From Uzonna Ononye, Lagos
Senior Advocate of Nigeria, Femi Falana has rejected any effort that may lead to repatriating the former minister of petroleum, Diezani Allison-Madueke back to Nigeria for trial. He reasoned that such will not only be counterproductive but a major distraction to a government that is yet to organized the judicial system to meet up with the demands of its anti-corruption campaign.
Mr. Falana was speaking on a telephone interview with a Television Station during their 10pm news on Friday and was monitored in Lagos.
The legal practitioner said that it is not likely that Mrs. Diezani’s arrest by the UK Metropolitan Police on Friday is directly linked to the appeal by President Muhammadu Buhari for international assistance in recovery of funds alleged to have been stolen from Nigerian. Rather, according Mr. Falana, the arrest will be the end of several weeks of information gathering and surveillance by the British security system.
Mr. Falana pointed out that this will not be the first time international collaboration led to the apprehension of government functionaries in London.
Former governor of Plateau state, Joshua Dariye who is a serving senator was arrested in London before he escaped and returned to Nigeria.
Former governor of Bayelsa state, DSP Alameiyeseigha was arrested in London and he escaped in circumstances that have remained unclear.
Former governor of Delta state was again arrested in London but could not escape. He was tried and found guilty of related cases over which a Nigerian High Court has discharged and acquitted him.
The Senior Advocate of Nigeria pointed out that all these happened during the presidency of Olusegun Obasanjo. He insisted that if government is serious about fighting corruption, it should not interfere in the investigation and probably, the prosecution of any former government functionary suspected to have tampered with the commonwealth of the country while in office.
It will be recalled that Mrs. Allison Madueke was not just a key member of the cabinet of ex-President Goodluck Jonathan but was very influential in the scheme of things.
She was accused of overseeing the stealing of billions of naira from the petroleum sector. Under her watch as minister, petroleum marketers stole crude from the country without proper documentation and payment and in return, they were compensated through a corrupt petrol subsidy regime.
While she served as minister, the role of the NNPC as the cash cow of successive administrations in Nigeria assumed an overwhelming proportion. A forensic audit by the PriceWaterHouseCooper, which was limited in scope, found out that the cooperation owed the country over a billion dollars in unremitted funds.
In March 2014, the House of Representatives mandated its Committee on Public Accounts to investigate the alleged squandering of N10 billion over a two-year period on the arbitrary charter and maintenance of a Challenger 850 aircraft for unofficial use by Alison-Madueke. Instead of appearing before the panel to clear herself, the former minister procured an order from the court restraining her arrest and any other action to compel her to appear before the House committee.
It was reported that after the elections were won and lost, Mrs. Diezani Allison Madueke sought audience with incoming president Muhammadu Buhari in order to prepare a safe landing. This led to the ‘coincidental’ trip to London in the same plane Gen. Buhari was travelling in. All her efforts at that time were abortive.
A UK court has granted bail to Mrs. Allison-MaduekeIs but confiscated her passport to ensure she is available anytime they need her. Is this now the day of reckoning for the former minister or will just be a flash in the pan like some incidents that previously took place in the country?