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Socialist Democracy Nov - Dec 2005



Nigeria, Now A Banana republic Governed By Crooks

By Bosah Chinedu, Publicity Secretary,

Ajeromi-Ifelodun Community Movement (AICOM)

Since the inception of this civil rule in 1999, it has always been mega corruption unlimited notwithstanding the grandstanding of the Obasanjo regime to fighting the social vice that has eaten deep into the moral fibre of the society. The essence of governance in this country is stealing of public fund with impunity. So it will be mere hypocrisy for any one to be amazed by the dramatic escape from London of the Bayelsa State governor, DSP Alamieyeseigha, and the similar ridiculous six months jail term offered Tafa Balogun, the erstwhile Inspector General of Police, who stood a mock trial for multiple stealing of public fund running into several billions of Naira. Meanwhile, Mr. Jamgbadi from Zamfara State had his right hand amputated few years back fro being convicted for a cow theft!

Alamieyeseigha was arrested at Heathrow Airport in London on September 15, 2005 by the Metropolitan Police and was subsequently charged for allegedly laundering one million pounds found in his London home, while $470,000 and $420,000 were found in his two different accounts in London besides $10 million worth of asset. He was first detained in Brixton prison and later released on bail with his travelling passport seized, restriction on his movement and placed on surveillance.

Before the trial proper commenced, the governor jumped bail, allegedly disguised as a woman and escaped to Nigeria into a rousing welcome by his loyalists and hangers on. In an attempt to launder the image of the PDP controlled government in the state and at the federal level, efforts are being made by the state legislature to make the Alamieyeseigha saga looks like an isolated case of looting and score a cheap political point by commencing an impeachment proceeding against him as if the institutional looting of treasury only started with the governor. Nobody is deceived. It is an open knowledge that this present civil rule endorses corruption as statecraft.

Apart from the case of illegal transfer of more than a million pound against him in London, Alamieyeseigha is also being accused by the Bayelsa legislature, albeit belatedly, of owning a multi million US dollar refinery in Ecuador, purchasing two properties in London at 2.79 million pounds, buying three properties in Ikoyi and Allen Avenue, Ikeja at N850 million. He was also accused of laundering state funds through six companies, acquisition of N1 billion shares in Bond Bank and acquiring Chelsea Hotels, Abuja, at N1.5 billion. The natural question to ask is, how is it possible, for an individual to steal such huge resources from a poorly developed state like Bayelsa without the connivance of the legislature and the PDP?

Against all these charges, the governor, like his equally corrupt colleagues and the President enjoys immunity from criminal prosecution. But he can only be investigated and impeached. But can the corrupt members of the state house of assembly have the political courage to impeach their own god father who has been playing up Ijaw ethnic nationalism and resource control trump card as reason for his claimed political victimization?. The balance of political forces between Alamieyeseigha and Aso-Rock will determine the course of events in Bayelsa in the coming period.

Although, the Nigerian federal government has been claiming to be fighting crime through EFCC and other agencies, it has been largely selective as only perceived enemies of President Obasanjo have been the targets.. A pertinent question to ask is: how did the money get to the British banks? The fact is that the European and American banks have, at different times, played hosts to looted money from Nigeria, Africa and other third world countries. We also saw how the British imperialism protected Umaru Dikko, the then Minister of Transport under Shagari regime from being tried for alleged siphoning of our money to London. Up to this moment, the banks that collaborated in the crime are yet to be questioned.

Tafa Balogun's symbolic six months jail term has been described as a victory for anti graft war by the EFCC, and with brazen confidence, Tafa has promised to bounce back. No doubt, his prediction to bounce back to national political reckoning will definitely come to pass. He has examples of other public thieves that are now enjoying their loots and calling shots politically and economically. Remember General Jerry Useni of the notorious Abacha looting regime, Senators Enwenrem, Anyim, Chris Uba, Wabara, all former senate presidents and Tony Anenih. What about Salisu Buhari and Governor Bola Tinubu, both of certificate scandal? While Tinubu is still presiding over Lagos with allegedly forged certificate, Salisu now serves on a federal education board. The list is inexhaustible.

Tafa stole over N17billion and he pleaded guilty in an orchestrated court trial and bagged a mere six month's jail term in the same country where a common thief is convicted for seven years for stealing fowl or cigarettes shows the class bias of the judicial system. It is a case of the higher you steal, the higher the freedom and the higher the national prestige.

For the EFCC to describe the symbolic jail term for Tafa as victory for anti graft war shows the intensity of the war against corruption by Obasanjo regime. It is a farce that cannot go beyond mere rhetoric and selective symbolism.

If the governor is eventually impeached and stripped of his constitutional immunity, he can be extradited on request back to London for trial. This is a remote possibility. Another publicity glitz would have been made for Obasanjos phoney anti graft campaign. Another possibility is for the governor to continue enjoying his loot with executive immunity, intimidate and bribe all opposition to submission while assuring imperialism of the safety of its oil investment in Bayelsa and Niger Delta. Either way, the poor masses of the state are the ultimate losers. Huge state resources will be deployed to execute the pro and anti-Alamieyeseigha campaign.

The absence of a clear cut working class alternative in Bayelsa and nationally has further worsened the crisis in the state and it is capable of dividing the people along two enemies of the poor people that can never guarantee any good for the poor masses of Bayelsa State.

Again, this brings us to another contentious issue of "Constitutional Immunity and Diplomatic Immunity". There is a school of thought that believes that Alamieyesiegha should not be tried in London for money laundering since he is a sitting governor. The President, his Vice, the Governors and their Deputies are covered by diplomatic immunity here in Nigeria which should be extended outside Nigeria being a sovereign state. There is other school of thought that argues that Alamieyesiegha is not a sitting president and to that extent, he is not entitled to diplomatic immunity but only constitutional immunity by virtue of Section 308 of 1999 Constitution. To that extent, he should stand trial in London because if he is allowed to come to Nigeria, he can never be tried.

For us in DSM, supporting constitutional immunity or diplomatic immunity for corrupt leaders is just creating safe heaven for corrupt leaders not just in Nigeria but globally. These so- called leaders will stop at nothing to creating more misery for the working people through stealing of the collective wealth of the people. The argument in favour of immunity is that it will enable leaders to be focused and undistracted from their work during their tenure since they will not be answerable to any crime committed while in office. Meanwhile, this rule or undue privilege is not extended to an average Nigerian who is subjected to trial and jailed for petty crime while the self-serving corrupt leaders not just in Nigeria but globally are protected from various crimes committed.

To that extent, we do not support any privileges, exceptions and inequalities for the ruling class at the expense of the poor working people. We therefore demand that immunity, be it constitutional or diplomatic be expunged from our constitution and from international laws. We also demand that Alamieyesiegha should be made to stand trial immediately for all alleged crimes and the trial should be free and fair. In addition, all those who are accomplice to the money laundering crime such as the banks in Nigeria and the ones in London should also be made to stand trial. But we are not deceived. As long as this system holds sway, corruption in high places will continue. Only an overhaul of this system and its replacement with socialist system where the commanding height of the economy and resources of nature are collectively owned under a democratic planning and control of the working people can corruption be seriously checked.

The Nigeria Labour Congress in the state, in concert with other genuine mass organisations, should mobilize the people on the demand for the resignation of the government, including the legislature because the two arms have been in unison since 1999 in the open robbery of the state treasury and blatant rape of democracy. The governor is just a symbol of that brigandage in the state. A new democratic election should be demanded to move the state forward with labour putting in place a political alternative platform to contend against the pro-capitalist parties like PDP, APGA ANPP, AD, etc.



Socialist Democracy Nov - Dec 2005