– ’No, she had cancer; she was never arrested’ – family insists
– Lawyers carpet former minister ”
In an amazing downturn in fortunes, the once-untouchable former Minister of Petroleum Resources, Mrs. Diezani Alison-Madueke was, according to reports, arrested alongside four other people in London on Friday, October 2, 2015 by the United Kingdom (UK) National Crime Agency (NCA).
Fewer public office holders ever had to endure the sort of widespread outcry for their removal from office as the Port Harcourt-born Architecture graduate did following series of allegations bordering on corruption, bribery and money laundering leveled against her while she served in the ousted Goodluck Jonathan administration.
The one-time most powerful woman in the corridor of power who rose to become the first female to head the Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) was, however, granted bail and was reportedly ordered to remain indoors as investigation continued.
Confirming the arrest, the NCA wrote on its website, “the National Crime Agency’s recently formed International Corruption Unit has arrested five people across London as part of an investigation into suspected bribery and money laundering offences.”
On Monday (October 5), the Westminster Magistrate’s Court on Maryleborne Road, London, granted an application by the NCA for the seizure of £27,000 (about N8m) from her and an undisclosed amount from her mother, Beatrice Agama.
Compounding her misery, the Asokoro, Abuja residence of the immediate-past minister of Petroleum Resources was also stormed by operatives of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), in what was described as part of a multinational investigation of the former minister.
According to a security source, EFCC made “significant recovery” of documents at her Abuja residence.
Not going down without a fight!
Fighting back, the family of the embattled one-time Minister of Transportation (the first female to hold such position) have issued a statement. In the statement released on behalf of the family by Barr. Oscar Onwudiwe titled: “The Truth Versus Media Hysteria Against the Madueke Family”, the family noted that she was not arrested, but that she was in London to receive treatment for cancer that started while she was in office, and recently became worse. They also noted that she was invited by the British government for undisclosed reasons, restating that she was not arrested.
Legal Practitioners on the former minister’s travails
As a lawyer, I cannot sit in judgment over a matter that has not been conclusively decided in any court of record and jurisdiction. So, ours is that of keen interest. We’ve always known that there were large scale fraudulent activities going on in the circle of government and corridors of power that has continued with successive governments rendering this country comatose, and depriving the Nigerian people the resources to build. So it is not so much a surprise. I am aware that if there was any minister on whose account Nigerians put up a persistent campaign for his/her removal, it was Diezani Alison-Madueke, and the reasons were obvious. Her ministry almost turned this country into another social strife with the removal of petroleum subsidy in January 2012. You would recall that that was one moment that was defining in the administration of Jonathan.
We have also seen inexplicable accounts of government expenditure accredited to the NNPC which was under her direct control and we have seen cases where they were unable to explain the volume of cash that was taken away from our collective treasury.
Now, with all those details added to the inability of the Jonathan administration to discipline her to check her expenses, including the cost of what she took for private use. Unfortunately for her, just like Ibori, she has had some of her challenges in jurisdictions where she cannot manipulate the processes.
That being the case, it would be difficult for her to wriggle out of her present challenge if there are positive evidence against her.
It has become embarrassing too that cases which ordinarily ought to be dealt within the shores of this country get better attention when the same facts and evidence become the subject of judicial interrogation outside the shores of this country. The Ibori case is one big example, where a 170-count charge fell flat on its face on account of judicial recklessness of the presiding judge to discharge the accused person. It is the same body of facts and evidence in respect of which he was asked to go home here in Nigeria were the basis upon which he pleaded guilty even before the trial started in London. That doesn’t speak well of the profession I find myself.
Nevertheless, it is a work in progress. Diezani never enjoyed immunity under section 308 of our constitution and today she is not even in government. They should take advantage of such challenges in life to offer explanation to clear the air and be vindicated in the process. But to think that there is any way around it is to delude themselves. I think she should just warm up to the circumstance she found herself.
As to those who were picked from here, there are no surprises about that. In law, particularly in criminal administration of human justice, there is usually issues of conspiracy, not less when dealing with money laundering. People should not be surprised because money laundering has become an international concern, one that global community is deeply concerned about in view of how these monies can go into the wrong hands for the wrong reasons.
If anybody violates or does anything that contravenes the laws of the United Kingdom, that person has not only invited the UK government to go after him or her but has also invited them into his or her private life (telephone conversations, houses, etc) as is in the case of Mrs. Dizeani-Alison Madueke. So yes the British Government sure has the right under their Criminal Jurisprudence to go after anyone that violates their laws. The relevant law here is The Proceeds of Crime Act, 2002 of the United Kingdom as Modified.
I don’t know what offence she is charged with or going to be charged with as I’m not aware she has been charged yet, but it’s most likely going to be under Sections 327, 328 and 329 of the Proceeds of Crimes Act (“the Act”) bothering on Money Laundering. This Act empowers the British Government to confiscate any property (cash, real or choses in action) that are or were acquired as a result of Proceeds of Crime. The Act also empowers the British Government to arrest anybody for any act which would constitute an offence had it (the act) occurred in the UK. Therefore, on this premise Mrs. Madueke can be arrested or invited for questioning where the British government reasonably suspects she has acquired and or benefited from proceeds of Crime. Reference in this regards is made to the Act generally with particular emphasis on Section 340.
As for the outcome of this case, nobody can or should say what the outcome is or would be. Only a court of law properly constituted should and can. It will, therefore, be wrong especially as a legal practitioner to predict the outcome of a matter in court or likely to end up in court, even if based on precedence as no two cases are ever the same.
Having said this, the outcome of this case depends largely on the quality of evidence the Prosecution has against Mrs. Madueke and how savvy her defence team is. This is where the cooperation of the Federal Government of Nigeria will be key, particularly if they have any evidence to assist the Crown Prosecution’s (as it is most times referred to in the UK) case against Mrs. Madueke.
