Former Minister of Petroleum, Mrs. Diezani Alison-Maduekwe, has been arrested in London, but later released on bail.
Reports have it that she was arrested yesterday afternoon, alongside five other persons whose identities could not be immediately ascertained but are believed to be her personal aides and business fronts.
The United Kingdom’s National Crime Agency (NCA) effected the arrest.
The NCA leads UK law enforcement’s fight against serious and organised crime and has national and international reach and the mandate to work in partnership with other law enforcement organisations to bring the full weight of the law on criminals.
Alison-Madueke was said to be arrested for offences related to bribery and corruption being investigated by the UK’s crime agency.
However, Daily Independent gathered that operatives of Nigeria’s anti-graft agency, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) stormed the Abuja home of the former minister, few hours after she was arrested in London.
EFCC agents arrived Mrs. Alison-Madueke’s palatial home, located in upscale Asokoro district of Abuja, and sealed the property yesterday evening.
It was not immediately clear whether the arrest of Mrs. Alison-Maduekwe and others was at the behest of the Nigerian government, although President Muhammadu Buhari had insisted in several fora that public officials who might be established to have corruptly embezzled the nation’s funds would not escape justice.
Buhari had on September 27 hinted that those who misappropriated billions of naira belonging to Nigeria’s state oil company, the NNPC, would soon be prosecuted.
The president stated this at a meeting with President Xi Jinping of China in New York, saying that his administration was determined to fully sanitise Nigeria’s oil industry and make it totally free of corruption and shady deals.
He did not, however, say how soon the prosecutions would start or if indeed investigations had been concluded and whether culpable individuals had been identified.
The president in his October 1 anniversary speech, reiterated his determination to prosecute persons who may be involved in corruption deals at the NNPC. He said he had directed that the books of other revenue generating agencies be audited for purposes of identifying leakages and ensuring they are blocked.
Efforts to get official reaction from the EFCC yesterday did not yield fruits, as EFCC media aide, Wilson Uwujaren, did not respond to calls made to him. He did not also answer to SMS enquiries sent to his phone as at press time.
However, an independent source close to the anti-graft agency confirmed the arrest; and although the NCA’s case against her is different, the Nigerian government might work with the UK agency to prosecute her for the several allegations already built up against her.
Confirming the NCA arrest of Mrs. Alison-Maduekwe yesterday, Press and Public Affairs Officer of the British Embassy in Lagos, Joseph Abuku, had said in a press statement: “This morning, five people between the ages of 21 and 60 were arrested on suspicion of bribery and corruption offences. The crimes are being investigated by the National Crime Agency.
“The National Crime Agency does not confirm identity at arrest nor provide information that could be used to corroborate the identity of an arrested individual,” he said.
Before her appointment as Nigeria’s first female petroleum minister in February 2010, a position she held till May 29, 2015, Alison-Maduekwe had previously headed two other federal ministries.
She was first appointed into the federal cabinet as Minister of Transport by the late President Umaru Yar’Adua in 2007.
A former director at Shell Petroleum Development Company of Nigeria, she was redeployed in December 2008 to the Ministry of Mines and Steel Development.
After former Vice President Goodluck Jonathan became acting president, he did a reshuffle of the cabinet, which saw Mrs. Alison-Madueke being moved in February 2010 to the petroleum ministry, a position she held till May 29, 2015, when Jonathan left office.
Mrs. Alison-Madueke’s tenure as petroleum minister turned out to be one of Nigeria’s most controversial, amid unending allegations of corruption.
Under her watch, dubious oil marketers allegedly stole trillions of Naira of oil subsidy money. She retained her position after the House of Representatives investigated the scandal and indicted the minister.
The NNPC under her watch had been severally accused of being involved in numerous shady deals, many of which have been cancelled by the present government. However, Mrs. Alison-Madueke has stayed away from Nigeria since the Jonathan government lost power to the opposition party and Buhari was sworn-in on May 29, 2015.
Signs that trouble laid ahead for Mrs. Alison-Madueke emerged long before the end of the Jonathan government.
Former Governor, Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) and now, Emir of Kano, Lamido Sanusi, had raised an alarm that about $20 billion realised from several oil deals at the NNPC between 2012 and 2013 was not remitted to the Federation Account. Sanusi accused the NNPC management of diverting the monies.
The allegation caused public uproar, during which Jonathan sacked Sanusi as the CBN governor.
The NNPC was later to release an audit report by PricewaterhouseCoopers on the alleged missing $20 billion oil money, seemingly designed to exonerate the corporation’s management from the damning allegations.
Sanusi, however, insisted that rather than for the report to clear the allegation, it had merely confirmed that at least $18.5 billion was indeed missing.
The Emir faulted Mrs. Alison-Madueke’s claim that the report had exonerated the NNPC.
In an opinion article published by the Financial Times of London, Sanusi had argued that the money was used as kerosene subsidy could not dismiss the fact that the NNPC illegally withheld billions of oil dollars from the government.
“Contrary to the claims of petroleum minister, Diezani Alison-Madueke, the audit report does not exonerate the NNPC. It establishes that the gap between the company’s oil revenues between January 2012 and July 2013 and cash remitted to the government for the same period was $18.5 billion,” Sanusi said.
The former CBN governor said of the $18.5 billion in revenues that the state oil company did not send to the government according to PwC, “about $12.5bn appears by my calculations to have been diverted”.
“And this relates only to a random 19-month period, not the five-year term of Jonathan, the outgoing president,” he wrote.
The publication of the PwC audit report into the missing billions, he said, has brought the nation a step closer to the truth.
He said the report has suggested lines for further investigation into the matter, and urged the Buhari government to follow the leads and ensure anyone found culpable is punished.
“Nigerians did not vote for an amnesty for anyone,” he said. “The lines of investigation suggested by this audit need to be pursued. Any officials found responsible for involvement in this apparent breach of trust must be charged.”