Nigeria: $153 Million, 80 Properties Recovered From Ex-Petroleum Minister Diezani - EFCC

The EFCC says the 80 properties recovered from Mrs Alison-Madueke were worth about $80 million.

The chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Abdulrasheed Bawa, has said $153 million and over 80 properties have been recovered from a former Minister of Petroleum Resources, Diezani Alison-Madueke.

Mr Bawa said the 80 properties recovered from Mrs Alison-Madueke were worth about $80 million.

The EFCC boss made the disclosure is an interview in the April edition of the commission's magazine, EFCC Alert.

The publication was part of excerpts from the interview Mr Bawa had during One-on-One programme of the Nigerian Television Authority (NTA).

Until his appointment as the EFCC chair in February 2021, Mr Bawa headed the commission's investigative team set up to probe the broad corruption cases involving the former minister, associates and their interests.

Mrs Alison-Madueke, who is believed to have escaped to the United Kingdom and remained there after her exit from public office, ran the petroleum ministry which superintends over the opaque Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) between 2010 and 2015 under the administration of former President Goodluck Jonathan.

Her name has featured either as the main defendant or an accomplice in numerous corruption cases filed in court by the EFCC since her exit from office.

Bringing her back to Nigeria to face pending charges against her has proved to be a hard nut to crack for the EFCC.

Updates

Asked in the interview to give an update on the progress in the cases involving the former minister, Mr Bawa said the $153 million recovered from her was in respect of one of the cases.

"There are several cases surrounding that. As you may have read, I was part of that investigation, and we have done quite a lot. In one of the cases, we recovered $153 million; we have secured the final forfeiture of over 80 properties in Nigeria valued at about $80million," Mr Bawa said.

"We have done quite a bit on that," he said, giving an indication about the exhaustive nature of the cases involving the former minister.

The EFCC boss added, "The other cases as it relates to the $115 million INEC bribery as the media has sensationalised it, is also ongoing across the federation.

"We are looking forward to the time when we will, maybe, have her in the country, and of course review things and see what will happen going forward. The case has certainly not been abandoned."

Stalled extradition

PREMIUM TIMES reported how the Federal High Court in Abuja, in March, adjourned one of the cases involving Mrs Alison-Madueke, for EFCC to give an update on the efforts to extradite her.

Ijeoma Ojukwu, the trial judge, had adjourned the case till May 17 (Monday), but the proceedings are likely not to materialise due to the ongoing nationwide strike by judiciary staff workers.

The adjournment was the latest in the series of postponements the money laundering case had suffered due to the absence of the former minister since it (the case) was filed over two years ago.

The judge had on a couple of occasions shifted deadlines issued to EFCC to extradite to EFCC to Nigeria to face her trial.

The EFCC always told the court that the commission was pursuing the extradition along with the office of the Attorney-General of the Federation without indicating the exact stage the process has reached.

Earlier on October 28, 2020, Ms Ojukwu refused to grant EFCC's request for the issuance of a warrant of arrest against the former minister.

The judge had said the summons she issued on July 24, 2020, "ought to be sufficient for the commission to process her extradition to Nigeria to face her trial".

She then adjourned the matter till December 3 for EFCC to report on its efforts to bring the former minister to Nigeria.

On December 3, EFCC's prosecuting counsel, Farouk Abdullah, appeared before the judge pleading for more time to enable the anti-graft agency to enforce the court summons against Ms Alison-Madueke.

The judge then adjourned till March 3, 2021 for "possible arraignment" of the defendant.

She further adjourned the case till May 17 following the former minister's absence from the March 3 proceedings.

Management of recovered assets

Mr Bawa also assured that recovered assets were being "properly managed", although some of them were still being bogged down by appeals.

"But what I can guarantee is that there is no EFCC official that will recover an asset and then he will go ahead and sell that asset, or he will rent it out and then take the proceeds.

"How can he even do that? Because different departments do these things. Investigators are the ones that trace, the lawyers are the ones that go to the court to get them, and then the department of asset forfeiture is the one that manages them. The Chief Executive doesn't see assets, only on paper," he said.

He added that steps were also being taken to stop ensure that forfeited assets were not re-acquired through proxies.

The EFCC boss said, "certainly (there are checks) on finally forfeited assets from being re-acquired by proxies. Looking at individuals that come forward, you have to look at their financial viability, whether or not they are not proxies.

"You have to look at their profile, their pedigree. The auctioneers are there, all of these things are being carried out under the office of the Secretary to the Commission.

"But as we say in money laundering, somebody somewhere is the ultimate beneficial owner, that he can even hire somebody that will stand in as the beneficial owner. It is at times very difficult, but we have the expertise to detect. It is very difficult for property to be recovered from somebody and then the person will get it back."

EFCC had earlier in March issued a statement containing an excerpt of the NTA interview where the youthful Mr Bawa vowed to resign if pressured to act against his conscience or rule of law.

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