By Kennedy Emetulu
In my book, Charly Boy and all those who participated in the ‘Resume or Resign’ campaign, home and abroad, are heroes and patriots; but, now I’m at a loss over this ‘Bring Back Diezani Alison-Madueke’ campaign at the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) headquarters in Abuja. I just don’t get it. The more I think about it, the more I suspect that Charly Boy and co are falling for the ‘public objectivity’ scam where you’re criticised for doing something by one interest group and you go out to do another thing to win the sympathy or support of the group that criticised you in order to appear ‘objective’. What am I talking about? Those who led the ‘Resume or Resign’ campaign have been criticised as anti-Buhari, anti-APC, pro-PDP and all whatnots, but rather than for them to publicly defend their position with information supporting the legality and appropriateness of their action and challenge opposers to public debates to show to Nigerians those truly playing the patriotic role, some of them, led by Charly Boy, are now asking for Mrs Diezani Alison-Madueke, the supposed PDP darling, to be extradited from the United Kingdom in an obvious attempt to appear as objective or even-handed in their protests. They want to show that they are not agents of the PDP. I think they’re trying too hard. In the end, what they are doing is playing politics with activism. I mean, isn’t it convenient to see one EFCC official, Emmanuel Aremo addressing the smattering of protesters and promising they would be working to extradite Diezani? More conveniently, there is no teargassing of any protester today. It’s all Mickey-Mousey stuff, honestly. Of course, if the campaign is generally couched as a protest against the government’s less-than-impressive anti-corruption prosecution efforts, that would be fine. But to single out Mrs Alison-Madueke in the midst of scores of high-profile corruption cases against former and serving public officials smacks of nothing but desperation.
Now, here is the problem with the ‘Bring Back Diezani Alison-Madueke’ campaign and the difference between it and the ‘Resume or Resign’ campaign. The ‘Resume or Resign’ campaign was appropriately directed at the President who was the authority and person in a position to do either of the two things demanded. I have written enough to show that the demand was lawful and legitimate, so I need not get into all that again here. But the ‘Bring Back Diezani’ protest to EFCC is misdirected. They are protesting to the EFCC when the EFCC has no authority on its own whatsoever in the matter and when another appointee of the administration is indicating that they would prefer Diezani to be in London where the justice administration is likely to work better to convict her. Yes, this is actually the view of Professor Itse Sagay, the Chairman of the Presidential Advisory Committee Against Corruption when he criticised the protest at EFCC. According to Sagay: “Their demand is not only unrealistic but it is not even being done in good faith. These people are hostile to the anti-corruption struggle and are hoping that if Diezani is brought here, there will be difficulty in getting her convicted.”
In Nigeria, the Diezani case is so far being fought with more heat than light. We read her statement recently making some claims against the EFCC and some of these claims fundamentally affect the justice of the situation. Basically, she’s accused the EFCC of orchestrating a media campaign against her based on lies while circumventing or manipulating the judicial and court processes in Nigeria. I haven’t seen or read the EFCC response to her, except this continued media claims of the courts making her forfeit this or that property or money where proof has not been made available publicly that she actually owns what is being supposedly seized or forfeited. For me, it’s not about whether Diezani is guilty or not of all she’s being accused of, she might well be guilty of all and more; what this should be about is justice. Justice must be done and must be seen to have been done. EFCC and all those keen on prosecuting Diezani must come to equity with clean hands.