Her many sins, allegations and controversies
Terming the stint of Diezani Alison-Madueke as Minister of Petroleum Resources highly controversial and dramatic would be stating public knowledge.
On many occasions, there was public outcry for her removal from office and subsequent prosecution, but she remained in her position even after she was indicted following a House of Representatives investigation into missing funds running into billions of dollars.
She has overtime professed her innocence, saying that she hasn’t committed any crime, rather, she just stepped on big toes.
In an interview earlier this year following the general elections, she said: said, ”I have not sought such assistance because I am not aware that I have been indicted of any crime that I will need a soft landing. Over the last four years, I have been severally and unfortunately accused and labelled in so many malicious and vindictive ways. I have explained these things and pushed back robustly on these accusations and I have even gone to court on many of them. Yet they keep being regurgitated.”
Continuing, she added that she has always been committed to Nigeria, ”I do believe that I have done the best for Nigeria in this job and I have attained many firsts in the history of oil and gas, especially in the reforms that we have done. In this period of time, I have stepped on many big toes, particularly the toes of the cabals that were in the industry when we came in.”
Here are a few of the jaw-dropping allegations and controversies
”Missing” $20 billion in 2014
In late 2013, the-then Central Bank of Nigeria governor and now Emir of Kano, Sanusi Lamido wrote to former President Goodluck Jonathan claiming that Nigeria National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) had failed to remit tens of billions of oil revenues it owed the state.
After the letter was leaked to some media outlets, Jonathan publicly dismissed the claim and ousted Sanusi, saying the banker had mismanaged the central bank’s budget.
Probes by independent audit firms, including the KPMG and PriceWaterHouseCoopers Ltd, however, confirmed billions of dollars of oil money were missing, the most notable being the $20 billion.
N10 billion squandered on maintaining private jet
Also in 2014 while she served as Petroleum Minister, federal lawmakers alleged that Mrs. Alison-Madueke squandered over N10 billion to charter and maintain private jets for her personal use.
A resolution by the House of Representatives to probe her was passed on Thursday, March 20, 2014.
According to the resolution, Allison-Madueke spent $500,000 (N130m) monthly to maintain the private jet, a Challenger 850, in two years.
Millions splashed rooms in two New York luxury hotels during UN Assembly
Mrs. Alison-Madueke reportedly booked and paid for two rooms in two separate luxury hotels during the four nights she spent in New York City during the United Nations General Assembly in 2012.
N1.2 billion transferred to private account
In October 2009, the Senate indicted her and recommended prosecution for the alleged transfer of N1.2 billion into the private account of a toll company without due process and in breach of concession agreement.
N30.9 billion paid to contractors in June 2008
In June 2008, Alison-Madueke was probed by the Nigerian Senate after it emerged that as Transport Minister she had paid 30.9 billion naira ($263 million) to contractors between 26 and 31 December 2007.
Some EFCC-handled high-profile corruption cases and their shambolic ending
Femi Fani Kayode; former Aviation Minister, discharged and acquitted
Femi Fani-Kayode was investigated and arrested by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) in July 2008 in connection with the alleged misappropriation of a N19.5 bn ($300m) “Aviation Intervention Fund.” The investigation found no evidence against him.
He was, again, arrested in December 2008 by the EFCC and charged with 47 counts of money laundering; he was alleged to have laundered about N100 million. The sum was reduced to N2.1 million on November 17, 2014 after Ofili-Ajumogobia dismissed 38 out of the 40-count levelled against Fani-Kayode for want of proof.
He was discharged and acquitted of the remaining two on July 1, 2015 by a Federal High Court sitting in Lagos. The court held that the EFCC was unable to prove the charges against Fani-Kayode beyond reasonable doubt and consequently acquitted him.
Erastus Akingbola; former Intercontinental Bank MD, Court of Appeal strikes out case
The Court of Appeal sitting in Lagos struck out the case brought by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) over a N47.1 billion theft against embattled former Managing Director of the defunct Intercontinental Bank Plc, Dr. Erastus Akingbola.
James Ibori; former governor, Delta state, acquitted in Nigeria, plead guilty in the UK
Ibori’s corruption charges started with filling of petitions by his kinsmen, under the auspices of Delta State Elders and Stakeholders Forum influenced by the foremost Ijaw leader, Chief E. K. Clark.
The petition was sent to Nuhu Ribadu, the-then head of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) who initially failed to act on the petition. This made the Forum to consult their lawyer, Kayode Ajulo who with other activists revealed Ibori’s atrocities and made spirited efforts to drag Ibori and EFCC before a court to compel Ibori’s prosecution.
He was eventually arrested on December 12, 2007 by the (EFCC) in Asokoro, Abuja. The charges he faced included theft of public funds, abuse of office, and money laundering.
He was discharged and acquitted of all 170 charges brought against by a Federal High Court sitting in Asaba, Delta State on December 17, 2009.
In April 2010, Ibori’s case file was reopened. A new allegation that he embezzled N40 billion ($266 million) was pressed against him. Attempts to arrest him were unsuccessful as he reportedly fled from Abuja to Lagos, and then to the creeks of Oghara, his homeland in the Niger Delta.
In April 2010, Ibori fled Nigeria, prompting the EFCC to request the assistance of Interpol.
On 27 February 2012, accused of stealing $250 million from the Nigerian public purse, Ibori pleaded guilty to ten counts of money laundering and conspiracy to defraud at Southwark Crown Court, London.
On Tuesday, April 17, 2012, Ibori was sentenced to 13 years by Southwark Crown Court for his crimes.