I didn’t steal $153.3m from NNPC

 Says, “EFCC taking advantage of my silence”

By Enyeribe Ejiogu

Former minister of petroleum resources, Diezani Allison-Madueke has fired back at the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), saying she was deeply disturbed and bewildered by media reports claiming that she had forfeited to the Federal Government, by virtue of a Federal High Court order, the sum of US$153.3million purportedly stolen from the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC).

While noting that she was not notified of formal charges or indictment linking her with the money, and was, therefore, not afforded the opportunity to have adequate legal representation during the court process, Diezani wondered how she could forfeit what she never owned in the first instance.

“I never stole money from NNPC or any other entity. I do not know the basis of the EFCC false and misleading allegations as no evidence was provided to me before the order was obtained nor have I been served with any evidence since after purportedly obtaining the order. Up to this moment, the EFCC has still not furnished me or my lawyers with a copy of the said order.

“Let me re-state categorically and for the record, I have not and will never steal money from NNPC or defraud the Federal Government of Nigeria. I am willing to respond to any charges brought against me that follow duly laid down procedures.

“It’s regrettable that in their typical manner and style, EFCC has gone to the media to attempt to prosecute their orchestrated persecution of my person as trial by TV and other media, rather than the tried and tested means of the judicial court process.

Diezani in a statement she issued to the media to debunk EFCC’s allegations against her, challenged the EFCC chairman, Mr. Ibrahim Magu to make public the relevant details regarding the money that was allegedly stolen.

Her words: “In the face of the obvious falsification of facts and misinformation, it is only right and proper that the EFCC is challenged to publish the details of the $153.3million lodgments, the bank account numbers and the account beneficiaries, showing proof of my link to them. Having also alleged that the said $153.3million was ‘wired’ or stolen from NNPC, the EFCC should also publish details of the NNPC accounts from where the said $153.3 million was taken from, with proof of evidence that I authorized such a transaction/transactions acting either in my private capacity or as the honorable minister of petroleum.

“Let me state for the record that as minister of petroleum, the operation and management of NNPC finances were outside my purview as outlined in both the Petroleum Act and the NNPC Act. The only involvement I had in NNPC finances was in terms of statutory matters, where the Petroleum Act prescribed that as minister, there were certain duties or actions, which I had to perform or take in relation to NNPC.”

I have no hand in Malabu deal

Reacting to the claims made by the EFCC regarding the much talked-about Malabu oil deal, Diezani flatly denied having any hand in the alleged illegal transaction regarding the $1.3bn OPL 245 oil block that involved Malabu and the Joint Venture Multinational partners, ENI (AGIP) and Royal Dutch Shell.

She dismissed it as another wild and unfounded allegation, which she had become a regular past time of her detractors aimed at destroying her by pinning the “sins and the corruption that plagued the oil and gas sector over the last 30 years upon her, noting that this gambit was also traceable to the EFCC. Stoutly absolving herself of complicity in the said deal, Diezani looked back and gave insight to the history of the controversial OPL 245 deal.

“In 2010, shortly after I was appointed as Minister of Petroleum Resources, the issue of OPL 245 was brought to my attention. I looked into the case and immediately became aware of the inherent and long standing sensitivities around this issue. It became clear from the onset that this case was not within the direct purview of the minister of petroleum resources but in the main was centered around issues of law. By this time there was already an ICSID (International Centre for Settlement of Investment Disputes) investigation and claims against the Federal Government of Nigeria running into billions of dollars. Therefore, we took directives from the chief legal officer of the nation, the attorney general and minister of justice. In all of these matters due process was followed to the letter at all times.

“I wish to categorically state that I have never held any discussions on this matter, with any individuals or entities outside of official channels. As minister of petroleum resources, I did not participate in any activity relating to financial payments on the Malabu matter, other than those statutorily mandated to the minister of petroleum resources by the Petroleum Act. My role in this matter was a purely statutory one as required by law in the Petroleum Act.”

