Former Petroleum Minister, Mrs Deziani Alison Madueke, yesterday, slammed the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) for alleging that she stole $153 million from the till of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, NNPC.
The EFCC had recently obtained temporary order forfeiting the $153 million allegedly stashed away by the former minister in various accounts, to the federal government.
The former minister, in a rebuttal made available to Sunday Vanguard, last night, denied the ownership of the said money and challenged the EFCC to publish the details of the accounts, their owners and in which NNPC’s accounts the money was taken and when.
Mrs Madueke said she was saddened by what she called “media trial” by the EFCC and wondered what the commission was out to achieve by making “false and unsubstantiated claims” against her.
The Former minister also denied owning a multi-billion Naira estate in Yenagoa, benefiting from the $1.3 billion Malabu Oil scandal.
The anti-graft agency declined to respond to the allegations made by Mrs Madueke, saying it would be contemptible to comment on a matter already being heard by a court of competent jurisdiction.
A top official of the commission told Sunday Vanguard:
“We hope to meet her in court if she is ready and can therefore not join issues with her at this point”,
“If the former minister has no case to answer, she should come forward and meet us in court instead of raising the false alarm to whip up sentiment and run away from the issues.”
However, the former minister started: “I have up till now chosen to maintain my silence and not to respond to inaccurate press reporting. However, given the level of deliberate inaccuracies, I am now forced to respond because it is clear that the EFCC is taking advantage of my silence to try me by media and to convict me in the eyes of the public on false reports.
ON THE $153.3MILLION ALLEGATION
She went on: “I am deeply disturbed and bewildered by recent media reports claiming that by virtue of an order of the Federal High Court, I have forfeited to the Federal Government the sum of $153.3m which I purportedly stole from the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, NNPC.
“First and foremost, whilst the reasons for my being out of the country are public knowledge, the principle of fair hearing demands that I should have been notified of formal charges if truly there was a prima facie evidence or indictment against my person linking me with the said issue, so as to ensure that I had adequate legal representation. This was never done.
“I wish to state that I cannot forfeit what was never mine. I do not know the basis on which the EFCC has chosen to say that I am the owner of these funds as no evidence was provided to me before the order was obtained and they have not in fact served me with the order or, any evidence since they obtained it. As of the time of my writing this rebuttal (Thursday 19th January, 2017), the EFCC have still not furnished me or my lawyers with a copy of the order.
“I am also informed by my lawyers that the legislation under which the EFCC obtained this order is for situations where the funds are believed to be the proceeds of crime and the owner is not known. I do not, therefore, understand how the EFCC can in the same breath say that the monies in question are mine.
“If they had evidence that the monies were mine, then they would not /should not have used the procedure which applies only to funds of unknown ownership. If indeed they used this particular legal procedure because they did not know who owned the monies, then how can they now be falsely attributing the ownership to me(Annex-1A).
“Let me restate categorically as I have always maintained, for the record, I have NOT and WILL NEVER Steal Money from OR DEFRAUD the Federal Government of Nigeria.
“I am willing to respond to any charges brought against me that follow duly laid down procedures. However, in their typical manner and style, the EFCC has gone to the media to attempt to prosecute their case as trial by TV and other media, rather than go through the onerous but tried and tested means of the Judicial Court process.
“In the face of the obvious falsification of facts and misinformation, it is only right and proper that the EFCC should publish the details of the $153.3M lodgements, the bank account numbers and the account beneficiaries, showing proof of my link to them.
“Having also alleged that the said $153.3M was ‘wired’ from NNPC, the EFCC should also publish details of the NNPC accounts from where the said $153.3 million was taken from, with proof that I authorized such a transaction/transactions acting either in my private capacity or, as the Honourable 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 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 such as ‘EFCC UNCOVERS DIEZANI’S MULTI-BILLION NAIRA ESTATE’.
“There was absolutely nothing ‘hidden’ or ‘concealed’ about the home. I HAD DECLARED IT OPENLY as required by law, in my asset declaration forms (Annex-4B). Yet the EFCC announced that they ‘just discovered’ my ‘hidden estate’! And labelled 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/village 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, as the news mongers would want to portray.
“The EFCC was taken on a tour of the compound which consisted of the main house, and two outhouses – An Obi (meeting bungalow) and staff quarters(BQ) building – above which we built three guest rooms and a parlour. The only other 2 structures are the gate and generator houses. Construction began in late 2011 and was handled in phases.
