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Alamieyeseigha: I Should Enjoy Immunity

Posted by By Yusuph Olaniyonu on 2005/11/18 | Views: 894 |

Alamieyeseigha: I Should Enjoy Immunity

A London Royal Court of Justice will next Friday decide on the question of whether Bayelsa State Governor, Diepreye Alamieyeseigha enjoys sovereign immunity under the international law by virtue of his position as governor of a state of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.

* London court to rule on fresh application next Friday

A London Royal Court of Justice will next Friday decide on the question of whether Bayelsa State Governor, Diepreye Alamieyeseigha enjoys sovereign immunity under the international law by virtue of his position as governor of a state of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.

If the court decides in favour of Alamieyeseigha, then the bottom of the three count charge of money laundering levelled against him by the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) would have been knocked off.

Alamieyeseigha through his counsel, Allon Jones, a Queens Counsel had yesterday filed an application before Mr. Justice Collins and Mr. Justice Silber, the two judges in the court based in Strand, that Bayelsa State is an autonomous constituent of the Nigeria federal state, and for that reason he is entitled to sovereign immunity.

Jones had yesterday submitted that the federal nature of Nigeria means that the central government derives its sovereignty from the aggregation of the 36 states. He argued further that governors and the President of the country enjoy sovereign immunity which must be respected by other sovereign states in the international community as no sovereign can stand trial in the court of another sovereign.

The Crown Prosecution Service, however, opposed the submission of Jones as they argued that the sovereignty in Nigeria resides only in the President of the Federal Republic.

The CPS represented by Mr. Mark Ludcraft, who had been handling the Alamieyeseigha case since September 27 when the governor sought the dismissal of police bail conditions given to him at the Redbridge Magistrate Court, also supported his case with submissions by the British Foreign and Commonwealth office.

He also added the submission of the attorney-general of the Federation, Mr. Bayo Ojo, that section 308 of the Nigerian Constitution only guarantees the immunity of a governor from prosecution within the shores of Nigeria. The CPS, THISDAY gathered, also referred the court to the stare decisis represented by a Straford Magistrate Court ruling in October that Plateau State Governor Joshua Dariye has no immunity in the United Kingdom.

The judges however reserved their ruling till next week.
If Alamieyeseigha gets favourable ruling on the issue, the Bow Street Magistrate Court which had assumed jurisdiction on the matter would have to discontinue the trial as a person who enjoys sovereign immunity cannot be tried in the court of another sovereign state.

The Southwark Crown Court which also last month granted bail to the Bayelsa State Governor and order the seizure of his travel documents would have to lift the order. But if the governor loses in his application, he will have the option of pursuing the sovereign immunity plea in a higher court up to the House of Lords while the pending trial will continue.

Alamieyeseigha was arrested at the Heathrow Airport in London on September 15 on his way back from Germany where he had gone for cosmetic surgery. In a search of his London home by detectives from the Scotland Yard, about 1 million cash was found. Also, 420,000 and 470,000 were found in different bank accounts belonging to him.

The funds have since been confiscated while assets worth 10 million belonging to the governor have been frozen. He was granted conditional bail by the police which seized his travel documents. But his lawyers challenged the police decision at the Redbridge Magistrate Court on September 27 and got a declaration that the police bail conditions were null and void.

But the CPS on September 28 formally arraigned him at the Bow Street Magistrate Court on a three-count charge of money laundering. The court ordered that he be remanded in prison.

His lawyers filed a bail application at a higher court, the Southwark Crown Court which began hearing the case on October 4. He was formally granted bail October 11 with six conditions.

The conditions as stated by Justice Rivlin, a Queens Counsel included:
Residence- The defendant must live and sleep each night at an address known to the court.
Daily Reporting- The defendant must report daily to a police station known to the court .
Securities- Securities must be lodged with the court to a total sum of 500,000
Sureties- There must be three sureties of 250,000
Not to leave the jurisdiction nor apply for any travel documents.
Not to go within three miles of any port or airport.
Alamieyeseigha, through his new firm of solicitors Corker Binning, has earlier in the month made an application to the Southwark Crown Court for the release of his travel documents to enable him return home.

The application was said to have been based on an affidavit deposed to by Attorney General of Bayelsa State, Mr. Talford Onglo, in which he vouched for the governor's integrity, stating his readiness to return to London each time the trial is going on or when he is needed by either the court or the police.
The application was dismissed by Justice Rivlin after it was opposed by the Attorney-General of the Federation, Ojo. Rivlin then sustained the provision he had earlier included in the bail conditions that Alamieyeseigha could make an application for the variation of the clause concerning his residence and travel documents.

Since his arrest in September, Alamieyeseigha had been represented by the trio of Professor Fidelis Oditah, Queen's Counsel, Demola Aderemi, both barristers and Tayo Arowojolu, a solicitor, all of whom are Nigerians. The legal team was, however, changed after Alamieyeseigha's release from Her Majesty Prison in Brixton following the bail granted him by the Southwark Crown Court.

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