The Nigerian presidency has confirmed the arrest of a former Petroleum Minister, Diezani Alison-Madueke, in London, over allegations of corruption and money laundering.
“The government is aware of the arrest and all the government investigative agencies are working very closely with the British law enforcement,” the Senior Special Assistant to the President, Garba Shehu, told Chat212 FM Reporter exclusively on Sunday.
“Nigerian authorities are saying for the first time that matters are being handled with seriousness and deep commitment. Nobody wants to give the impression that this government is frivolous and unserious.
“For this reason, government is only confirming active collaboration. Beyond this, we are not saying more. In due course, Nigerians will be briefed on updates as appropriate.”
Asked about the identities of the other four people arrested with the former minister, Mr. Shehu declined comments, saying, “as I said no one is willing to provide further details at this point”.
The presidential confirmation came two days after Mrs. Alison-Madueke was arrested and granted bail by the UK National Crime Agency over allegations of corruption and money laundering.
Chat212 FM Reporter had on Friday exclusively reported the arrest of the former minister, alongside four others.
The identities of the four other people arrested along with Mrs. Alison-Madueke, remained unknown.
The embattled former minister, who was one of the most influential officials of the President Goodluck Jonathan administration, and her four colleagues were granted “conditional bail” late that same day.
As part of the bail conditions, Mrs. Alison-Madueke’s 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 in court.
It is not however clear when the Minister and her accomplices would be arraigned in court.
The UK NCA had explained on Saturday that investigation into allegations of corruption against the former minister of Petroleum Resources and the four other people arrested on Friday had been on since 2013.
The agency said in an update on its website that investigation of Mrs. Alison-Madueke was originally handled under the Proceeds of Corruption Unit (PCU) domiciled at the London Metropolitan Police Service in 2013 until earlier this year when the case was transferred to it.
The NCA said following the creation of the International Corruption Unit (ICU) in line with the UK Anti-Corruption Plan, the PCU at the Metropolitan Police and the Overseas Anti-Corruption Unit of the City of London Police were scrapped.
The ICU has since become the UK’s prime agency for the investigation of bribery of foreign public officials by individuals or companies from the UK, and money laundering by corrupt foreign officials and their associates.
A controversial minister
Mrs. Alison-Madueke, one of the most influential officials of the President Goodluck Jonathan administration, was first appointed into the federal cabinet in 2007.
A former board member of Shell Petroleum Development Company of Nigeria, she was later appointed Minister of Transport by former President Umaru Yar’adua.
In December 2008, she was redeployed to the mines and steel development ministry.
After former Vice President Goodluck Jonathan became acting president, Mrs. Alison-Madueke was appointed Nigeria’s first female petroleum minister in February 2010, a position Mrs. Alison-Madueke held till May 29, 2015 when Mr. Jonathan left office.
Mrs. Alison-Madueke’s tenure as petroleum minister turned out one of Nigeria’s most controversial, amid unending allegations of massive corruption.
Under her watch, dubious oil marketers stole trillions of naira of oil subsidy money. She retained her position despite an indictment by the House of Representatives which investigated the fuel subsidy scandal.
Probes by independent audit firms, including the KPMG and PriceWaterhousecoopers, confirmed that billions of dollars of oil money were missing. The most notable case of missing money involved $20billion in 2014, as alleged by a former Central Bank governor, Lamido Sanusi.
Several shady deals exposed by Chat212 FM Reporter and confirmed by government and independent auditors were linked to the former minister and her cronies.
Long before her stint in the oil and gas sector, Mrs. Alison-Madueke was investigated by the Nigerian Senate on allegation she paid N30.9 billion to contractors while she held office as transportation minister.
In 2009, the Senate indicted and recommended her prosecution for allegedly transferring N1.2 billion into a private account of a toll company without due process.
Regardless of the indictments, Mrs. Alison-Madueke got elected in November 2014 as the first female president of oil producing countries alliance, OPEC.
The former minister consistently denies wrongdoing. In June, after leaving office, she rejected all allegations of embezzlement saying she never stole from Nigeria.