Hundreds of Nigerian troops deployed in the capital of the country’s biggest oil-producing region after militant youths rallied to support a state governor who fled Britain last week, accused of embezzling Ј1.8 million in state funds.
Tanks and armoured vehicles took up position in Yenagoa, the capital of Bayelsa state, including outside the governor’s office, the state assembly and the main offices of the state administration. Amos Tonye, a resident of the city, said: “It looks as if the military are back in power again.”
Roadblocks were set up on all major routes in Bayelsa. Armed gangs linked to the state governor control remote inland swamps and run a profitable oil-theft business known as “bunkering”, which involves tapping off crude from the network of pipelines in the area.
Diepreye Alamieyeseigha, 53, fled money-laundering charges in Britain, apparently disguised as a woman, and returned home on a forged passport to a hero’s welcome from supporters, but anger from residents who say that they have had no benefit from years of huge oil revenues.
The governor’s return to Nigeria, where he has diplomatic immunity, was a huge setback for President Obasanjo who wrote to Tony Blair demanding to know how Mr Alamieyeseigha could have escaped so easily.
Mr Obasanjo had planned for Mr Alamieyeseigha to be prosecuted in Britain and had arranged for Nigeria’s security services to provide British police with evidence.
After the governor’s escape, however, the federal Government and Mr Obasanjo were lampooned in the media. Tensions quickly rose further after the governor’s opponents in the Bayelsa state legislature gave him 14 days to resign or face impeachment proceedings which, if successful, would strip him of his immunity.
Residents chanting abusive slogans and carrying placards held protests demanding Mr Alamieyeseigha’s resignation, triggering fears that the governor would unleash his armed thugs on the demonstrators and that the dispute could spiral into a local civil war, The Times reports.