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Bayelsa: I Won't Take Over – Dep Gov

Posted by From Yusuph Olaniyonu in London, Josephine Lohor in Abuja and John Iwori in Yenagoa on 2005/10/12 | Views: 1044 |

Bayelsa: I Won't Take Over – Dep Gov

The Deputy Governor of Bayelsa State, Dr. Goodluck Jonathan yesterday dispelled speculations that he was planning to take over the reins of government in the absence of Governor Diepreye Alamieye-seigha who is currently facing trial in London on charges of money laundering.

* As Alamieyeseigha Gets Bail...
* EFCC quizzes 12 commissioners

The Deputy Governor of Bayelsa State, Dr. Goodluck Jonathan yesterday dispelled speculations that he was planning to take over the reins of government in the absence of Governor Diepreye Alamieye-seigha who is currently facing trial in London on charges of money laundering.
Jonathan made the declaration as Alamieyeseigha was yesterday granted bail by the London Southwark Crown Court.

But the hope of relatives, friends and supporters of the embattled governor that he would be released from the Brixton Prison to return to his London home following yesterday's bail was dashed as his lawyers could not get the bank to release the £500,000 needed for the bail securities either in cash or in bank draft.

However, the deputy governor who was at the State House to see President Olusegun Obasanjo in the company of some elders from the state, said no amount of pressure on him to take over the reins of leadership in the state would work as there are laid-down procedures in the constitution regarding such matters.

Yesterday's visit to the Presidency was the second by the Bayelsa State elders since Alamieyeseigha's arrest on September 15 in London on his way back from Germany.

While disclosing that the meeting with the President had to be rescheduled because the President had a pressing engagement, Jonathan said that he has been in constant touch with the Governor, just as the administration of Government has continued unhindered.

Answering questions from State House Correspondents on his way out from the State House, the following ensued:
Question: What is the outcome of your meeting?
Answer: The president has some urgent assignment. We have to come back again.
How has governance been like since the absence of the Governor?
Government is functioning normally. The Constitution makes provisions for a deputy Governor or Vice President in this kind of situation where the governor or vice president may not be on ground. Remember, somebody once said that Deputy Governors are spare tyres. So, when the main man is not there, Government is functioning. The Commissioners are there too. No problems.
How would you react to speculations that pressure is mounting on you to take charge and replace the Governor?

Do you just hear rumour like market women? These are based on law and the Constitution. Everything is set out. So, there is nothing like somebody scrambling to take over something. No, it does not exist.
Are you in touch with His Excellency?
Yes. This is obvious. You do not need to ask this kind of question.
However, Justice Rivlin who once again sat in chambers in Court room 4 granted the bail on six conditions. According to separate statements issued by the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) and Mr Tayo Arowojolu, the consulting solicitor to the governor, the bail conditions to be fulfilled by Alamieyeseigha are:
• 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.

Since conditions number three and four are the ones which ought to be immediately satisfied for the governor to be released from Her Majesty Prison in Brixton, London, THISDAY gathered that the inability of Alamieyeseigha's lawyers and friends to get the bank to release the $500,000 in cash or draft to be paid to the Bow Street Magistrate Court where he is being tried for money laundering offences prevented his release yesterday.

Yesterday, at the Southwark Crown Court on English Grounds, Off Battlebridge Lane, many of the friends, relatives and supporters of the governor turned up with the high hopesthat he would be released.

When the judge began sitting at about 2pm and a few people peeped into the court room and saw the governor present , the relatives were very enthusiastic.

Then at about 2.30pm, the sureties were called in by the court clerk and Asrowojolu. Five of them went into the court room including millionaire businessman, Terry Waya and son of the governor's personal lawyer in Nigeria, Terry Okpoko, two other ladies and an elderly man. A senior consular officer from the Nigerian High Commission who was always present at the hearing was also allowed into the court room.