“During the visit, the EFCC was given the bill of quantities, which, up until the time construction, stopped in early 2015, due to my illness, was at approximately N394million which was declared in the code of conduct documentation, attached (the costs were partially funded by a loan – see code of conduct – Annex4B, 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 our areas in the Niger Delta.
“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.
ON $700 MILLION CASH FOUND IN MY HOUSE
“Stories were circulated by unscrupulous agents of calumny that the EFCC found a mind-boggling $700million in cash in my home in Abuja. Would 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 allegedly found in my house? But then, it is now patently apparent that Nigerians are no longer easily led to believe fables and sensational untruths.
ON REALITY VERSUS FICTION
“I would like to state for the record that I performed my duty as Minister of Petroleum Resources with the 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
ON LOCAL CONTENT
“Having pushed for the full implementation of the Nigerian Local Content Act, despite resistance from various stakeholders, I actively promoted the benefits of ‘Nigerians Right to First Consideration’ in both the downstream and upstream sectors.
“The immediate effect of my actions was that for the first time in history, thousands of Nigerians were able 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.
ON $5.6 BILLION LNG DIVIDEND FUND
“It is pertinent to note that at the end of my tenure, I left behind in the LNG dividend fund, for the incoming Administration, the sum of $5.6billion (five billion six hundred million US Dollars).
“I did this to ensure continuity in the crucial gas sector development which underpins the entire Power and Energy Sector and which was and still is, absolutely imperative for the Country’s current and future economic development.
ON GAS SUPPLY AND INFRASTRUCTURE
“As soon as I assumed office, I put into play my wealth of experience in the oil and gas sector, knowing that gas was imperative for our future growth and prosperity. I put together a team to look 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 NERC 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 eg. 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.
ON FUEL SCARCITY
“It is on record, that I immediately took the issue of incessant fuel queues head-on and in my time as petroleum minister, Nigerians rarely experienced fuel shortages. These queues had long dominated our landscape, causing untold hardship to millions of ordinary Nigerians stuck in fuel queues for hours; like the bus driver who was unable to earn enough to go to the market, and the market woman who, therefore, earned less and so could not afford school fees. This example, though at the most basic level, caused a chain reaction which was replicated in various facets throughout the economy. So, on the macroeconomic level, the main benefit of ending the fuel queues was an immediate increase in GDP, reduction in inflation and easier facilitation and movement of people, goods and services, across the country.
The continuing effect of all these measures were that even in the most remote locations, Nigerians could buy and sell petroleum products.
“It is saddening that after eight years of serving my country, my experience as a public servant has been fraught with continuous malicious castigation and character assassination, all in the name of ‘personal vendettas’ or political horse trading. It has become apparent to many that these untruths told were at best well-crafted fables.
“The most dramatic and damning accusation was the infamous missing $49.8 Billion that went from $12 Billion and then up to $20 Billion and which was alleged missing from NNPC. Today, we all know that the 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 found the ‘missin’ 20 billion, or who took it.
“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. Yet, we are all silent as if these events never occurred!
“The allegations that I have addressed above are no different, the character assassination continues, this time with a new set of hirelings.
“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 & 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 demonisation, unproven accusations and deeply personal insults.
“In response, I have chosen not to insult, accuse or demonise anyone, any person or persons. In spite of all the allegations that have been made against me, not one has been factually proven.
“I remain very proud of the fact that all the policies, tenets and plans that I initiated in the Oil & Gas sector are still underpinning the entire structure. This is because they were put in place for the good of the entire nation and its people in mind. They were not factional, or tribal, neither were they based on religious bias.
“I am a woman from the Niger Delta, who through perseverance and sheer hard work rose to one of the highest positions in the country’s premier International Oil Company, and in tune with my ethos of hard work I earned the prestigious British Foreign & Commonwealth Chevening Scholarship Award and was thereafter admitted to my MBA program at the World renowned Cambridge University.
“ In 2006, I was appointed as the first female executive director in the history of Shell Petroleum, Nigeria. Just over a year later, I was nominated and appointed as a minister of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, culminating in my appointment as Nigeria’s first female Minister of Petroleum, where again by dint of hard work I was appointed as the first female in history(in a completely male dominated space) to hold the Presidency of OPEC.
“I can, therefore, NO LONGER SIT BACK and allow the fabricated accusations against my person go unchallenged.
“As a Christian, it is my sincerely held belief that in the coming months, history will be the judge of exactly who Lied and who told the Truth. By the Grace of God, I shall be here to see the day when truth prevails.”