Chief Dipreye Alamieyeisegha
The Federal Government on Friday told our News Correspondent SUNDAY PUNCH that it would not extradite a former governor of Bayelsa State, Diepreye Alamieyeseigha, to the United Kingdom to face money laundering charges.
While reacting to a statement by the British High Commissioner to Nigeria, Andrew Pocock, the FG accused the envoy of challenging the sovereignty of the country.
The President Goodluck Jonathan-led administration stated that it was not willing to extradite Alamieyeseigha because the British government did not go through ‘appropriate channels.’
An highly-placed government official who pleaded anonymity because he was not authorised to speak on the matter said, “The UK cannot dictate to us. The government is not willing to extradite the former governor because of what they (UK) are saying on the pages of newspapers.”
Also, SUNDAY PUNCH learnt that the UK request to extradite Alamieyeseigha predated President Goodluck Jonathan administration.
Pocock was reported on Thursday to have said Alamieyeseigha, who recently got state pardon for his criminal conviction in Nigeria, still has an outstanding case of money laundering to answer to in the UK.
He said the UK government would not give up until Alamieyeseigha was brought to justice.
According to the envoy, the UK had asked the Attorney-General and Minister of Justice for Alamieyeseigha’s extradition and was still awaiting his position on the issue when Jonathan announced the state pardon.
He had said, “The former governor skipped bail in the UK on a charge of money laundering and returned to Nigeria. So, he has an outstanding charge in the UK, which is there for him to answer.
“We have already discussed it and the Nigerian government knows our views. But we would like to see him return and answer charge in the UK.
“I am very sure we asked in the past. But I am not sure we got a formal response. So, we are still waiting for a formal response from the Nigerian government.”
But a government spokesperson, who pleaded anonymity, told our correspondent that the request which Pocock talked about was an old one that was made shortly after the former governor returned to Nigeria.
When asked why the present administration refused to take action on an old request, he said, “The request is an old one. It was not made under this administration, you can check the date. The request predates this administration.
“I am sure the request must have been made in 2005/2006 when the events happened. That surely was before the inception of this administration.
“In any case, it is inappropriate for the envoy to be addressing issues such as this on the pages of newspapers. There are established diplomatic channels to address such issues because diplomacy has its own rules.
“What is expected of a foreign diplomat in another country is to go through the Ministry of Foreign Affairs if he has such an observation to make.
“A diplomat is not expected to behave in a manner suggesting that he is interfering in the internal affairs of his host country. Diplomacy on the pages of newspapers is odd, it is almost like joining a protest movement.
“He is expected to go through the proper diplomatic channels. Reacting on the pages of newspapers amount to challenging the sovereignty of the country and meddlesomeness in the affairs of the country.
“The action also amounts to carrying placards and joining protest against the host country.”
When contacted, the Chief Press Secretary to the Minister of Justice and Attorney General of the Federation, Mr. Ambrose Momoh, said he was not aware of the UK request.
Momoh also said the minister, Mohammed Adoke, was not in town, and as a result, he could not immediately reach the AGF to get his (AGF’s) official position on the matter.
Similarly, the spokesperson for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Mr. Ogbole Ahmedu-Ode, said he was not aware of the request.
“All I can tell you is that normally, such request is routed through the foreign affairs ministry.
“All communication between foreign missions accredited to the country is through the ministry. For example, if an ambassador wants to visit the president or any minister, he writes the Ministry of Foreign Affairs for clearance. The same thing applies to correspondence.
“Anything short of this is a breach of diplomatic procedure,” he added.
Meanwhile, the National Publicity Secretary, Action Congress of Nigeria, Lai Mohammed, has warned the Federal Government against endangering its ties with other countries. He said Nigeria might be ostracised in the comity of nations if government did so.
Mohammed said, “We live in a global world and there’s inter-relationship between countries. Without commenting on the rightness or wrongness of the recent pardon of Alamieyeseigha, we warn the government not to jeopardise the interest of Nigerians because of any man.
“There is supposed to be cooperation among various countries on issues such as terrorism, money laundering, drug trafficking, etc. To that extent, the government is not correct to say that the UK demand is an attempt to meddle in the internal affairs of the country.”
Also, the National Publicity Secretary, Congress for Progressive Change, Rotimi Fashakin, said Jonathan would be playing with fire, if he attempted to shield Alamieyeseigha.
He argued that Alamieyeseigha committed an offence in Britain and jumped bail to avoid prosecution.
He said, “It is within international law; Nigeria is a signatory to an international treaty. It is not about Britain meddling in Nigeria’s internal affairs, no. The UK has the right under a known international law to request that Nigeria extradites him. The judicial process of his trial has not been concluded.”
Similarly, the Executive Chairman, Coalition Against Corrupt Leaders, Debo Adeniran, said the Nigerian government shields corrupt leaders.
He said, “President Jonathan had declared that Alamieyeseigha is his benefactor. So, he has to protect him by all means.
“Nigeria has not been respecting the Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty it signed with the UK. That is why it could not give enough evidence against James Ibori, when the UK requested Nigeria to confirm that he was wanted for criminal activities. The Nigerian government is practically and openly protecting corrupt leaders.”
Alamieyeseigha, then a serving governor, escaped from the custody of the British authorities when he fled back to Nigeria in September, 2005.
The pardon granted Alamieyeseigha by Jonathan had also led to a diplomatic row between Nigeria and the United States with the latter threatening to sanction Nigeria for Jonathan’s action