The way I see it, having followed the UK angle to the Diezani affair, I think the UK authorities have realised now that the Nigerian authorities are not very keen on the Diezani matter. They can see this in the shoddy way the EFCC is going about it through its media trial and half-hearted court processes. The initial interest of the UK National Crime Agency (NCA) has since died down once they realised that it’s all noise from the Nigerian end. For instance, they arrested Diezani in October 2015, seized her passport and confiscated the sum of £27,000 found at her home. At the prompting of the NCA, a UK court in September last year ordered some £10 million assets supposedly belonging to her frozen under the UK Proceeds of Crime Act. Diezani has not said these assets, which include two properties in the UK do not belong to her. Of course, no criminal charges have been brought against her yet because investigators are yet to make such a case preliminarily through their investigation. Obviously, the UK investigators have to link the proceeds investigated to a crime or crimes committed in Nigeria and/or in the UK. The UK authorities who barred Alison-Madueke from leaving the UK until April last year had hoped to conclude investigations into the case (with the help of the Nigerian authorities) and charge Alison-Madueke before then, but that has not happened because they simply did not get helpful information. Therefore, the question is if the EFCC is so sure of the crime or crimes of Diezani and the government is keen for her to be charged and convicted in the UK, how much help are they offering the UK investigators in this regard? If indeed they are offering that help, by now Diezani would have been charged, but we see nothing indicating that she is going to be charged in the UK.
There are conspiracy theories around the fact that the Alison-Maduekes are family friends of the Buharis. It was Muhammadu Buhari that first brought Diezani’s husband, then Navy Captain Alison-Madueke into government as the Military Governor of Anambra State in January 1984. He remained in the military and rose to the position of Chief of Naval Staff under General Sani Abacha and shortly after, Buhari served in the same government as head of the Petroleum Trust Fund (PTF). In February last year, Mr Alison Madueke was reportedly arrested by the EFCC on a charge of laundering more than $600,000 and was released on administrative bail. The case mysteriously died thereafter. Meanwhile, the only substantive case filed last year by the EFCC against Diezani and others, which was a nine-count charge against them at the Federal High Court Abuja concerning the laundering of about $1.6 billion, did not only stall at the court, Diezani’s name has since been dropped from the case. So, there are those who strongly believe that this Diezani matter has more to it than meets the eye. Between the EFCC shoddy prosecution, the reluctance of the administration to ask for her extradition back to Nigeria based apparently on the reasoning of Professor Sagay and this whole noise about the fight against corruption, the truth is fast being lost.
I would, therefore, advise Charly Boy and co to go do their homework first before joining this type of campaign. Extradition is a government to government action and if it’s going to happen, it is our Ministry of Justice that will be pursuing it, not the EFCC. From all we can see so far, Diezani is under investigation in the UK already and if there is a reason to charge her, they will. What the Charly Boy group should be doing is to first seek information from the Nigerian authorities, if possible through a Freedom of Information application, as to what role the Nigerian authorities are playing over the British investigation of Alison-Madueke. They can also make a Freedom of Information request in the UK through their Information Access Team at the Home Office, which is located at the Ground Floor, Seacole Building, 2 Marsham Street, London SW1P 4DF. Their email address is: FOIRequests@homeoffice.gsi.gov.uk. They’d want to find out if there a live case or investigation still ongoing in the UK on the Diezani matter and if so, what is the stage now and what is the possibility that Mrs Alison-Madueke will be charged before a UK court? If the answer is that there is no case ongoing in the UK, then what are the Nigerian authorities doing with regard to the actual charges against Alison-Madueke at home? I mean, every day, we hear she’s forfeited this or that through some EFCC court process, but we do not know whether in truth these things being ordered forfeited by the courts are actually linked to her. Yes, the EFCC says so but the EFCC has proved to be more a political vehicle than a proper law enforcement and prosecutorial agency. Where is their proof in the face of the documented denials by Mrs Alison-Madueke? Where is that singular comprehensive criminal case against Mrs Alison-Madueke in any court of law in Nigeria? They cannot just be running rings round Nigerians and getting people like Charly Boy to be out there with untrusted information.
Charly Boy and co should not inadvertently make themselves political instruments in the hands of the real criminals and mischief-makers. If they do their homework and find that it is appropriate to extradite Mrs Alison-Madueke, they can then take their case to the proper authority, which is the Ministry of Justice, not the EFCC.