Former Nigeria’s oil minister encounters several graft cases

Diezani Alison-Madueke

Lagos, (Globe Afrique) – A former oil minister of the Federal Republic of Nigeria who faces several corruption charges at home is also engulfed in a growing number of international cases that lift the cap on the gage of alleged corruption in the West African country’s oil sector.

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Diezani Alison-Madueke who left office in 2015, has been implicated in several allegations of bribery, fraud, misuse of public funds, and money laundering cases in Nigeria, Britain, Italy and the United States.

Alison-Madueke who became the first female president of the global oil cartel OPEC, was one of Africa’s most prominent politicians during her time as minister of petroleum in Nigeria. Despite being repeatedly accused, she has always denied the allegations, which involve billions of dollars syphoned from oil deals and state coffers.

Matthew Page, a former US State Department Nigeria specialist suggested that a US civil forfeiture case to seize $144 million (124 million euros) of assets from allegedly ill-gotten crude contracts may just be the start of Alison-Madueke’s legal troubles.

“Although this is the first attempt by US law enforcement to go after assets allegedly stolen by Diezani and her henchmen, it almost certainly will not be the last,” he told media groups.

Nigeria’s President Muhammadu Buhari, elected in 2015 on a promise to eliminate graft, has said that “mind-boggling” sums of public money were stolen by previous administrations.

Diezani Alison-Madueke (in red)

Nigerian officials in the capital Abuja say they are talking with US prosecutors about repatriating the money if the civil forfeiture claim is successful.

Alison-Madueke, who was Nigeria’s first female minister of petroleum resources, served under President Goodluck Jonathan from 2010 to 2015. Her tenure, however, was dogged by widespread scandal and allegations of public theft.

It can be recalled that the former central bank governor of Nigeria Lamido Sanusi was sacked for claiming that the state-run Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) had failed to remit $20 billion on the watch of Alison-Madueke.

Alison-Madueke has also been accused of diverting some $153 million from the NNPC coffers in one other case that was heard in Nigeria last February.

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Sources say some 23 billion naira ($73 million) of NNPC money is alleged to have been wasted to influence the 2015 presidential election to keep Jonathan in power.

Kola Aluko and Jide Omokore, whose companies were awarded oil contracts by Alison-Madueke are also under the radar. Prosecutors in the country’s largest city Lagos this week began proceedings to recover $1.76 billion of assets owned by Aluko and Omokore.

A parallel asset recovery case was filed last week in Houston, Texas, seeking the confiscation of luxury property, including a New York apartment and superyacht, bought by the two businessmen.

A judge, last Wednesday, ordered the forfeiture of Alison-Madueke’s $37.5 million luxury Lagos property, maintaining that it was bought with ill-gotten resources.

In another development, prosecutors in Italy are alleging that Alison-Madueke’s and ex-president Jonathan received kickbacks from oil conglomerates ENI and Shell as part of a $1.3-billion deal for an offshore oil block in Nigeria.
Diezani-Madueke was arrested in London in October 2015 regarding a British probe into international corruption and money laundering, but has since been freed on bail.

Buhari came to power, several high-profile figures in ex-president Jonathan’s government have been charged with corruption. So far, there have been no major convictions.

Still, some activists believe the overseas cases will serve as a powerful example of justice.

Debo Adeniran, of the Coalition Against Corrupt Leaders lobby group, said the latest cases involving Alison-Madueke, Aluko and Omokore could be a “morale booster.”

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Michael Harrington

Michael Harrington is a researcher and senior contributing reporter with Globe Afrique Media.
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