyeseigha has no immunity from arrest in any country outside Nigeria. Under the UK Acts stated above, he has no immunity and he can be arrested, investigated, tried, and convicted if he has criminally committed any offence", Fawehinmi said.

Alamieseigha was on September 15 arrested by officers from the Specialist and Economic Crime Unit of the London Metropolitan Police at London Heathrow on his way from Germany where he had gone for surgery. From the airport where he was arrested, he was led to his London home in Water Gardens W2 for a search which reportedly yielded the discovery of £1 million cash.

He was released on bail, confirmed to a specific address and his travelling papers impounded.

When Redbridge Magistrate Court voided the bail conditions Tuesday Alamieyeseigha was re-arrested and a fresh £100,000 found in his London residence.

He was thereafter arraigned on a three-count charge of money laundering totalling £1.8 million Wednesday.

The presiding magistrate agreed with the prosecutor that Alamieyeseigha would not return to London if released on bail and consequently remanded him in prison.

In opposing bail the prosecutor had quoted the governor as saying “what is £10,000” during the second search of his residence.

He had said with that attitude, there is the likelihood that the Bayelsa governor would jump bail.


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

Actually translates to bravehearted.