The sureties later came out beaming with smiles.There was ahappiness on the faces of many of the relatives. People were exchanging congratulations.At 3.24, the court officially closed the hearing of the application and according to the form returned to the listing office by the court clerk,the application was "granted".

Then the people moved to the ground floor and started waiting. One of the governor's relatives who had brought a set of clothes for him to change into mounted sentry at the entrance to the custody section of the court.

It was about 4pm that Arowojolu and Damola Aderemi, the barrister who stood in for Fidelis Oditah, the lead counsel, started leaving the court premises that they announced that it was already late for the bank to provide the securities required by the court. At that point, hope had turned to anxiety and later, disappointment for Alamieyeseigha's supporters.

Arowojolu in the statement on the bail condition stated that the counsel are at liberty to apply for Alamieyeseigha's travel documents to be returned to him. When asked to comment on the state of health of his client, the solicitor said the governor was "okay and fine".

Alamieyeseigha has been remanded in prison since September 28 when the CPS formally arraigned him at the Bow Street Magistrate Court. His lawyers filed the bail application at the higher court which began hearing on it on October 4.

Meanwhile, about 21 members of the Bayelsa State executive council were yesterday interrogated by a crack team of officials from the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) who stormed the state capital, Yenagoa a few days ago.

Members of the state executive council including two female commissioners were at 9am yesterday summoned to the office of the Secretary to the State Government, Dr. Steve Azaiki who ensured that they were ready for the EFCC officials.

Impeccable sources said the resolve of the commission to quiz the commissioners in Yenagoa instead of their own offices was to enable them finish with the 23 members of the state House of Assembly who were being interrogated in batches at the Lagos office of the EFCC at the weekend.
While the lawmakers were asked to explain their roles in the N100 million doled out to them as constituency projects, no reason was given for the interrogation of the state executive council members.

However, THISDAY checks revealed that the investigation of the commissioners may not be unconnected with the arrest and subsequent arraignment of Governor Diepreye Alamieyeseigha for money laundry by the British Government authorities, as well as prepare ground for the arrival of investigators from the specialist Directorate of the New Scotland Yard later this month.

The aim of the EFCC top officials, it was also learnt, was to find out whether the commissioners have a hand in the various multi-million naira contracts awarded in their respective ministries and parastatals.

It was gathered that most of the commissioners who were hitherto going about in town with exotic cars, especially jeeps have abandoned them for less posh cars to avoid the prying eyes of the EFCC investigators who have visited the state thrice in the last two weeks.

When THISDAY visited the secretariat complex, Yenagoa most of the commissioners were seen waiting for their turn to be interrogated by EFCC officials, just as their aides were hanging around.

A commissioner who pleaded anonymity told THISDAY yesterday that she got hint of the visit through the office of the secretary to the State Government, even as she added: "I’m fully prepared to face them this morning because I have nothing to hide. I’m even going with my jeep because its source is not hidden to the authorities".

However, elders and chiefs in the state have thrown their weight behind him, even as they gave a pass mark to the State Deputy Governor, Dr. Goodluck Jonathan.

In a communiqué issued at the end of a special meeting held in the conference room of Creek Motel, Yenagoa, the elders and chiefs under the aegis of Bayelsa Elders Consultative Council said they presume the governor innocent until proven contrary by a court of law.

The two-page communiqué said "all Bayelsans and indeed the whole Ijaw nation stand in solidarity with him, at this very trying moment of his administration".

According to the council which is made up of traditional rulers, leaders of thought, honourable ministers and ambassadors, serving and retired men and women in the various professions, "we want all Bayelsans to avoid inflammatory statements and shun violence, sustain peace and maintain law and order in solidarity with the governor and his deputy, Dr. Goodluck Jonathan, as all available diplomatic initiatives are being channelled via the presidency to secure an early return of the governor to the state".

The communiqué which was signed by the council's secretary, Elder Zee Debekeme also lauded the state deputy governor Dr. Goodluck Jonathan for the progressive manner the delicate situation was handled".

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