Last week, the British authorities arrested former oil minister Diezani Alison-Madueke for corruption, bribery, and money laundering. She has been released on bail. Often lauded as “among Africa’s most powerful women,” she was the first female Nigerian Minister of Petroleum, and the first female President of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC), a position she currently holds.
A product of the Nigerian old-line establishment, Diezani Alison-Madueke’s husband is a retired Nigerian Navy admiral. Notorious for her over-the-top luxurious life style, for many Nigerians she was the face of corruption at the highest levels and on the Nigerian "street" she was widely hated for her arrogance. She was close to President Goodluck Jonathan, and it is often alleged that she diverted state oil revenue to the candidates and causes of his then-ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). Her mother lives in London. She traveled there after the inauguration of President Buhari to seek medical treatment. The British press reports that British law enforcement had opened an investigation on her for corruption as early as 2013. Her arrest appears to be for the violation of British, not Nigerian, law. British police have seized over forty-one thousand dollars from her in London. At about the same time, Nigerian police sealed her residence in Abuja. It is unclear how much cooperation there is between the British and Nigerian law enforcement authorities on this case. In an earlier, notorious case of corruption, the British authorities arrested, charged, convicted, and jailed former Delta state governor James Ibori for violation of British law after a Nigerian prosecution failed.
On October 7, Nigeria’s Economic and Financial Crimes Commission announced the arrest of Olajide Omokore, the chairman of Atlantic Energy. Forbes in 2012 listed him among Ten Nigerian Multi-Millionaires You’ve Never Heard Of. According to Forbes, his business interests include steel, oil, dredging, haulage, and property development. He, too, has been a major financial angel of the now opposition PDP.
Meanwhile, President Buhari has issued another warning about corruption.
It is likely that anxiety among some in the Nigerian political class is rising. In an environment that has been riddled with corruption, who is innocent? Where will the prosecutions stop? However, Buhari has signaled that a line will be drawn, that there will be no witch hunts. But, people remember when he was military chief of state and the federal military government’s vigorous prosecutions for corruption. It was during Buhari’s first administration that Nigerian authorities tried to kidnap from London Umaru Dikko to stand trial for corruption. Nailed into a crate labeled “diplomatic baggage,” he was freed by the British airport authorities. The result was a major diplomatic incident.