*Released on bail after several hours
*EFCC seals her Abuja house
*Presidency keeps mum
*Okorie, Ngige, Gbagi, others react
By Soni Daniel, Clifford Ndujihe, Charles Kumolu & Ikenna Asomba (with Agency report)
IMMEDIATE past Petroleum Resources Minister, Mrs Diezani Alison-Madueke, was yesterday arrested with four other people by the UK National Crime Agency. She was however granted bail after she had been detained for several hours. According to London Police she will be charged to court for money laundering.
Regarded as the most powerful minister in the Dr Goodluck Jonathan Administration, Alison Madueke was arrested yesterday morning for alleged offences relating to money laundering, bribery and corruption being investigated by the UK National Crime Agency, according to Premium Times report.
This is coming as the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) last night sealed off her house in Asokoro area of Abuja. The identities of the four other people arrested along with her could not be immediately ascertained as at press time. Two top British officials in London confirmed the development on the condition of anonymity because they had no permission to speak on the issue.
When contacted, the British High Commission in Nigeria confirmed that some arrests were made Friday but declined to disclose the identities of those involved. Joseph Abuku, Press and Public Affairs Officer, said, “This morning, five people between the ages of 21 and 60 were arrested on suspicion of bribery and corruption offences. The crimes are being investigated by the National Crime Agency.
“The National Crime Agency does not confirm identity of any arrest nor provide information that could be used to corroborate the identity of an arrested individual.” Vanguard sources at the UK National Crime Agency also confirmed the arrest and added that the identities of those arrested would be officially disclosed at the point of being charged to court.
EFCC operatives invade Alison-Madueke’s Abuja mansion
Late yesterday even-ing, heavily armed EFCC operatives had invaded the former minister’s mansion at Frederick Chiluba Street, Asokoro, Abuja. They stormed the house in three white Hilux trucks and two Hilux buses. Two of the trucks were unmarked while one belonged to the Nigerian Police.
The EFCC operatives cordoned off the house and did not allow vehicles to stop in front of the duplex. Some were inside the premises and others were outside.
It was not clear whether Alison-Madueke was arrested based on request from the Federal Government given that President Muhammadu Buhari had on September 27 hinted that those who misappropriated billions of naira belonging to Nigeria National Petroleum Corporation, NNPC would soon be prosecuted.
Mr. Buhari said at a meeting with President Xi Jinping of China in New York that his administration was determined to fully sanitize Nigeria’s oil industry and make it totally free of corruption and shady deals.
Before now, Mrs. Alison-Madueke had been alleged to be involved in many corrupt dealings that have not been proved. The allegations included keeping $700 million in her house and losing the sum of N2billion in various foreign currencies to her domestic staff on June 3, 2014.
Under her tenure, the NNPC was rocked by a missing $20billion scandal, over which the new General Managing Director of the NNPC, Dr Ibe Kachikwu, has promised to invite foreign auditor for a full forensic audit of the corporation’s accounts. Former Central Bank Governor and now the Emir of Kano Sanusi Lamido Sanusi alleged that NNPC could not account for $20billion although the initial allegation was that $40billion was missing.
Presidency keeps mum over Alison-Madueke’s arrest
The Presidency, yesterday, declined to comment on the arrest of Alison-Madueke in London as well as the invasion of her Asokoro, Abuja residence by operatives of the EFCC.
Asked to confirm if the EFCC’s invasion of Alison-Madueke’s house and her arrest were based on the request of the Nigerian Government, the President’s Special Adviser on Media and Publicity, Mr Femi Adesina, said: “No comment for now. You can confirm from the security agencies.”
It was gathered that some vital documents were removed from the former minister’s Abuja home, reportedly ransacked earlier by the anti-graft operatives.
She will get justice —Ngige
A renowned lawyer, Chief Emeka Ngige, SAN, said: ‘’Since it is the British agency that arrested her, she must have issues to settle with them. Whoever that is alleged to have done something wrong will be arrested. I am sure she will be treated according to their laws. Her arrest is not a big deal. If they arrest her, she should explain herself. She will get justice.’’
Her interrogation long expected – Okorie
National Chairman and Presidential Candidate of the United Progressive Party (UPP) in the 2015 elections, Chief Chekwas Okorie, said Alison Madueke’s interrogation had been long expected following the avalanche of allegations against her. He said: ‘’It is an interrogation that has been expected for a long time.
There have been speculations from many quarters and insinuation from the President in the United States of America where he said that $150 billion had been stolen by people in government. During the same visit, Edo State Governor, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole said that $6billion had been traced to an account that is operated by a former minister in Nigeria.
‘’Coming from the President and Oshiomhole, there is no ministry in Nigeria that has that kind of money apart from the Petroleum ministry. And Diezani was petroleum minister for many years. One expected that she ought to have been investigated. She boasted at one time that she will never run away from Nigeria. Having relocated to London since President Buhari took over suggests that she may have something to hide. She has not been pronounced guilty but she should explain herself.
When I led UPP leaders to President Buhari after the presidential elections, one of our three demands was that he should recover all recoverables. He was pleased and promised to do so.”
I am vindicated – Gbagi
Former Minister of State for Education, Chief Kenneth Gbagi said: ‘’I am only vindicated. I have said it before that the fact that Nigeria is a nation where people are millionaires without credible sources of income leaves one worried. It makes Nigeria a kangaroo nation where anything goes without being challenged. We have only just begun in the fight against this malaise that has brought so much shame to Nigeria.
I said it earlier that unless we do something urgently Nigeria will not be safe for anyone. And the day of reckoning is coming, when people will be made to be responsible for their actions. When people with so much money are allowed to flaunt their ill-gotten wealth, Nigeria is in trouble. It could even lead to coup because they are very powerful. We have a long way to go in this fight against corruption.”
Meanwhile, Alison Madueke remains innocent until a court of competent jurisdiction proves otherwise.