November 28, 2005

On this day, hundreds of troops armed with rocket launchers and machine guns manned check points in Nigeria’s oil producing Bayelsa state as protesters staged rival rallies over the impeachment of the state governor, Diepreye Alamieyeseigha. The two opposing groups – about 1,500 young men calling for the governor to step down, and about 1,000 women who wanted him to stay – remained peaceful under the close watch of soldiers deployed to the state capital, Yenagoa overnight.

Armoured Personnel Carriers moved around town and about 50 riot police stood in front of the state government’s headquarters. Troops manned checkpoints fortified with sandbags. Military commander, Elias Zamani was reported to have said that armed militants had moved into the state, i.e. Bayelsa, which pumps a quarter of Nigerian oil output, and that he feared fighting could break out unless soldiers were deployed to pre-empt it “The area has been tense, there have been attempts by the House (of Assembly)for impeachment. Militant youths have been moved into the place armed with weapons,” Zamani reported on the telephone. He said further that, “There are different groups. The way things are going, it could escalate to where different groups start fighting. So, it’s a pre-emptive step to save lives and properties.”

The governor of the state, Diepreye Alamieseigha, had fled money laundering charges in London earlier in the month and returned to Nigeria where he had immunity while in office. The Bayelsa state House of Assembly had taken steps to remove him as governor.

Another military official said the governor was using youths dressed in military uniforms to protect himself since his police escort was withdrawn by federal authorities. The governor had accused the federal government, headed by president Olusegun Obasanjo of persecuting him because of his ethnic Ijaw origin, and of trying to cause mayhem in the state as a pretext to impose a state of emergency which would strip him of him powers



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