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Friday, December 09, 2005

BBC NEWS | Africa | Nigeria arrests runaway governor

BBC NEWS | Africa | Nigeria arrests runaway governor Nigeria arrests runaway governor
A Nigerian state governor who was charged with money laundering in the UK has been impeached and arrested in his oil-rich home state of Bayelsa.

Diepreye Alamieyeseigha was detained by police after losing the immunity from prosecution that he enjoyed in office.

He has always said he is innocent of charges that he laundered £1.8m ($3.2m) found in cash and bank accounts.

As Nigeria battles to shed a reputation for corruption, this is the first time a governor has been impeached.

The BBC's Abdullahi Kaura Abubakar in the state capital, Yenagoa, says there is a heavy security presence on the streets of the city.

Everyone wants him
EFCC's Osita Nwajah

Bayelsa State police commissioner, Hafiz Abubakar Ringim, said he personally took Mr Alamieyeseigha into custody and met no resistance.

"He doesn't appear very concerned to me," he told the BBC's Focus on Africa programme.

The governor is now being transferred to the capital, Abuja, our correspondent says.

On the run

"The cover of immunity has been taken away from him by the impeachment. We are going to move in immediately... The man has several cases against him. Everyone wants him," Osita Nwajah, spokesman for Nigeria's Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) told AFP.

I think we need to commend the courage of the State House Assembly of Bayelsa for restoring the honour of the Nigerian people
Femi Fani-Kayode
Presidential spokesman

Seventeen out of the state assembly's 24 members voted in favour of impeachment after considering the report of a panel that has been investigating the governor.

Before the vote, the speaker said the governor had not responded in anyway to the notice of his impeachment made more than two weeks ago.

Mr Alamieyeseigha is facing allegations of fraud by a special anti-corruption court sitting in the northern city of Kaduna.

He is also on the run from the UK authorities after he jumped bail last month in London, where he has been charged with money laundering.

Nigerian officials said Mr Alamieyeseigha left Britain disguised in women's clothing, although he has denied this.

Mr Alamieyeseigha has told the BBC that the $3.2m found in London does not belong to him.

Crackdown

He said the charges against him were politically motivated.

This move is an achievement for President Olusegun Obasanjo's anti-corruption crusade.

"I think we need to commend the courage of the State House Assembly of Bayelsa State for doing the right thing and restoring the honour of the Nigerian people," presidential spokesman Femi Fani-Kayode told Focus on Africa.

The president set up the EFCC anti-corruption body in order to fight fraud in a country ranked as one of the most corrupt in the world.

But his critics say the anti-corruption drive is bring used to eliminate political rivals.

Mr Alamieyeseigha is seen as being close to Vice-President Atiku Abubakar - who is vying with Mr Obasanjo for control of the ruling People's Democratic Party (PDP).

Last week, the governor was suspended from the PDP.

Story from BBC NEWS:

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