05 October 2015, Abuja — As anxiety mounts over the identities of suspects arrested alongside former Petroleum Minister, Diezani Alison-Madueke, indications emerged last night that she and other suspects might not be charged to court in Nigeria soon.
This came as chairman of the Presidential Advisory Committee on Corruption, Prof. Itse Sagay (SAN), said he was not shocked about the former minister’s arrest, especially as she had earlier been indicted by the Senate, noting, however, that his committee had no role to play in her prosecution.
According to a top security official working with one of the anti-crime agencies, the reason is that investigation into the money laundering case and bribery is yet to be concluded.
The official, who spoke in confidence with Vanguard last night, said that the investigation had not reached a point of pressing charges against the suspects, citing the length of time it took both Nigerian and British security agencies to investigate a former political office holder, before trial.
The official said: “Look, the idea of charging Diezani or any of the suspects to court does not arise now because investigation is going on in Nigeria and overseas.
“You will recall that it took some years to investigate the case of a former political office holder in Nigeria and London before we arrived at a decision to charge him to court,” the security source said in response to Vanguard’s enquiry last night.
That notwithstanding, the British national crime agency has ordered Mrs Diezani Allison-Madueke and four other suspects, who were arrested and released on conditional bail last Friday, to report today at the Charing Cross Police Station.
There were fears that they could be charged today or this week for their alleged involvement in money laundering and bribery.
Ex-NNPC official faces arrest
But as the investigation progresses, a top-ranking former official of a subsidiary of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, NNPC, might be picked up by security agencies as part of the probe of the former minister going on in London and Nigeria.
A source close to the matter, told Vanguard that the top ex-oil official from the South-South, who held sway in many NNPC subsidiaries before working directly with the embattled former minister, ran into trouble because of numerous questionable deals he allegedly effected during the period.
The man is described by many top oil sector officials as someone who aided and abetted many financial misdeeds, which caused the national oil firm a fortune during Mrs Allison-Madueke’s tenure.
Although the official was surreptitiously removed from office shortly after the minister left office last May, the man is said to be under the radar of both Nigerian and British security agencies.
It could not also be established last night whether he would be picked up and moved to London as part of the investigation by the British National Crime Agency, NCA.
A source in NNPC described the former official in question as having played a key role in causing the state oil firm to lose huge sums of money to private pockets through questionable deals sanctioned by political influence.
The other two oil barons reportedly arrested alongside the former oil minister, were said to be her close business associates who had their way in virtually all major oil deals in the NNPC when the minister was in charge.
Both suspects, said to be from the South-West were reported to wield considerable financial muscle, having also benefitted immensely from the subsidy regime of the last administration, which cost the nation a whopping N1.2 trillion yearly from the N425 billion, which the Yar’Adua regime spent.
One of the suspects, aged 21, is said to be related to the former minister but his identity was still being kept under wraps by the NCA as at last night.
An official of the British National Crime Agency, who spoke with Vanguard, had explained that the identities of all the suspects would only be unveiled at the point of charging them to court.
The official explained that the law establishing the NCA does not allow it to name those being investigated before charging them to court.
The official said: “Indeed, we cannot name the five persons who were arrested and granted police conditional bail until we are ready to charge them to court.
“The law does not permit us to do so and we will release appropriate information to the media as the case progresses,” the official said in response to an enquiry by Vanguard.
The Presidency has washed off its hands in the current ordeal of the former minister and her accomplices, saying, however, that the arrests might be Britain’s response to the recent plea by President Muhammadu Buhari to world leaders to help Nigeria recover its stolen wealth. The Senior Special Assistant on Media to the President, Garba Shehu, is reported to have confirmed this to a television station when asked to confirm whether the arrest of the former minister by Britain was requested by the Presidency.
I’m not shocked, says Sagay
Reacting to the arrest and subsequent bail of former Pretroleum Minister, Diezani Allison-Madueke, chairman of the newly constituted Presidential Advisory Committee on Corruption, Prof. Itse Sagay (SAN) said he was not shocked and threw his weight behind the former minister’s arrest.
Sagay, in a chat with Vanguard last night, said: “That is the correct thing to do, it is to be expected. No one is surprised because we all knew her story, even when she was minister, we all know the number of times she was indicted by the Senate. Her story is out there, it is no shock to me at all.”
Asked about the role of his committee on the issue, he said: “We are not an executive agency, we don’t arrest, we don’t prosecute. Our role is more of co-ordination of the activities of various agencies.
“We deliberate and find out what their shortcomings are, what can make them more effective, what they need in order to combat corruption effectively. We make recommendations to make them stronger and more effective, we also look at the whole administrative justice system, see the weakness in them, why cases are taking such a long time, why the prosecutions are failing.
“What we are doing is to make the system stronger and more effective. We also ensure cooperation among the ICPC and EFCC and Department of State Service.”
On whether his committee will be advising the Federal Government to extradite Mrs Allison-Madueke, he answered in the negative, adding that it was “the work of the Ministry of Justice”.
On the possibility of his committee appearing in a London court to give evidence, Sagay said his committee would not be appearing in court, stressing again that it was the job of the Ministry of Justice.
On whether or not evidence will be sent against her to the UK if necessary, Sagay said that was the job of the EFCC.
‘’Let me tell you what we do. We will strengthen the EFCC to do its job. For example, we can help them in training for investigation, prosecution but when it comes to actual activity, they are the ones to do it. We are behind the scene.”