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Last Updated: Friday, 25 November 2005, 10:57 GMT
Governor 'did not flee in dress'
Bayelsa State Governor Diepreye Alamieyeseigha
Mr Alamieyeseigha says he is the victim of a political power-game
A Nigerian state governor has denied reports that he escaped charges of money-laundering in the UK by disguising himself as a woman.

However, Diepreye Alamieyeseigha told the BBC that he could not remember other details of his journey back to the oil-rich southern Bayelsa State.

He insisted that he was innocent and that the 1.8m ($3.2m) found in cash and bank accounts was not his.

On Thursday, some 2,000 people marched in Bayelsa, urging him to resign.

"Alamieyeseigha we are ashamed of you. Go back to London," read one banner.

Nigeria's newspapers have been full of doctored photos, showing Mr Alamieyeseigha wearing different styles of women's clothes.

I do not have that type of money
Diepreye Alamieyeseigha
In the UK, High Court judges have rejected his argument that he should enjoy immunity as a Nigerian state governor but said he could appeal to the House of Lords.

He has lodged bail worth 1.25m ($2.15m), which would be forfeited if the court rules that Mr Alamieyeseigha has broken his bail conditions.

The BBC's Sola Odunfa in the state capital, Yenagoa, says Mr Alamieyeseigha is no longer staying at his luxurious official residence in the city but has moved to his home town of Amasoma, 40km away.

Our correspondent says only his trusted loyalists have access to the governor and that when he goes to work in Yenagoa, his armed personal bodyguards are deployed throughout the building.

It is not clear whether Nigeria's federal security forces will try to arrest Mr Alamieyeseigha, as he has immunity from prosecution in Nigeria.

The ruling People's Democratic Party is set to expel the governor for bringing Nigeria into "national and international disrepute", following a recommendation of the party's top body.

Anti-corruption drive

But the governor told the BBC's Focus on Africa programme that "of course" he would be returning to the UK to face the charges.

"I do not have that type of money," he said.

He said that the charges were part of a political plot to oust him and this was why impeachment papers had been filed by the state parliament after his return.

Governors have immunity from prosecution only while in office.

Mr Alamieyeseigha was originally arrested in September at Heathrow airport and some 1m-worth of cash was allegedly found in his London home.

He was granted bail on condition that he remained in the UK, surrendered his passport and reported regularly to the police.

The head of Nigeria's anti-corruption body, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), told the BBC's Hausa service that Mr Alamieyeseigha had "forged documents" and "dressed as a woman" to escape the UK.

Last year, another Nigerian state governor returned home after being arrested in London.

Joshua Dariye from Plateau state was quizzed by police on money laundering allegations involving more than 1m.

Nigeria is considered one of the world's most corrupt countries but President Olusegun Obasanjo has vowed to fight the problem.

He set up the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) after his election in 1999.

Several senior officials have been put under investigation for alleged corruption in recent months and the first significant conviction during his six years in power was made this week - when former police chief Tafa Balogun was sentenced to six months in prison.

Mr Obasanjo's critics say the anti-corruption drive is being used to target his political opponents.


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