PDP, oil barons, politicians, international bodies abandon Nigeria’s ex-minister of petroleum…Illness can’t stop trial in UK, say senior lawyers
It is often said that when the going is good, many people will be your friends but when the going becomes tough, they will all run away. This aptly captures the current situation of a former Minister of Petroleum Resources, Mrs Deziani Alison-Madueke, who was arrested in London two weeks ago by the National Crime Agency on allegations of bribery and money laundering.
In the last six years when she held sway as the Empress of the Oil Industry in Nigeria, Diezani was the darling of the high ad mighty in the public and private sectors.
She was revered as a queen, deified and worshipped like a goddess and dreaded like an empress who had the power over life and death in her kingdom. So powerful was Diezani that the National Assembly stood still any time she came to the parliament to defend the budget of the Ministry of Petroleum Resources.
At each budget season, she had the unenviable task of engaging the legislators and explaining to them how broad and complex the Nigeria National Petroleum Corporation was that its income and expenditure could not be accommodated in the nation’s budget. It was largely due to sheer envy of the enormous powers allocated to the minister in the Petroleum Industry Bill that has stalled that piece of legislation for eight years.
It is widely believed that she sat on top of a gold mine and had so much favours to dispense to anyone that came across her on a good day.
She spearheaded policies that encouraged the growth of indigenous firms with increased capacity to compete with the multinationals in the oil and gas industry.
For this, she was the darling of the local business community that had been itching for a taste of the black gold and a feel of the petrodollars for so many years. It was her painstaking pursuit of the Nigerian Content in the industry that gave birth to the likes of Capital Oil, Sahara Energy, Transfigura, Atlantic Energy and several others.
There are speculations that Deziani gave these firms unfettered access to multibillion dollar deals just as some of these deals are being investigated by the Department for State Security and the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission over the alleged ripoff of the national treasury.
Since the tables turned and Diezani began to face the music, none of these organisations has risen in defence of their benefactor. She has practically been left to stew in her own juice.
The former petroleum minister also had a lot of friends within the political circle, particularly those who also ran to her in times of need and got handsome succour. It seems that all her associates have chosen to either deny her or remain silent on her plight. As they say, her phones are no longer ringing because the game has changed. A new sheriff is in town and when the drumbeats change, the dance steps must change as well.
The Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries, where she made history as the first female head, has reportedly deleted her name from their website.
Chevening Scholarship in the United kingdom, an institution that once held Diezani as a role model, has deleted her name from its honours list . Many more of these sad developments are likely to follow in the coming days.
It is curious that neither the People’s Democratic Party nor even her colleagues in the Federal Executive Council during the regime of President Goodluck Jonathan have said a word since Diezani’s travails began. No top official of the party was willing to speak on record on why the PDP has remained silent on the matter. Sources in the party said this was due to fears that they may be linked to her travails.
So far, only her family has spoken to the world on the plight of the glamorous oil empress. According to her family lawyer, Oscar Onwudiwe, much of what has been put out in the media on the saga are untrue.
The truth which the family would want Nigerians to know is that Diezani is down with cancer and needs prayers to survive. In other words, she should be left alone to attend to her ill-health instead of pestering her with allegations.
The Presidency has since confirmed her arrest in London, over allegations of corruption and money laundering and said it was working closely with the law enforcement agencies in the United Kingdom. It has however not been forthcoming with further information on what it planned to do with her on account of all the allegations levelled against her at home.
Similarly, officials of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission declined comments on the travails of the former petroleum minister.
Although it has been speculated that the London Metriopolitan Police picked up Deziani and her associates based on a tip-off from Nigeria, the spokesman for the EFCC, Mr. Wilson Uwujaren, would neither deny nor confirm that the commission had been in touch with security agencies in the United Kingdom. Also, the NCA, which arrested Diezani and her associates, declined Sunday Telegraph’s request for updates on the situation.
The Senior Officer in the NCA’s Press Office, Mr. Adam Edwards, said in an email: “I believe you have already received our statement on this. The NCA will not be commenting any further at this stage.” The agency had seized £27,000 from the minister and two other women and they are to remain in the UK till early next year. Reactions However, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria, Chief Mike Ahamba, has described the prosecution of the former minister in the United Kingdom as unfortunate.
In a reaction to the arrest and arraignment of the exminister, Ahamba said it docking a former minister of the Federal Republic of Nigeria in far away United kingdom has further dented the image of Nigeria in the comity of nations.
“But remember, nobody is guilty until he or she is convicted. As of now, she is not yet guilty but she is a human being, we should allow her to defend herself,” he stated. Also reacting, the President of Public Interest Lawyers League, Abdul Mahmud, said the arrest exposed the nature of Nigerian laws and weakness of the nation’s prosecutorial agencies. He said, “If for anything else, it also exposes our rule of law framework as it relates to the fight against corruption. I think the rule of law framework is founded on one fundamental principle of equality of outcome of the law.
When a person commits an offence, the law enforcement agency and the anti-graft agency have a responsibility to take action. But in this case, nothing was done.
“But in our own case we have a legal system that is inordinately responsive to the political environment so you find our judicial and prosecutorial agencies acting according to the law. “The alleged offences for which Dieiani was arrested and released on administrative bail were offences that the constitution and arresting agencies can deal with. Diezani left office in May 29, no attempt was made by the police to invite her for questioning.
“They waited till she was arrested in London and our own EFCC on the basis of the action which took place in London went to storm the woman’s house in Abuja. That is purely nonsensical. It implicates our legal and institutional agencies responsible for fighting crime in our country.
“The third time in our national history, bearing in mind the extradition case of Anthony Enahoro in the 1960s; the case of Ibori and now Diezani. It is worrisome. We have a President who has sworn to Nigerians to fight corruption, but the framework for fighting corruption is not there. What is happening to Diezani in UK should be the responsibility of the government”, Mahmud stated.