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‘Diverted oil cash’ forfeited to Nigerian govt

Cash recently found in the house of a Nigerian official as the country steps up an anti-corruption drive

Lagos, Nigeria | AFP | 

A court on Thursday ordered $153.3 million allegedly diverted by Nigeria’s former oil minister Diezani Alison-Madueke from the state-run oil firm to be handed over to the government.

Judge Muslim Hassan, sitting at the federal high court in Lagos, made the forfeiture order in the case, which was brought by the country’s main anti-corruption body.

The money — in naira and US dollars — was allegedly taken from the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) and stashed in three banks at Alison-Madueke’s request.

At a previous hearing on January 6, the court was told one bank held 23.4 billion naira for the former minister, another 9.08 billion naira, and a third $5 million.

One senior bank executive was said to have been given some $40 million for safekeeping, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) said in its submission to the court.

The cash was diverted with the help of senior officials at the banks and the NNPC in December 2014 and kept off the books, it was alleged.

Judge Hassan had previously made a temporary forfeiture order pending any appeal from the former minister that the money was obtained legitimately.

Alison-Madueke, who was appointed by former president Goodluck Jonathan and was also global oil cartel OPEC’s first female president, has strongly denied ownership of the money.

She maintained she had no access to NNPC funds and challenged the EFCC to come up with evidence of wrong-doing.

Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari defeated Jonathan in elections in 2015 on a promise of a wide-ranging crackdown on corruption at the highest level.

But Jonathan’s Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) has made claims of a political witch-hunt given that most of those arrested and taken to court were former senior government figures.

As oil minister, Alison-Madueke oversaw the NNPC, which was widely seen as one of the most opaque and corrupt of state oil companies.

She has been on police bail in London since October 2015 after being arrested in connection with a British investigation into international corruption and money laundering.

She has also been implicated with Jonathan in a $1.3 billion deal involving oil giants ENI and Shell which is under investigation in Italy for illegal kickbacks.

Both oil giants deny any impropriety.

Last week, the EFCC announced that former NNPC group managing director Andrew Yakubu was under investigation after almost $10 million in cash was found at a property he owns.

Yakubu had admitted the money belongs to him but maintained it was a gift from friends.


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