The British National Crime Agency has dispatched a team of detectives to Nigeria who are now working with the operatives of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission to probe Diezani Alison-Madueke, Nigeria’s former Petroleum Minister, during the administration of ex-President Goodluck Jonathan.
Findings by SUNDAY PUNCH revealed that the team of investigators from the UK Police was drawn from the Seizures Organised Crimes Agency.
A top operative of the EFCC, who spoke to one of our correspondents on condition of anonymity on Saturday, said the SOCA team had been involved in a discreet investigation of Alison-Madueke for two months before they finally moved against her.
The former petroleum minister left Nigeria shortly before the inauguration of President Muhammadu Buhari in May this year.
It was further gathered that the team from SOCA had been working alongside a team of EFCC operatives from the Subsidy Unit led by a Chief Superintendent of Police.
The EFCC team was constituted in August 2015 by the Chairman of the anti-corruption agency, Ibrahim Lamorde, to investigate the activities of Alison-Madueke and the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation.
The SU team was mandated to probe all the accounts of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, which were under the supervision of the former minister.
SUNDAY PUNCH gathered on Saturday that the intensified investigation into the activities of the former minister was being supervised by Lamorde and the Director of Operations of the EFCC, Mr. Olusola Adegbite.
Investigations further showed that the operatives from the subsidy unit of the EFCC carried out the operation at Alison-Madueke’s Asokoro residence in Abuja, following her arrest on Friday.
An operative of the commission, who spoke on condition of anonymity, disclosed that the EFCC’s subsidy team ransacked the residence of the former minister for hours.
The operatives were said to have recovered several files from the ex-minister’s residence and they were carted away for further analysis by the combined team of investigators from the EFCC and the SOCA.
It was gathered that the operatives did not find anybody within the residence to guide them, so they had to get some security personnel who had worked with the former minister to gain access into the building through one of the windows.
It was further stated that the operatives later got the keys and searched all the rooms in the house for hours before they carted away the files.
The source said, “When our operatives got there, there was nobody in the building. What they did was to get the security men who were working with her to guide them through the building.
“They entered the building through one of the windows and later found the keys with which they accessed all the rooms. They found some documents in some files and they carted them away.”
Ex-minister’s probe began in 2013 — Britain
Similarly, the NCA has revealed that contrary to speculations that the corruption investigation leading to the arrest of Nigeria’s former Petroleum Minister started in 2013.
The Nigerian media, both the traditional and social media platforms, were awash with reports that it was President Buhari’s recent meeting with the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, David Cameron, and other world leaders that led to the investigation and arrest of Alison-Madueke.
The ex-minister and current President of the Organisation of the Petroleum Exporting Countries was arrested on Friday by the NCA’s recently formed International Corruption Unit, along with four other persons.
She was arrested in London as part of an investigation into suspected bribery and money laundering offences.
Alison-Madueke was, however, granted bail but her passport was withheld by the British authorities, pending further investigations, both in the UK and other countries.
In an update on its website, the NCA noted that the investigation started about two years ago.
“The investigation commenced in 2013 under the Proceeds of Corruption Unit, and transferred to the NCA earlier this year (2015). The International Corruption Unit investigates bribery of foreign public officials by individuals or companies from the UK and money laundering by corrupt foreign officials and their associates,” it stated.
The UK crime agency added that the ICU would also trace and recover the proceeds of Alison-Madueke’s alleged corruption and support Nigeria’s law enforcement agencies with international anti-corruption investigations.
Meanwhile, the Coordinator of a UK-based group, Security in Africa, Mr. Ben Oguntala, told SUNDAY PUNCH that the arrest and possible prosecution of Alison-Madueke would only scratch the problem of corruption in Nigeria at its surface.
He said, “To have a simple Police Unit in the UK bring up partial evidence of corruption against a former minister is barely scratching the surface. You cannot fight corruption in this manner; it is far too complicated for ordinary corruption prosecution.
“What would have made this case extraordinary would be if Mrs. Madueke decides to reveal all. However, she is unlikely to do that, if your strategy is to arrest her first, embarrass her and drag her through the UK courts with little or insufficient evidence. Now, she will get a good lawyer and make the process the lengthiest as legally permissible.”
According to Oguntala, what President Buhari needs to do is not to allow a UK-led corruption charges.
He noted that the British government’s approach at fighting corruption cases emanating from Nigeria is putting the cart before the horse.
Also reacting to the ex-minister’s arrest, the Executive Director of Coalition Against Corrupt Leaders, Mr. Debo Adeniran, told SUNDAY PUNCH that the news of Alison-Madueke’s arrest in the UK was a good one.
According to him, the news will show the world that Nigeria is serious about fighting corruption and impunity usually perpetrated by its public officials.
“It came as a cheering news when we heard about her arrest in the UK. I felt relieved; at least a big fish has been caught in the cause of our anti-corruption crusade. It also shows that President Buhari is intent on bringing to book those who have looted the country’s treasury.
“We also want the Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries as an august organisation to deem it fit to replace Alison-Madueke as its president. She does not enjoy the trust and respect of Nigerians,” Adeniran stated.
Checks on the webesite of OPEC on Saturday night showed that the organisation had been quoting its alternate president, Dr. Mohammed Bin Saleh Al Sada, lately.
There was no recent mention of Alison-Madueke.
Efforts to get the Presidency to comment on the incident failed on Saturday.
The Special Adviser to the President on Media and Publicity, Mr. Femi Adesina, kept mum.
He also refused to speak on whether or not the Federal Government would seek the ex-minister’s extradition.