THROWBACK: Criminals, corrupt people should be barred from public office — Alamieyeseigha

Former Governor Diepreye Alamieyeseigha

It is unclear what former governor of Bayelsa State, Diepreye Alamieyeseigha, thinks now of criminals and corrupt people in the corridors of power.

But the former governor once held tenaciously to the view that for Nigeria to move forward, corrupt elements and those found to have abused their offices should be barred from public office.

Few weeks before he was arrested in the United Kingdom for fraud and money laundering, Mr. Alamieyeseigha, who was recently pardoned by President Goodluck Jonathan, said people tainted by crime and corruption should not be allowed to run for office or hold “high political appointments.”

On Tuesday August 2, 2005, during an anti-corruption seminar in Abuja on “Winning the War against Corruption”, Mr. Alamieyeseigha, while commending the efforts taken by the government of the time in fighting corruption, said public offices should be no-go areas for corrupt people.

“It is only in Nigeria where people who looted banks to a distress situation are allowed to use such loots to open their own banks or are given high political appointment,” the former governor lamented at the time.

The seminar, which was an initiative of the Nuhu Ribadu-led  Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, took place less than five weeks before the London Metropolitan Police arrested the then governor in his London residence with £1.5 million cash.

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It is not known whether the EFCC set up Mr. Alamieyeseigha to deliver the paper given the fact that the commission had already substantially documented several evidences of the former governor’s corruption at the time. Mr. Ribadu did not answer or return calls Saturday.

While delivering a paper titled: “Corruption Reduction Through Government Policies: The Bayelsa Experience”, Mr Alamieyeseigha claimed Bayelsa State had put in place various mechanisms to prevent corruption. He explained that corruption “prevents national growth and roll back development and should be rejected by all”.

The former governor spoke like a man with a strong aversion for fraud and corruption, even while he was stealing his state blind at the time.

Interestingly, Mr Jonathan, who was his deputy in Bayelsa State at the time, represented Mr Alamieyesiegha at the conference.

It is not clear  whether the former governor still holds this view. He could not be reached for comments Saturday.

However, political analysts have suggested that Mr Jonathan may have pardoned his former boss to allow him run for a senatorial seat in 2015. And the presidency has said even without the pardon, Mr. Alamieyeseigha is eligible to run for office in two years.

If that happens, Mr. Alamieyeseigha would have eaten his words, ignored his own prescription while also openly demonstrating how cozy he is with corruption, analysts say.

After his arrest in the UK, Mr Alamieyeseigha jumped bail and escaped to Nigeria and reports said he dressed incognito as a woman.  He was impeached as governor and later arrested by the EFCC for false declaration of assets and various acts of money laundering that runs into billions of naira.

He was sentenced to two years in prison and most of his ill-gotten properties confiscated by the government but was released two days after his sentencing due to time served in detention.

On Tuesday, March 12, after a Council of State meeting, the presidency announced that Mr Alamieyeseigha, and a few others (including a convicted rapist and corrupt banker) had been pardoned. The presidency said Mr. Alamieyeseigha had been remorseful of his crimes and would help in stabilising the fragile peace on the Niger Delta.

Mr. Alamieyeseigha is still a wanted fugitive in the UK. The UK government recently requested his extradition to face charges of money laundering and absconding from the law.

The United States government condemned the pardon describing it as a “set back in the fight against corruption.”

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