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Fugitive governor to face UK money laundering charges

Country Map - Nigeria (Bayelsa State)
Former Bayelsa state governor Diepreye Alamieyeseigha was charged with money laundering in London last year. (IRIN)

President Olusegun Obasanjo said Nigeria will comply with the UK authorities and hand over a prominent state governor charged with money laundering who evaded British police disguised as a woman.

“As a member of Interpol…Nigeria will take the appropriate action as required by the British authorities on this matter,” Obasanjo said on Saturday.

Nigerian police arrested the governor of oil-rich Bayelsa State, Diepreye Alamieyeseigha, at his office on Friday after state legislators voted by a two-thirds majority to oust him for corruption and abuse of position.

Alamieyeseigha’s impeachment effectively ended his immunity from prosecution as a state governor and cleared the way for the armed Nigerian officers who had surrounded his offices to make an arrest.

British Police originally arrested Alamieyeseigha at Heathrow Airport in September while en route to Nigeria from Germany and charged him with laundering 1.8 million British pounds (over US $3 million) found in his London home.

But Alamieyeseigha skipped bail and, donning a dress and wig, used a false passport to board a plane back to Nigeria.

Supporters cheered when he reappeared in Bayelsa on the 21 November, thanking God for making his return possible.

Obasanjo encouraged Alamieyeseigha’s prosecution in Britain and threw out claims of diplomatic immunity as part of his personal war against corruption.

Nigeria has made some progress in fighting graft, according to Berlin-based watchdog Transparency International. Its 2005 corruption perceptions index showed Nigeria in 7th-to-bottom place worldwide against second-last in 2004.

Obasanjo commended the legislators for removing the governor in a speech at his ruling People’s Democratic Party (PDP) convention in the capital Abuja where Alamieyeseigha now remains in police custody.

Alamieyeseigha, who is a member of PDP, says he is innocent and has accused Obasanjo of engineering his arrest to punish him for supporting Vice President Atiku Abubakar in a political dispute rocking the party.

Alamieyeseigha is the second Nigerian state governor facing charges of money laundering in Britain. Plateau State governor Joshua Dariye was arrested last year and later granted bail that allowed him to travel to Nigeria. He subsequently failed to show up for appointments with the Metropolitan police.

This article was produced by IRIN News while it was part of the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. Please send queries on copyright or liability to the UN. For more information: https://shop.un.org/rights-permissions

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