09 November 2017, Sweetcrude, Port Harcourt — For as long as President Muhammadu Buhari has been in power as Nigerian president, the stewardship and conduct of Mrs. Diezani Alison-Madueke, Nigeria’s petroleum minister under President Goodluck Jonathan have been the subject of adverse commentary, insinuations and accusations. The Nigerian authorities let it be known that Alison-Madueke had abused her office and acted in breach of the public trust by helping herself to Nigeria’s commonwealth and accepting bribes to undermine the integrity of her office and by implication, the economy of Nigeria. The EFCC informed the Nigerian public and the international community that the former petroleum minister had acquired expensive houses In Abuja, Lagos, the United Kingdom, the United States and the United Arab Emirates. The case that was built against her, please note, in the media, was so strong that she is now perceived in Nigeria as a public enemy within the ranks of Lawrence Anini, Sanni Abacha, Boko Haram, the Niger Delta Militants and, yes, corruption as a malaise.
Without delving into the possibility of her culpability or probability of her innocence to the charges levelled against her by the government in the media, one has noted with alarm the refusal by the Nigerian courts to order the repatriation of Mrs. Alison-Madueke from the United Kingdom where she has been held on allegations of money laundering without trial for more than two years. It is more worrisome that the Courts refused the application made by Mrs. Alison-Madueke herself to be brought back to her country to face her accusers and to be tried formally. It is my humble view that a responsible government should have entered the application for the former minister’s repatriation and not to oppose the application brought by her as the EFCC is reported to have done. Let us consider the following: the monies Mrs. Alison-Madueke is alleged to have stolen is Nigerian money; the bribes she allegedly took were against the Nigerian state and people; Mrs. Alison-Madueke is being held in the United Kingdom without trial on allegations of money laundering, not for treason, treasonable felony or murder. Her international passport has been confiscated by the British authorities with the full knowledge that the Nigerian government would do nothing except thank them for perpetuating an illegality on a Nigerian citizen. How long does it take the British police and prosecutors to build a case of money laundering against a suspect? How long did the British authorities take to press charges against former governors James Ibori and D. S. P. Alamiesigha?
What kind of people are we that we cannot see the loss of dignity and face involved in getting others do our own house cleansing? Meanwhile, the EFCC posts reports of her bank accounts frozen, houses impounded and valuables confiscated, ALL without trial. Is this culture of media trial conducive to economic development? Does it speak well for our country’s respect for the Rule of Law to refuse to take possession of a criminal suspect but to condemn the person as guilty on the pages of newspapers and on television? What kind of criminal justice system are we developing where an accused person is adjudged guilty even before a charge has been proffered against her? Would the British allow Nigeria to keep a former British official indefinitely, without trial if that official is wanted in Britain for the grave offences Mrs. Alison-Madueke is alleged to have committed against the Nigerian state?
Last week the Federal Government celebrated the ruling of a High Court refusing an application by Mrs. Madueke for her repatriation to Nigeria to face the charges posted against her by the Nigerian government. For normal observers and reasonable people, that was a circus event. The Nigerian government rejected an opportunity to come into possession of a person alleged to have cheated and deprived Nigerians and their economy of billions of dollars under a depressed economy. It is content with carrying out a campaign of calumny against her person in the media which brings us to the inescapable inference that the British Government is acting as a proxy in this matter for the Nigerian government and that it is either Mrs. Alison-Madueke has no case to answer or her trial in Britain or Nigeria would do more damage to certain officials in Nigeria than Diezani Alison-Madueke. We humbly urge the Nigerian government to proffer formal charges against the former petroleum minister and apply for her repatriation to Nigeria on the basis of the charges or accord her the respect and dignity that she has every right to expect as a free citizen of Nigeria by protecting her against the illegal seizure of her passport and illegal detention by the British government. Mrs. Alison-Madueke’s status is a test case for the Nigerian government’s true commitment as opposed to its advertised commitment to fight corruption; it is also, for the promoters of the Rule of Law in a just society, an evaluation of this government’s respect for the legal instruments that regulate life within its borders.