Magu knows real owner of Abuja mansion

In media reports, the EFCC had claimed that Diezani was the owner of a mansion with an estimated value of US$18 (about N9 billion), in upscale Asokoro area of Abuja.

Diezani said it was somewhat comical that the EFCC went to the extent of bringing in Aljazeera, an International TV Station, to air a damaging documentary against her, showing a particular residential building in Asokoro, Abuja, which the agency told Aljazeera belonged to her.

“The EFCC Chairman Ibrahim Magu, personally took the Aljazeera reporter to the building, alleging that it belonged to me. It has since become apparent that the true owner of the house is Mr Kola Aluko, who resides there with his family whenever he is in the country.

“If this is not a witch hunt or a personal vendetta against me, how is it that one of our country’s premier investigative agencies were unable to avail themselves of facts that are freely available in the public domain?

Since the EFCC claims that the alleged $18million Asokoro property belongs to me, then they should be decent and professional enough to produce the ‘Authentic’ Certificate of Occupancy and Land Registry information and any other relevant information, as proof of my ownership of the property.”

Bayelsa family home not worth billions

Diezani also refuted EFCC’s allegation concerning the family home of the ex-minister in Yenagoa, the Bayelsa capital.

She said: “On the 9th November 2016, the EFCC visited my family home in Yenagoa (Bayelsa State) as pre-agreed and they were escorted around the premises. I was, therefore, completely shocked to once again see my name sensationally splashed across the front pages of newspapers and widely circulated on the internet, with blaring headlines stating that EFCC had discovered a multibillion naira hidden estate belonging to me. There was absolutely nothing ‘hidden’ or ‘concealed’ about the property, which is my family home. I had declared it openly as required by law, in my asset declaration forms. Yet EFCC announced that they ‘just discovered’ my ‘hidden estate’! And labeled it a ‘multi-billion naira estate’! Even though they had been given the bill of quantities showing the actual amount spent.

“It is accepted tradition across the length and breadth of Nigeria, for people to own country homes. Given the size of the land and the location of the compound, the buildings thereon cannot by any stretch of the imagination be a “multi-billion naira” palatial estate.

“The EFCC operatives were taken on a tour of the compound which consisted of a main house, and two outhouses – an obi (meeting bungalow) and a staff quarters building – above which we built three guest rooms and a parlor. The only other two structures are the gate and generator houses. Construction began in late 2011 and was handled in phases. During the visit, EFCC was given the bill of quantities, which up until the time construction stopped in early 2015, due to my illness, was valued at approximately N394 million which was declared in the Code of Conduct Bureau forms, and were partially funded by a loan. The work is still uncompleted and the contractor is still being owed. Building costs escalated as a result of delays in construction and external factors such as the extreme flooding of late 2012, that covered most of Yenagoa.

“It is the accepted norm when building in the Niger Delta, that due to the topography of the land and the heavily waterlogged and marshy terrain, construction is infinitely more expensive than in other parts of the country, as by its nature it requires the building of extensive piling/raft foundations before any structural work can commence. The flooding of 2012 compounded the problem and further increased the cost of construction.”

Claim of US$700m found in my Abuja home laughable

Further, Diezani dismissed as laughable the mind-boggling allegation that US$700 million cash was found in her home in Abuja. Stating that is was just another act by unscrupulous agents of calumny working under the direction of the EFCC. Challenging the EFCC to demonstrate the veracity of its claim, she said: “Should the videos of this $700 million cash discovery not have made good viewing? Or should those who recovered this money not tell the public where exactly the money has been kept? Perhaps the Central Bank should corroborate that it is in custody of these monies found in my house? But then, it is now patently apparent that Nigerians are no longer easily led to believe fables and sensational untruths.”

I’ve been a victim of continuous malicious castigation

Diezani lamented that the eight years she spent in serving the country and her experience as a public servant had been fraught with continuous malicious castigation and character assassination, all in the name of personal vendettas or political horse trading, stating that it had become apparent to many that untruths told about her were at best well-crafted fables.

