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Nigeria’s former oil minister battles endless graft claims

Lagos, Sunday

Nigeria’s former oil minister faces charges only at home but her name crops up in a growing number of international cases that lift the lid on the scale of alleged corruption in the country’s oil sector.

Since leaving office in 2015, Diezani Alison-Madueke has been implicated in bribery, fraud, misuse of public funds, and money laundering cases in Nigeria, Britain, Italy and the United States.

The first female president of the global oil cartel OPEC — who was one of Africa’s most prominent politicians — has always denied the allegations, which involve billions of dollars syphoned from oil deals and state coffers.

But former US State Department Nigeria specialist Matthew Page suggested that a US civil forfeiture case to seize $144 million (Sh14.4b) of assets from allegedly ill-gotten crude contracts may just be the start of Alison-Madueke’s legal troubles.

Nigeria’s President Muhammadu Buhari, elected in 2015 on a promise to eliminate graft, has said that “mind-boggling” sums of public money were stolen by previous administrations. Officials in Abuja say they are talking with US prosecutors about repatriating the money if the civil forfeiture claim is successful.

Alison-Madueke served under president Goodluck Jonathan from 2010 to 2015 and was Nigeria’s first female minister of petroleum resources. But her tenure was dogged by scandal.

On her watch, the former central bank governor Lamido Sanusi was sacked for claiming the state-run Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) had failed to remit $20 billion.

In one case heard in Nigeria in February, Alison-Madueke was accused of diverting some $153 million from the NNPC coffers. In another ongoing trial, some 23 billion naira ($73 million) of NNPC money is alleged to have been used to influence the 2015 presidential election to keep Jonathan in power.

But whatever positive impact that may have, fears remain that with Buhari on indefinite medical leave, his anti-corruption war is losing momentum. -AFP

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