Alamieyeseigha Offers Help on Hostages

IMPEACHED Bayelsa State governor, Diepreye Alamieyeseigha, has volunteered to assist in securing release of the nine foreign oil workers kidnapped by ethnic militias in the Niger Delta.

Alamieyeseigha, standing trial for alleged money laundering, said if contacted, he could secure the release of the captives within 48 hours.

Incidentally, the release of the former governor from detention is one of the pre-conditions given by the hostage takers for freedom for the seized oil workers.

Also included in the demand are release of Mujahid Dokubo-Asari, leader of the Niger Delta Peoples Volunteer Force (NDPVF) standing treason trial in Abuja; stoppage of attacks and withdrawal of the military from the Niger Delta; and control of a larger share from the resources in the area.

They also demanded the payment of $1.5 billion to Ijaw communities by Shell Petroleum Development Company (SPDC) for the degradation of their environment by oil companies.

Incidentally, a Federal High Court on Friday ruled that Shell should pay the money but the company said it would appeal against the ruling.

Alamieyeseigha, who is recuperating in a hospital in Lagos, spoke to confidants, who visited him.

One of the aides told The Guardian at the weekend that the former governor would not trade off anything spectacular for the intervention in the hostage saga.

Rather, the aide said he would ask the Federal Government to release and discharge him of all the persecution he is currently facing.

The two-term governor said he would not ask government to re-instate him after being impeached because “if the government is sincere, my current term would have ended by May 2007. It is too short a time left to start asking to be re-instated to office,” he was quoted.

Alamieyeseigha, who said he had staked and risked his life before, not once, not twice, not even three times to free hostages taken by his militant kinsmen in the Niger Delta, stated that he could do it again.

“But I must be set free first to agree to intervene in the current crisis,” he said.

He recalled that President Olusegun Obasanjo had written to him four times, praising his efforts when he (Alamieyeseigha) intervened and secured the release of hostages taken by militant Ijaw youths.

He also recalled the enormous risk he had to undertake in one of the hostages’ episodes. According to him, President Obasanjo summoned him in that episode from the United Kingdom where he (Alamieyeseigha) and Vice President Atiku Abubakar were attending an official assignment.

He said that not even his police aide-de-camp (ADC), orderlies and other members of government could follow him on that dangerous mission.

He said he went with the then Secretary to the State Government, Dr. Steve Azaiki from Brass on about two-and-a-half hour boat ride on the high seas and climbed ropes of about 200 feet to reach the platform where the hostage takers were holed up.

“And I did it,” he said, adding, “chicken-hearted people can’t do that.”

Alameiyeseigha also explained that his South African “house” reportedly seized last week was “only a three-bedroom flat” in an apartment of many flats.

He said Nigerian government officials have been coming to him to sign papers, which the South African courts needed to go ahead with the disposal of the flat and its contents. He said that his lawyers advised him against signing the papers.

For the first time, Alamieyeseigha shed light on his “miraculous” escape from house arrest in London last year.

He insisted that he did not jump bail, as was alleged by the government.

His words: “I had some travel documents given by the Establishment to me and a secret service agent put me in a vehicle and drove me out to where I embarked on the return trip to Nigeria. It is not true that I jumped bail in the sense of an escaping criminal.”

The six-foot former governor also denied dressing in women clothes to leave London.

“How can I wear those female clothes: Only a headgear, a lace top and wrapper in a place where the weather at that time was minus three degrees centigrade?” he reportedly said. “It is not just reasonable.”

Alamieyeseigha repeatedly charged that he was being “persecuted by the Federal Government,” adding that he would not on account of that denounce his citizenship of this country.

He said that he was not seeking sympathy or favour of fellow Nigerians over his travails by volunteering to secure the release of the nine hostages.

The Ijaw militants, under the aegis of Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND) seized the hostages on February 18 in a raid on Wilbros Barge 318 in the Forcados area of Delta State.

They have vowed not to release them until Alamieyeseigha and Dokubo-Asari were released and other conditions met.

The Federal Government has set up a panel to negotiate the release of the nine hostages but did not include the demands of the militants in the terms of reference. It has, however, halted further aerial bombings of spotted crude oil stealing barges in the Niger Delta, during which the Ijaw militants said many civilians in the area were killed.

When MEND took four hostages on January 11 in Bayelsa State, negotiations resolved the logjam after about three weeks of stand off.

The militants maintained that they did not receive a kobo from government to effect the release and have been repeating similar stand in the present saga.

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