The arrest in London Friday of former Petroleum Resources Minister Diezani Alison-Madueke is not connected with President Muhammadu Buhari’s efforts towards recovering stolen oil funds, Elmbah.com has learnt.
Diezani and four other people was arrested in London Friday by the United Kingdom National Crimes Agency, for alleged bribery and Money laundering offences.
Sources within the UK National Crime Agency [NCA] on Saturday revealed that the former Minister of Petroleum, Deziani Allison-Madueke had been under investigation by the agency since 2013.
But according to the Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity, Malam Garba Shehu, the arrest of the former Petroleum Resources Minister “may be assumed” to be connected with President Muhammadu Buhari’s efforts towards recovering stolen oil funds. The presidential aide, however, noted that he had no information yet on the arrest of the immediate past Minister of Petroleum Resources.
According to the website of NCA, the investigation commenced in 2013 under the Proceeds of Corruption Unit, and transferred to the NCA earlier this year.
On Friday 2nd October, the National Crime Agency’s recently formed International Corruption Unit arrested five people across London as part of an investigation into suspected bribery and money laundering offences.
All five people arrested were released on conditional police bail later that evening, pending further investigation both in the UK and overseas. Madueke has previously denied any wrongdoing when questioned about missing public funds and graft allegations.
Asked whether the former minister’s arrest had to do with Buhari’s moves to prosecute those who mismanaged oil funds, Shehu stated in a telephone chat with a Daily Trust correspondent: “It may be assumed that it has to do with the president’s efforts towards recovering stolen oil funds. If you read the president’s address in New York during the just-concluded United Nations General Assembly, he (Buhari) made a passionate appeal to the international community to assist Nigeria in recovering stolen money.”
Buhari had Monday while addressing world leaders at the 70th General Assembly of the United Nations in New York called on the international community to urgently redouble its efforts to strengthen mechanisms for dismantling safe havens for proceeds of corruption.
President Buhari had also urged world leaders to do more to return stolen funds and assets to their countries of origin. He had also reaffirmed his government’s determination to frontally confront the twin evils of corruption and illicit financial outflows.
“Let me reaffirm the Nigerian government’s unwavering commitment to fight corruption and illicit financial flows. By any consideration, corruption and cross border financial crimes are impediments to development, economic growth, and the realization of the well-being of citizens across the globe. Nigeria is ready and willing to partner with international agencies and individual countries on a bilateral basis to confront crimes and corruption.
“In particular, I call upon the global community to urgently redouble efforts towards strengthening the mechanisms for dismantling safe havens for proceeds of corruption and ensuring the return of stolen funds and assets to their countries of origin,” the president had appealed.
Buhari had also earlier last Sunday at a meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping on the sidelines of the 70th General Assembly of the UN said the prosecution of those who misappropriated the revenue of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) under past administrations would soon commence. He had noted that a necessary first step in that direction had already been taken with the appointment of a new management for the NNPC and its subsequent reorganisation. He had also applauded China’s interception of shiploads of crude oil stolen from Nigeria, and which were to be sold and proceeds paid into private accounts.
Buhari also said last Sunday that the prosecution of those suspected of misappropriating the NNPC’s revenue under past administrations would begin soon.
Getting tough on corruption would deflect criticism of Buhari for failing to appoint a cabinet or an economic team four months after taking office as Nigeria’s economy is going through a severe crisis due to the plunge in global oil prices.
Alison-Madueke was minister from 2010 until May 2015 under former president Goodluck Jonathan, who was defeated by Muhammadu Buhari at the polls in March.
Buhari took office in May promising to root out corruption in Africa’s most populous country, where few benefit from the OPEC member’s enormous energy resources.
In a short statement on its website, the NCA said its International Corruption Unit had arrested five people across London on suspicion of bribery and corruption offences on Friday, without naming the suspects.
Elombah.com reported that Mrs. Alison-Madueke was subsequently granted bail but her travel documents and those of others were reportedly seized, effectively barring them from travelling outside the UK, pending the conclusion of investigation and their arraignment. It is not clear when the Minister and her accomplices will be charged to court.
But the financial crimes unit of Nigeria’s EFCC immediately sealed one of Alison-Madueke’s houses in the upmarket Asokoro district in the capital Abuja.
During her time in office, former central bank governor Lamido Sanusi was sacked after he raised concern that tens of billions of dollars in oil revenues had not been remitted to state coffers by the government-run oil company NNPC between January 2012 and July 2013.
Ordinary Nigerians, tired of seeing no narrowing of the West African country’s wealth gap, have been eagerly waiting to see the results of probes into the oil sector.
They wonder when President Buhari’s much touted ‘war against corruption’ will actually begin.