Diezani Alison-Madueke: Is this the last chapter?

The announcement last week by the British authorities that they had charged former Petroleum Resources Minister, Mrs Diezani Alison-Madueke, with bribery offences, is a major scene in her series of run-ins with the law since 2015. The British authorities are suspecting that she had accepted bribes in return for awarding multi-billion Naira oil and gas contracts.

She served as petroleum minister from 2010 to 2015 in the Goodluck Jonathan administration. She also acted as President of OPEC in 2014-2015. ‘’We suspect Diezani Alison-Madueke abused her power in Nigeria and accepted financial rewards for awarding multi-million pound contracts’’, said Andy Kelly, Head of the International Corruption Unit of the National Crime Agency (NCA).

He added: “These charges are a milestone in what has been a thorough and complex international investigation’’. I understand that the EFCC has been collaborating with the NCA in this investigation. Alison-Madueke is 63 years old, and was at a time, said to be suffering from cancer.

The strictness with which some foreign countries fight corruption and adhere to high ethical standards explains why they are also very developed

NCA is a formidable crime fighter with global resources and reach that enable it to collaborate with certain agencies in other jurisdictions. It describes itself as a leading agency in UK’s ‘’fight to cut serious and organized crime’’, with its officers working ‘’at the forefront of law enforcement, building the best possible intelligence picture of serious and organized crime threats, relentlessly pursuing the most serious and dangerous offenders and developing and delivering specialist capabilities on behalf of law enforcement and other partners’’.

Apart from financial crimes like bribery, NCA investigates a wide range of crimes, from slavery, to illegal firearms, cybercrime and sexual exploitation’’. Their officers are highly trained, and adequately motivated. They can never be swayed by any form of inducements, as we often see here. I can tell you that Madam Diezani is in big trouble!

If convicted, she would be the third Nigerian public official to go to jail in the UK in this Fourth Republic. Former Governor James Ibori was in 2012 sentenced to 13 years in prison in the UK for corruption and former Deputy Senate President, Ike Ekweremadu was, last May, sentenced to nine years and eight months in the UK for organ trafficking. His wife, Beatrice, was jailed for four years and six months for being part of the crime.

Despite the stringency of the UK’s legal system, Nigeria’s corrupt public officials continue to stash away their loots in UK banks. Some invest heavily in the London property market, either for profit or as a store of value for their stolen wealth.

The United States also has very strict laws against bribery and corruption. The Foreign Corrupt Practices Act of 1977 is a federal law that prohibits US citizens and entities from bribing foreign government officials to benefit their business interests. It imposes long prison terms on offenders. Two Nigerian friends who worked for two US-owned oil companies in Lagos have told me stories of how dreadful this law is.

One was returning to Nigeria from the US and he had a corporate jet to himself. At Houston International airport, he ran into his state governor who was also returning to Nigeria. “I wanted to offer a lift in the plane to my governor, but I could not because that would flout the FCPA. It could be interpreted as a bribe, or at least, a breach of corporate ethics; and I explained that to the governor, who understood’’, my friend told me years after the incident.

The other friend, who worked in another US oil company in Lagos, told me a strikingly similar story a few years ago. Here he was at Abuja Airport with his CEO, an American, waiting to board the company’s executive jet to Lagos. He continued: “suddenly, a well-known Nigerian newspaper publisher appeared, and he was also going to Lagos.

The publisher asked my MD for a lift; but the MD told him to talk to the Deputy MD, a Nigerian, and incidentally, a former journalist, who was also in the party. The Publisher approached the DMD, and to his shock, the DMD declined, insisting that giving him a lift would break the law and corporate policy’’.

The publisher was beside himself with shock. The strictness with which some foreign countries fight corruption and adhere to high ethical standards explains why they are also very developed. It is my fervent belief and conviction that the main reason that Nigeria is so poor and undeveloped is because of the massive corruption and unethical practices going on in the public sector.

In the case of Alison-Madueke, the NCA said she is accused of benefiting from at least £100,000 ($127,000) in cash, chauffeur-driven cars, flights in private jets, luxury holidays for her family and use of multiple London properties.

Charges against her also detail financial rewards including furniture, renovation work and staff for the properties, payment of private school fees and gifts from high-end designer shops such as Cartier Jewellery and Louis Vuitton goods.

NCA added that her assets, worth millions of pounds, relating to alleged offences had been frozen, and that it had also provided evidence to the US Department of Justice that enabled to recover assets worth $53 million linked to the former minister. In other words, she has been in serious trouble in at least three jurisdictions.

Alison-Madueke fled Nigeria soon after leaving office in May 2015, and was arrested in London in October of that year. Since then, she has also been a subject of investigations in Nigeria and the US. The NCA announces that she’s currently living in St. John’s Wood, an upmarket area of West London, and would appear at West Magistrate Court on October 2.

I have no doubt in my mind that the NCA has compelling evidence against her. Those people do not charge any suspect to court unless they have a water-tight case. They are not like our law enforcement agencies that would detain suspects for months before they begin investigations.

In some cases, if the suspect is a high-brow public official, two agencies might be fighting openly on who should keep custody of the suspect. They know that once the suspect is in their custody, he would be a good source of ‘’palliatives’’! But the UK is not Nigeria; and this is why I am excited that Madam Diezani would have a fair opportunity to defend herself. This is her day of reckoning

culled from BusinessDay

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