by Stanley Azuakola
One fact which has often been overlooked since news broke of the arraignment of certain individuals and companies on allegations of subsidy fraud concerns one of the fraud suspects, Mr. Mamman Ali. Most reports correctly describe him as the son of a former PDP chairman, Ahmadu Ali. What they don’t say is that Mamman’s mother and Ali’s wife is Mariam Ali, who presently is the special assistant to President Goodluck Jonathan on Intergovernmental Affairs.
The spotlight suddenly shone on Mrs. Mariam Ali, when she volunteered yesterday to be the bail surety, not for her son Mamman, but for one of the suspects arraigned alongside him, Christian Taylor.
Taylor’s arraignment is turning into a knotty issue. The man who originally claimed to be a Nigerian from Okpe Local Giverment Area of Edo State, and who also stated in his asset declaration form that his father was also from the state, now argues that he is in fact a Sierra Leonean.
A condition for his bail was that one of his sureties must be his blood relation who was resident in Lagos. His lawyer, Mr. Kolade Obafemi, however urged the court to vary the bail condition because it would be difficult to secure a blood relation of Taylor that was resident in Lagos. He asked the court to accept Mariam who, he said had “prepared to stand surety for the accused.” According to the counsel, “The proposed surety, Dr. Mariam Ali is a responsible Nigerian. She is the Special Assistant to the President on Intergovernmental Affairs.”
EFCC lawyer, Mr. Rotimi Jacobs, kicked against the proposition. He argued that the accused was trying to misrepresent his nationality and that Mariam had not made any deposition before the court.
Justice Adeniyi Onigbanjo, who presided, overruled Jacobs and accepted the defendant’s proposition of Mariam as a surety. The judge ruled that “the essence of granting the bail was to ensure that the accused attended trial.”
Mariam Ali was one of the most powerful women in the country in the days when her husband held sway as the PDP National chairman. Those were the days when leadership in the PDP was akin to being a “garrison commander.” Mariam’s every move as the first lady of the PDP, was fodder for the news media. She ran in 2007 for a Senate seat in Delta State under the PDP umbrella, but in what constituted one of the upsets of that election, she lost to the Accord Party candidate, Senator Osakwe.
Her son Mamman Ali and his co-accused Christian Taylor, along with their company, Nasaman Oil Services were arraigned on July 26 before Onigbanjo on three counts among which was fraudulent collection of about N2.23bn from the Federal Government in the name of subsidy for importing various litres of PMS.
The trial will commence on October 30.