In late 2013, she said, the NNPC was accused by the then Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria and now the Emir of Kano, Sanusi Lamido Sanusi, of misappropriating first $49.8billion.The amount was later changed to $12 billion and finally it was said to be $20billion.

“And in the twinkling of an eye that accusation was turned around and directed at me, personally. I was accused of stealing/misappropriating the unfathomable amount of $20 billion. In a CNN TV interview in March 2015, the former CBN governor stated that “there was this gap of $20 billion after reconciliation between what NNPC exported and what it repatriated to the Federation Account and I raised a number of issues that I think have not yet been discussed and addressed sufficiently. One of them is billions of dollars being paid in kerosine subsidy without appropriation by the National Assembly and against a presidential order and we don’t know who authorised these payments yet. Nobody has owned up to say I authorised these payments, I made a mistake, it will stop…” He, went on to say that… “It could be $20 billion at the end of the day, after reconciliation they could account for 10 or 12…”. So, as he pointed out, there was indeed a reconciliation that at first stage had begun to close the purported gap. He also referred to the non-appropriation of kerosine subsidy by the National Assembly. This was an issue for which I had tried to engender a resolution and for which I was still seeking a lasting solution to, at the time the CBN Governor raised these issues.”

Giving further explanation of the true position regarding the subsidy issue, Diezani said: “He had stated severally that a large portion of the $20billion was constituted of illegal approvals for subsidy payments that I had given and that the late President Yar’Adua had directed that the said subsidy payments should be stopped and that I did not comply with President Yar’Adua’s directive. I have said it before but let me say it again: President Yar’Adua’s directives were made in a presidential memo dated June 10, 2009, to the late Petroleum Minister, Alhaji Rilwanu Lukman, not to me. I was not the minister of petroleum resources at that time. My tenure as petroleum minister began in April 2010. Those directives were not complied with by Rilwanu Lukman, not Diezani Alison-Madueke!

“I made several attempts when we came into office in April 2010, to get to the real truth of the matter. Even before we came in, the NNPC group managing director who served under Rilwanu Lukman, Alhaji Barkindo, who is today the Secretary General of OPEC, had written to the then minister of finance, Alhaji Muhktar, to enquire for clarity on the matter, to no avail. Finally, I had to write to President Jonathan to get to the truth of the matter. President Jonathan pointed out that although he and President Yar’Adua had wanted to cancel the entire issue of subsidies, the unions had objected and, therefore, the payment of subsidy had never been stopped. He directed that in the meantime we continue the payments but with the proviso that we prepare for complete deregulation as soon as possible, which I, of course, moved to implement on Jan 1st, 2012.

“Today, we all know that the PriceWaterCoopers (PWC) report that was published cleared me of any wrongdoing and no one up till now has been able to controvert the PWC report, nor has anyone been able to show that the $20 billion is actually, or was ever missing. In addition, the Makarfi-led committee in the Senate of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, in a series of publicly held hearings, also vindicated me on the matter of the purportedly missing funds.

“In late 2011, due to the incessantly high subsidy figures which we knew were coming from unscrupulous marketers who were dealing in round-tripping at the expense of the nation, I removed all 92 PPPRA throughput marketers, amongst whom we believed were those undertaking round-tripping and substantially raising the cost of subsiding petrol for the entire nation. In doing that, I cut the subsidy bill to the nation by almost 50 per cent and put my life under immediate threat. Yet, I was accused, in the now defunct NEXT magazine, of taking bribes from these same companies.

