The name of Mrs Diezani Alison-Madueke has today become a household name not for the good reason the mother of two was known for before now. Prior to recent revelations the woman popularly called the Iron Lady of the President Goodluck Jonathan era had a pedigree of outstanding performances.
The 56 years old graduate of Architecture of Howard University was appointed the first female executive director of Shell Nigeria in April 2006. She also become the first female President of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) in November 2014 after being elected to the exhorted position at the 166th OPEC Ordinary meeting held in Vienna, Austria.
But the fortune of the hitherto strongwoman started turning sour during when she held sway at the helm of the nation’s number one income earning ministry, the Ministry of Petroleum Resources.
Diezane’s ordeals date back to 2014 when she was alleged to have spent the sum of N10 billion to chartered jets, a scandal which was investigated by the House of Representative but the report never saw the light of the day.
In May 2015 when the current government of President Mohammadu Buhari took over power, the regime which promised Nigerians a “Change,” in addition to fighting “Corruption,” the Economic and Financial Crime Commission (EFFCC) swiftly beamed its searchlight on the Ministry and Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) among others.
Since then the press has been awash with reports of the numerous atrocities perpetuated by the erstwhile minister who is now enjoying the proceeds of her purported loots in faraway London.
The first insight to what happened under her watch was the $115 million 2015 election bribery scandal.
Next the EFCC alleged that $700 million was found in a mansion in Asokoro area of Abuja traced to the former minister. The mansion itself was said to be worth $18 million.
Some item the agency said it is investigating the former Minister for includes alleged N23.29billion poll bribery scam; controversial withdrawal of $153m from NNPC accounts; alleged $1.6billion money laundering and oil deals; posh $37.5million assets and plots of land on Banana Island and other choice properties in Nigeria and Dubai.
Precisely, Monday 13, March 2017 in Lagos, the anti-graft agency tried to prove its case against her when it stormed the nation with the introduction of a twist to the ongoing trail of Mohammed Belgore and a former Minister of National Planning, Abubakar Suaiman when the duo accused were alleged to have collected the sum of N450 million from Diezani being part of $115 million she was said to have taken from the vaults of the NNPC.
Narrating how the transaction was executed, the first prosecuting witness of EFCC, Timothy Olaobaju, a banker, told a Federal High Court, Lagos court that sometime in April 2014, a cash lodgement of about $115 million was lodged into the account of Mrs. Alison-Madueke.
He said that subsequently on March 27, 2015, the accused issued payment instructions to convert the said sums into Naira, and paid to some beneficiaries including Messrs. Belgore and Suleiman.
He told the court that the duo received the sum of N450 million and filled the payment form to acknowledge receipt.
The witness told the court no cheque was issued in respect of the funds, adding that the accused signed the form on March 26, 2015, while they received the money on March 27, 2015.
Earlier the EFCC has revealed that it has secured enough evidence to commence prosecution of the former Minister of Petroleum Resources in the United Kingdom claiming that a Federal High Court has ordered the final forfeiture of $153million allegedly traced to her.
“We have taken more evidence to the UK, including all court records relating to the final forfeiture of $153million. We have a huge pile of documents,” a source in the anti-graft agency who spoke in confidence with our correspondent said.
In another development, the EFCC told a Federal High Court in Lagos that the how the sum of $153,310,000 in cash was wired from NNPC accounts to Fidelity Bank before it was distributed to other banks including Sterling Bank, Access Bank, and First Bank for safe keeping.
The EFCC gave the breakdown of how the loot was hidden is as follows: Access Bank ($5million); Sterling Bank (N23, 446, 300,000); and First Bank (N9,080,000,000).
Meanwhile, EFCC has identified some properties in highbrow areas belonging to Mrs. Alison-Madueke as follows; A block of 6 unit service apartments at Awolowo Road, Ikoyi; Six unit terrace flats in Yaba, Lagos; Twin four-bedroom duplexes in Lekki Phase I; Two duplexes in Banana Island; A duplex in Asokoro District, Abuja; A mini-estate in Mabushi, Abuja; A set of 12 terrace duplexes at Omaremi Street in Port Harcourt; Large expanse of land at Oniru, Victoria Island in Lagos; A multi-billion Naira estate in Yenagoa; Two apartments in Dubai marked as J5 Emirates Hills (30million Dirham) and E146 Emirates Hills valued at 44million Dirham; and a hotel in Port Harcourt under investigation.
In trailing Diezani, the EFCC went in search of some of her supporters in NNPC, this lead to the recent detention of the former GMD of the Corporation, Dr. Andrew Yakubu’s over alleged slush funds of $9,772,800 and £74,000.
Although, Dr. Yakubu has gone to court claiming that the money were gift offered him while he served as GMD, his statement is only an eye opener to what the people saddled with the responsibility of managing our national resources do with them.
On her part, Mrs Alison-Madueke had disputed some of the slush funds and assets attributed to her including the $153million. The former minister in a January 21 2017 lengthy statement in London denied being a thief.
She accused the EFCC of taking advantage of her silence all this while to put her on media trial and cited the $153million which she was accused of withdrawing from the accounts of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) while in office.
“I have up till now chosen to maintain my silence and not to respond to inaccurate press reporting. However, given the level of deliberate inaccuracies, I am now forced to respond because it is clear that the EFCC is taking advantage of my silence to try me by media and to convict me in the eyes of the public on false reports,” she stated.
She explained that, “First and foremost, whilst the reasons for my being out of the country are public knowledge, the principle of fair hearing demands that I should have been notified of formal charges if truly there was a prima facie evidence or indictment against my person linking me with the said issue, so as to ensure that I had adequate legal representation. This was never done”.
“I wish to state that I cannot forfeit what was never mine. I do not know the basis on which the EFCC has chosen to say that I am the owner of these funds as no evidence was provided to me before the order was obtained and they have not in fact served me with the order or, any evidence since they obtained it.”
“I do not therefore, understand how the EFCC can in the same breath say that the monies in question are mine. If they had evidence that the monies were mine then they would not /should not, have used the procedure which applies only to funds of unknown ownership. If indeed they used this particular legal procedure because they did not know who owned the monies, then how can they now be falsely attributing the ownership to me.”
“Let me re-state categorically as I have always maintained, for the record, I have not and will never steal money from or defraud the Federal Government of Nigeria.
“I am willing to respond to any charges brought against me that follow duly laid down procedures.”
So far, while Nigerians are left in recession because of the looter altitude of our leaders, the lost to the national development emanating from this negative behaviour is enormous.
Imaging how many roads, bridges, railway tracks that would have been constructed, hospitals and schools built, or industries created to employ Nigerians, or perhaps even generate electricity. It is evidence that unless this stealing altitude is curbed Nigeria will continues to wallow in darkness.