Embattled former Minister of Petroleum Resources, Diezani Alison-Madueke, has denied allegations levelled against her by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, daring the anti-graft agency to provide incontrovertible any evidence against her.
She also faulted President Muhammadu Buhari’s anti-corruption fight, saying it was aimed at demonising and destroying a few Nigerians.
The former minister said this in a viral statement on a popular blog, www.stelladimokokorkus.com, while reacting to several media reports about her on Saturday.
A Federal High Court in Lagos had recently ordered that the $153m which was illegally lodged by the ex-minister through cronies in three banks be temporarily forfeited to the Federal Government.
However, Diezani denied ownership of the money, insisting that she had no access to funds from the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation.
She said, “I wish to state that I cannot forfeit what was never mine. I do not know the basis on which the EFCC has chosen to say that I am the owner of these funds as no evidence was provided against me before the order was obtained and they have not in fact served me with the order or any evidence since they obtained it. As of the time of my writing this rebuttal (January 19, 2017), the EFCC has still not furnished me or my lawyers with a copy of the order.”
In a terse text message on Saturday night, the spokesman for the EFCC, Mr. Wilson Uwujaren, however, challenged the former minister to come back to Nigeria if she believed she had done nothing wrong.
“She (Diezani) should return to the country and clear her name,” Uwujaren said without making further comments.
In her statement, Diezani also denied ownership of an $18m (N5.7bn) mansion located on Margaret Thatcher Close, Asokoro, Abuja, which was seized by the EFCC in June.
In a report by a television network, Al Jazeera, the anti-graft agency noted that the items in the house included jewellery, furniture and a bulletproof gymnasium worth about $2m.
The ex-minister slammed the acting EFCC Chairman, Mr. Ibrahim Magu, for taking the Al Jazeera reporter to the mansion and misleading the public.
Diezani said the house did not belong to her but to an oil magnate, Mr. Kola Aluko. Aluko is Diezani’s alleged front who is on the EFCC watch list.
The ex-minister said, “On June 13, 2016, the EFCC once again took their well-trodden path to the media; this time claiming that they had ‘discovered’ a mansion in Asokoro, Abuja, worth $18m (about N9bn) which they purported to belong to me.
“The EFCC went to the extent of bringing in Al Jazeera, an international TV station, to air a damaging documentary against me in this regard, showing a particular residential building in Asokoro, Abuja, which they told Al Jazeera belonged to me.
“The EFCC Chairman Ibrahim Magu, personally took the Al Jazeera reporter to the building, alleging that it belonged to me. It has since become apparent that the house belongs to a company owned by Mr. Kola Aluko.
“If this is not a witch-hunt or a personal vendetta against me, how is it that one of our country’s premier investigative agencies was unable to avail itself of facts that are freely available in the public domain?
“Since the EFCC claimed that the alleged $18m Asokoro property belongs to me, then it should kindly produce the ‘authentic’ Certificate of Occupancy and land registry information and any other relevant information as proof of my ownership of the property.”
The former petroleum minister, who served from 2010 to 2015, also denied involvement in the $1.3bn Malabu oil scandal. The scandal involves the controversial sale of OPL 245, one of the most lucrative oil blocs in Nigeria.
Diezani said the matter was a legal issue which was handled by the then Attorney-General of the Federation, Mohammed Adoke (SAN).
She said, “I wish to categorically state that I have never held any discussion on this matter with any individual or entities outside of official channels. As the minister of petroleum resources, I did not participate in any activity relating to financial payments on the Malabu matter, other than those statutorily mandated to the Minister of Petroleum Resources by the Petroleum Act. My role in this matter was a purely statutory one as required by law in the Petroleum Act.”
The ex-minister further slammed the EFCC for misleading the media regarding her estate in Yenagoa, Bayelsa State.
She said the estate was not worth billions of naira but only N394m and that she declared it in her Asset Declaration form which was submitted to the Code of Conduct Bureau.
Diezani said, “On November 9, 2016, the EFCC officials visited our family home in Yenagoa as pre-agreed and they were escorted around the premises. I was therefore completely shocked to once again see my name sensationally splashed across the front pages of newspapers and widely circulated on the Internet, with blaring headlines such as ‘EFCC uncovers Diezani’s multibillion-naira estate’.
“There was absolutely nothing ‘hidden’ or ‘concealed’ about the home. I had declared it openly as required by law, in my Asset Declaration forms (Annex-4B). Yet the EFCC announced that it ‘just discovered’ my ‘hidden estate’ and labelled it a ‘multibillion-naira estate’ even though it had been given the Bill of Quantities, showing actual amount spent.
“The EFCC (officials) were taken on a tour of the compound which consisted of a main house, and two outhouses – an obi (meeting bungalow) and a staff quarters (BQ) building – above which we built three guest rooms and a parlour.
“The other two structures are the gate and generator houses. Construction began in late 2011 and was handled in phases. During the visit, the EFCC was given the bill of quantities, which up to the time construction stopped in early 2015, due to my illness, was at approximately N394m which was declared in the Code of Conduct documentation attached (the costs were partially funded by a loan – see code of conduct – Annex4B, the work is still uncompleted and the contractor is still being owed). Building costs escalated as a result of delays in construction and external factors such as the extreme flooding of late 2012 that covered most of our areas in the Niger Delta.”
The former minister, while listing her achievements, maintained that she left over $5.6bn in LNG Dividend Funds.
She said under her watch, there was virtually no case of fuel scarcity in the country.
In a parting shot to the EFCC, Diezani said, “The fight against corruption in Nigeria will be far better served if the EFCC focused on incontrovertible facts, as opposed to media sensationalism and completely distorted stories, in its bid to demonise and destroy a few specially chosen Nigerians.”
Reacting to Diezani’s statement, the Chairman of the Presidential Advisory Committee against Corruption, Prof. Itse Sagay (SAN), advised that the former minister save her energy for her trial which may come up soon.
Sagay, who spoke in his personal capacity and not as the chairman of the PCAC, explained that corrupt people in power usually use fronts like the mafia.
He said, “She should reserve her energy for her trial. If a $153m was found in accounts linked to her and she was the minister selling oil on behalf of the government, one does not need to put two and two together.
“Her statement is premature; let her prepare it for her defence.
“I am sure you have watched the movie, ‘The Godfather’. The real godfather never shoots anyone by himself. All he needs to do is press a button and someone else will do it but that doesn’t mean that the murder cannot be traced to him. So, when Diezani’s trial begins, the truth will be made known.”
The Director General of the Voice of Nigeria, Mr. Osita Okechukwu, also asked the former minster to come home and face the law instead of staying in the comfort of another country to throw verbal missiles.
“She was right when she said the money confiscated from her by the EFCC is not her money. Of course, it is not her money, it is the money which belong to the long-suffering Nigerian taxpayers which she took and converted to personal use.
“While in office as super minister, she never thought a day would come when she would be called to give account, but today, there are questions she does not have answers to. The EFCC is a legal entity set up by law. If tomorrow I leave office as DG VON and there is reason for the EFCC to investigate me, they will and I will not be hiding under any guise to escape justice.
“In 2013, money was voted and a ceremony was held by the (ex-President Goodluck) Jonathan administration that they were going to build three refineries, one in Bayelsa, one in Kogi and another place. Where are those refineries? Where is the money? Nigerians are wiser than before. All these sentiments won’t sit well with Nigerians any longer. She should return and help the EFCC recover what was stolen. ”