“At end December 2011, I directed PPPRA to move for complete deregulation, to rid the oil and gas sector of the speculators, the bloated middlemen and the parasitic influence of godfatherism. This was in an attempt to create a far less corruptible system, as it was quite clear that the intended benefits of the subsidy system were not reaching the masses but were being hijacked by unscrupulous middlemen cabals. And finally, to allow the true market factors of supply and demand to come into play. And as you all know, the country pushed back against it. Even after that, in early January 2012, I sought the permission and received the approval, of President Goodluck Jonathan to write to EFCC asking that they please come in and investigate the entire subsidy programme and the fraudulence embedded in it. And yet, I was called the corrupt one.

It is pertinent to note here, that the incumbent government themselves maintained the full subsidy regime for over one year until they realised (as I had pointed out in 2011 and had championed continuously), that it was unsustainable.”

I remain very proud of my stewardship

Diezani gave a qualified pass mark to her stewardship stating that she remained very proud of her the policies, programmes and projects that she initiated and pursued with utmost sincerity and sense of responsibility, ensuring that all Nigerians irrespective of creed, gender or tribe enjoyed their rightful benefits from the Oil and Gas Sector.

At the end of her tenure, Diezani said that she left behind in the LNG dividend fund, for the incoming administration, the sum of $5.6 billion, to ensure continuity in the crucial gas sector development which underpins the entire power and energy sector, which is absolutely imperative for the country’s current and future economic development.

With similar vigour, Diezani said she worked hard for the full implementation of the Nigerian Local Content Act, despite resistance from various stakeholders. This enabled thousands of Nigerians to break through the barriers of a sector that had hitherto been the preserve of a few powerful groups with vested interest, and thereby earn a living. “This remains a source of pride to me, that not only did it create wealth across the entire economic value chain but it also ensured the unparalleled transfers of knowledge and expertise for our indigenous operators. It is noteworthy that the template is being adapted for use in other countries,” she said.

Recognising the strategic importance of the gas supply infrastructure, Diezani said she put together a team that looked at all aspects of growing Nigeria’s gas with the intent of turning Nigeria into a premier gas exploring and producing country, even more than an oil producing country.

“We started working on Gas for Industry – the commercialisation approach, gas-for-home-use (LPG), and gas for power generation. We even sponsored a pilot scheme for gas to power vehicles. I implemented a short, medium and long term project to put in place sustainable gas supply to underpin the power sector and began laying the requisite infrastructure that was virtually non-existent when we took office. We worked with Nigeria Electricity Regulatory Commission and the CBN to put in place the necessary fiscal levers, to ensure that gas supply would be competitively priced. I left behind a comprehensive and detailed plan for the rollout of LPG and the industrialisation of gas, for the example, the Ogidingben project.

“I personally worked tirelessly through the night on many occasions, with the committee on the Petroleum Industry Bill, to finally get it to the point where for the first time in over 12 years, we could place it before the Federal Executive Council, and the National Assembly. I championed this in a bid to create a less corrupt, more transparent, accountable and responsible NNPC and Oil and Gas Industry as a whole. It was also to create additional funding inflows for the nation. This was in spite of the fact that there was major resistance from powerful interest groups within and outside Nigeria.

“I take personal satisfaction even now, that the PIB template I presented to the country is still the benchmark for the current and future development of the Oil Sector in Nigeria. The Template is already being adapted for use in other countries.

“One of the basic tenets of the human trait is that we all have shortcomings and we all make our fair share of mistakes, whether we are in positions of leadership, or not. However, one error that cannot be ascribed to me is stealing from Nigeria and defrauding my country! It is, therefore, sad and distressing that in spite of all that I tried to do in the best interest of our nation, I continue to be faced with constant demonization, unproven accusations and deeply personal insults. I remain very proud of the fact that all the policies, tenets and plans that I initiated in the oil and gas sector are still underpinning the entire structure. This is because they were put in place with the good of the entire nation and its people in mind. They were not factional, or tribal, neither were they based on religious bias.

“The fight against corruption in Nigeria will be far better served if the EFCC focuses on incontrovertible facts, as opposed to media sensationalism and complete distortion of facts in their bid to destroy a few targeted individuals. They must realize that Karma has every one’s address.”