Tobi Soniyi in Abuja
•Her trial is an appetiser, says Oshiomhole
As the British authorities continue their investigation into the activities of the former Minister of Petroleum Resource Mrs. Diezani Alison-Madueke, who was arrested in London and released on bail last Friday on allegations of bribery, corruption and money laundering, the law enforcement agencies in the UK have extended their dragnet to interrogating “persons of interest”.
The former minister was arrested by the British National Crime Agency (NCA) alongside four other people, but was granted bail after over five hours of questioning.
Even though the identities of the four other people arrested along with Mrs. Diezani-Alison were not disclosed, sources informed THISDAY that they were domestic staff and aides of the former minister.
NCA said investigations on the former minister were commenced in 2013 by the British authorities under the Proceeds of Crime Act (POCA) and transferred to it earlier this year.
Sources in the UK’s financial crimes bursting units informed THISDAY yesterday that they had invited the persons of interest to assist them with their investigations in relation to the former minister’s time when she held sway over the Nigerian oil and gas sector.
Those who have been invited include a UK-based real estate agent; Chairman/CEO of Aiteo Oil and Gas, Mr. Benedict Peters; the husband of Mrs. Melanie Spencer, from whom £10,000 was confiscated last week when the NCA arrested the former minister; and one Mr. Kevin Okyere, a Ghanaian national.
Others exclusively reported by THISDAY yesterday were UK-based Nigerian who has informed the police that he would make himself available whenever necessary, Mr. Kola Aluko; a staff of the London office of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), Mr. Joe Mordi; the former minister’s London-based driver; another London-based driver/butler; and one of the co-founders of oil and gas trading firm Tridax Energy, Mr. Donald Chidi Amamgbo.
A source in the UK explained that though the “persons of interest” were not being charged with any crime, the authorities are inviting them to help them with their investigations.
The Ghanaian, Okyere, is the chief executive of Springfield Oil & Gas and also husband of a niece of the NPP 2016 flag bearer in the neighbouring country, Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo’s wife.
Okyere, according to Ghanaian media reports, allegedly stashed monies in bank accounts in Ghana and overseas on behalf of the ex-Nigerian Minister of Petroleum.
In a related development, the Edo State Governor, Adams Oshiomhole, has described the ongoing trial of Mrs. Alison-Madueke as an appetizer to a main course of corruption trial that would soon follow.
Oshiomhole described the former minister’s ordeal as a scratch in the surface and a tip of the iceberg considering her alleged financial malfeasances while she was in office as a former oil minister.
He also alleged that the former President Goodluck Jonathan’s administration ran the nation economy on a deficit for four consecutive years when crude oil was selling at average of $108 per barrel.
He also said that the last administration wasted about N3.5 trillion borrowed from pension funds on recurrent expenditure within the same period.
Speaking at the Presidential Villa yesterday, he said: “The truth is that a lot of money was stolen and what you are seeing is just a tip of the iceberg.
“When you imagine what accrued to Nigeria consistently from $140 to an average of $108 (per barrel) over a long period of time and yet your treasury is empty and you were running a budget deficit; you were devoting 85 per cent of your budget for four consecutive years to recurrent spending, you were borrowing and you drew the entire pensions fund.
“There have been probes, there have been revelations where whistle blowers have been removed from office; they became guilty for speaking out. I believe time will tell, how much was taken and who was involved. I think what you are hearing now is like an appetiser. It is sickening; it used to come from America, now it’s Britain.”
Providing more details on withdrawals made from the pension funds, Oshiomhole alleged: “You challenge Pencom (National Pension Commission) and the Ministry of Finance, you will discover that over N3.5 trillion was drawn down by the previous government from pension funds to support recurrent expenditure, not to support infrastructure.”
He submitted that the previous administration’s purported success in rebasing the nation’s economy never benefited the people, as the masses remained in abject poverty and deprivation.
Asked whether he was happy with the ouster of Jonathan from government, Oshiomhole said: “I was the happiest person because I’ve been in government for seven years without being in power. I was in government, I couldn’t call a Commissioner of Police and talk as a chief security officer.
“I was haunted by all manners of persons. You kill the snake in Edo, they will put the snake on life support in Abuja and they keep harassing us.
“Now, all those venoms are dead and buried. For the first time I’m excited and happy not just for personal benefits, but for the changes I’m beginning to see. They’ve not started scrutinising, just blocking the holes, it’s no longer flowing like before and so the propensity to indulge in those conspicuous habits are already curbing themselves.
“People are regaining sanity, human rationality is returning and the idle class that makes money without office or business address, whose only address is an iPad and cell phone with appropriate phone numbers, are all lamenting and not sure of tomorrow.”
Also speaking, the Zamfara State Governor, Abdulaziz Yari called on Nigerians to support the administration of President Muhammadu Buhari.
He said the question of money laundry, which used to be an issue had become a thing of the past.
He said: “The practice whereby people put government money into their pockets has become history. As I watched Obama talking in Kenya that each and every $1 taken, if it is put into public use, it will be good. We should know that this country is our country.
“We have no other country where we will have the freedom to move around aside from Nigeria. So we are the people that are going to make it a better country.
“We travel abroad and see how they do their thing but when we come back, it becomes a problem to put it on the table and do the same.
“All of us need to put our hands on deck and make sure we support this government to fight corruption that leads to money laundering.”
He said the trial of the former petroleum minister in London should not be politicised but should be seen as a necessity to get things right.
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