Diezani Allison Madueke’s position as one of the most prominent women on the global stage seemed assured.
If boasting about institutional academic prowess is anything to go by, Diezani brandishes Cambridge degree and a portfolio of senior government positions in her native Nigeria. She is also the first female President of the Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) oil cartel.
Such was her influence that in 2015 British government placed her top of a list of former recipients of the Chevening Scholarship for future leaders of foreign states. The Chevening Scholarship will this year embrace our Tshepo Maphanyane amongst others.
Chevening is an international scholarship scheme, which enables students with leadership qualities from 144 countries to undertake postgraduate study or courses in universities in the UK. After receiving a Chevening scholarship in 2002, Diezani attended Cambridge University for her MBA and then returned to Nigeria where she became the first female Executive Director of Shell Petroleum Development Company.
After emerging as the first woman to hold the position of Minister of Petroleum Resources in Nigeria in 2010 and the first female President of OPEC in 2014, Chevening listed her as one of its best female alumni in commemoration of the March 8, 2015 International Women’s Day.
Young sheiks in Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Qatar and the UAE want to preside over OPEC. Diezani pinnacled that in 2014. She was listed amongst other international and accomplished women.
In October 2015, Diezani’s prominence became muddied with notoriety when Britain’s National Crime Agency (NCA) arrested her along with four others as part of a two year investigation into suspected bribery and money laundering. The reasons for the arrests by the International Corruption Unit (ICU) were not disclosed.
A week later NCA secured the freezing of £27, 000 in cash belonging to Diezani after it was seized in different currencies. A further £5, 000 was frozen from her mother Beatrice Agama, who owns property in upmarket London’s St John’s Wood.
Following Diezani’s arrest, Chevening delisted her name but retained the names of other celebrated women. Diezani is the embodiment of impunity of President Goodluck Jonathan’s reign. Allison-Madueke comes from a prominent family. She is married to Former Rear Admiral Allison Madueke, a retired Nigerian naval officer. He was Chief of Naval Staff from 1993 to 1994.
Diezani is a former Shell Executive who was appointed Petroleum Minister in 2010. She held the position until Jonathan lost Nigeria’s elections to rival Muhammad Buhari in 2015. Buhari put the fight against corruption at the heart of campaign.
In her first year as Petroleum Minister, the number of dealers licensed to import petrol rose from 40 to 140 and Nigeria’s import bill surged four times. Oil is important to Nigeria, and so is the post of Petroleum Minister. Nigeria is Africa’s largest oil producer and up to 80% of government revenue comes from oil.
Allegations of corruption have long been rife in the Nigerian oil industry. The shocker amongst even the most hardened of souls came in February when Governor of the Central Bank, Sanusi Sanusi alleged in 2014 that £15 billion of oil receipts had gone missing from State-owned oil company while Diezani Allison-Madueke was in office.
Diezani vehemently denied any wrongdoing and Sanusi was fired as governor in April 2014. He too was accused of financial misconduct. Neither the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), nor Diezani, bothered to credibly deny the allegations.
In her final interview as a Minister, in April 2015, she insisted that “at no time in Nigerian history in the oil and gas industry has the NNPC been as open and audited as it is today”, and described herself as the victim of “malicious, malevolent and vindictive” attacks from the vested interests whose “big toes” her “unprecedented reforms” had hurt.
Following the October 2015 arrest in London, Diezani’s political allies in Nigeria argued that President Buhari was conducting a witch-hunt against members of the previous government. One former minister said, “we see everything moving according to an agenda. They want to use Diezani to get at President Jonathan”.
President Buhari, already complaining of inheriting a coffers that were virtually empty when he came to power, was quick to acknowledge action against those alleged to be involved in the theft of funds from the NNPC.
In 2014 Diezani faced a probe from Parliament over allegations of spending millions of dollars in public funds hiring private jets for personal use. She went to court to get an injunction halting the probe. President Jonathan stood behind her.
Following the arrest in Britain, NCA froze £10 million worth of property allegedly in her name. How does a country besotted with its own troubles of Brexit amongst other things meddle in a matter that they could refer to a local chief in Nigeria?
The US could not afford to be left out of this jealousy. In 2017, the US Department of Justice lawsuit roped Diezani in yet another international corruption scandal. The lawsuit alleged that Nigerian businessmen Kola Aluko and Jide Omokore illegally obtained lucrative oil contracts in Nigeria by repeatedly bribing Diezani.
The men then laundered the proceeds of those contracts through the US by purchasing assets worth $144 million. Diezani used her influence as Petroleum Minister to ensure that companies owned by Aluko and Omokore were awarded multiple oil contracts by NNPC. The shell companies were registered in the British Virgin Islands, Abuja, Nigeria’s capital, and in the United Kingdom
Court documents allege that companies owned by Aluko and Odomore were awarded these lucrative contracts despite being “unqualified” to execute them. Deals between Diezani and her co-conspirators allegedly began in April 2011 when a company owned by the duo was awarded oil mining leases worth $677 million.
In December 2012, the duo were awarded four more oil mining leases which sold over $800 million. In exchange, it is alleged Diezani’s kickbacks were luxury homes across the United Kingdom. It is said from January 2011, three months before Aluko and Omokore were awarded a contract, the two began to purchase property for Diezani. Court documents list four homes in the United Kingdom worth £11.5 million, including a £4 million London home bought only a day after Aluko met with Nigerian officials to discuss the first oil contract.
Recorded conversations suggest a major fallout between Diezani and her co-conspirators. In one conversation in possession of the US officials, Diezani fights back a possible blackmail by threatening to expose all and seeing to it that everyone involved in the plot goes to jail. US officials also allege that it was Diezani who recorded the conversations.
The highlight of the recorded conversations, has to be Diezani expressing wary at the lavish lifestyles of Aluko and Omokore. When referring to $82 million Galactica Star, the second most expensive yacht in the world, Diezani said “If you want to hire a yacht, you lease it for two weeks or whatever. You don’t go and sink funds into it at this time when Nigerian oil and gas sector is under all kinds of watch”.
The yacht, hosted Beyonce’s 32nd birthday party in 2013.
In December 2018, Nigeria’s anti-corruption agency filed for Diezani’s arrest after a judge approved a request for her to be charged with corruption. The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) says it wants Diezani to be extradited from Britain.
But the process is taking too long!