You may remember her as the Minister of Petroleum with the best taste in jewellery or as former Central Bank Governor, Sanusi Lamido Sanusi’s arch-enemy but Diezani Alison-Madueke will also go down in history as a woman who broke many “first female” records.
Alison-Madueke started her career with Shell Petroleum Development Corporation in 1992 and rose through the ranks to become the company’s first female Executive Director in Nigeria in 2006. In 2007 she became the first female Transport minister in Nigeria as a member of Olusegun Obasanjo’s cabinet and the first female Minister of Mines and Steel Development in 2008 with late President Umar Musa Yar’Adua.
And then in 2010, when former President Goodluck Jonathan reshuffled his cabinet, she came into mainstream consciousness as the first female Minister for Petroleum Resources on the 6th of April of that year.
As Petroleum minister, Diezani became popular for her eloquence as much as she was for the string of pearls around her neck. But she remained in the good books of many Nigerians for the most part until Mrs. Alison-Madueke became one of the public enemies in 2012 after she, like former Central Bank Governor, Sanusi Lamido Sanusi, maintained her stance in support of the removal of petrol subsidies “because it poses a huge financial burden on the government, disproportionately benefits the wealthy, encourages inefficiency, corruption and diversion of scarce public resources away from investment in critical infrastructure.”
In hindsight, she would have joined the ranks of the “wiser ones” by this year if she hadn’t become the first (female) minister to be accused of overseeing the misappropriation of $20 billion from NNPC’s coffers.
She tried her best to debunk the rumours after the Emir of Kano, the then CBN governor began pointing accusing fingers in connection with his allegations of missing funds from the Treasury account amounting to around $20 billion. By the time President Goodluck Jonathan’s administration was over, reports say the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission was already locking up an $18 billion mansion in Abuja and confiscating $2 billion’s worth of jewellery.
She had lost her claim to “first female” and had joined the ranks of Stella Oduah as one the female politicians to be embroiled in allegations of corruption.
On the 2nd of October 2015, Mrs. Alison-Madueke was ‘arrested’ in London by the National Crime Agency on allegations of laundering $6 billion from the Nigerian Treasury.
Interestingly, Diezani has often kept up a policy of being silent in the face of all the allegations. The first time she responded to her accusers, it was to allege that Sanusi Lamido Sanusi was making up the missing funds allegations because she’s denied him the help he needed to get appointed to the African Development Bank.
In the last quarter of 2015, while she was still be investigated for several allegations of money laundering, the news suddenly became awash with photos of a seriously ill Diezani. It turned out she had been battling breast cancer for many years and had been undergoing chemotherapy in the United Kingdom while serving as Petroleum Minister. Speaking through Oscar Onwudiwe, her family’s lawyer, Diezani reportedly begged Nigerians to pray for her to survive her battle with cancer so that she “can face these allegations and give account of her stewardship.” (a reference to the piling allegations against her home and abroad).
The EFCC continued investigation of the many different allegations which had all but lost focus while Mrs. Alison-Madueke continued to maintain her silence even in the face of many reports connecting her to different corruption scandal including the distribution of funds to INEC officials ahead of the 2015 general elections.
On the 13th of June however, she chose to respond to an Al-Jazeera broadcast that had gone viral wherein she claimed the media outlet was in cahoots with Nigeria’s anti-graft agency, EFCC to tarnish her reputation.
“This will not be the first time calculated attempts have been made to demonise and damage my reputation in the public space. Many times, my detractors have gotten away with these irresponsible smear campaigns because they have become accustomed to my characteristic approach of silence in the face of these callous attacks.
“The latest in the string of propaganda attacks launched against my person since I left government as Nigeria’s Petroleum Minister is this Al Jazeera report, which without any court conviction anywhere in the world attempts to dress Diezani Alison Madueke in the garb of a common criminal.
“This, to say the least, is the height of journalistic brigandage and a sheer mockery of Nigeria’s anti-corruption war before the eyes of the world who are watching and asking if the war against corruption is a circus show where suspects are prosecuted and sentenced on the pages of newspapers and video blogs without anything as remotely in the semblance of a trial in the courts of law.”
While it may have sounded like the words to expect from someone in her circumstance at the time she released the statement, several months later in December, the Minister of Justice and Attorney-General of the Federation (AGF), Mr. Abubakar Malami, appeared before the House of Representatives ad-hoc committee on alleged breach of due process in the award of oil prospecting licence to say that there wasn’t enough evidence yet to indict those accused of corruption in the scandal, including Mrs Alison-Madueke.
She has not yet said anything in response to Mr. Malami’s report but we can only imagine that in addition to her usual style of maintaining an almost eerie silence, Mrs Diezani Alison-Madueke is somewhere properly recuperating from her battle with cancer. Speedy recovery we wish her.
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