Members of the immediate family of embattled former Minister for Petroleum Resources, Diezani Alison-Madueke, as well as her legal team are outraged over the recent visit of Nigerian journalist Dele Momodu to the former minister’s London flat.
In an interview with SaharaReporters, Mrs. Alison-Madueke's Nigerian lawyer, Oscar Onwudiwe, asserted that the ex-minister never intended or authorized anything from that meeting to be broadcast to the public.
According to Mr. Onwudiwe’s account, Mr. Momodu, publisher of The Boss magazine, “met (with Diezani) on a personal visit with the family.” He added that Mr. Momodu and the family had enjoyed a good relationship in the past.
Even so, Mr. Onwudiwe insisted that no permission was ever granted to have Mrs. Alison-Madueke’s photo taken. He stated that the ex-minister’s family became “very upset” about what has transpired after the meeting between Mr. Momodu and the former minister. The lawyer disclosed that Mrs. Alison-Madueke and her family were not ready for her to make public statements yet.
The reporting based on Mr. Momodu's meeting with Mrs. Alison-Madueke has stirred national controversy. In the interview, the former Minister denied ever stealing money while in government. However, a significant percentage of the Nigerian public believes her assertion to be untrue.
When Mr. Momodu released photos of Mrs. Alison-Madueke looking frail and close to bald, reportedly on account of her cancer treatment in the UK, many Nigerian commentators on social media claimed the photos were forged or otherwise doctored in order to inspire public sympathy for the once powerful minister.
When our correspondent asked why Mrs. Alison-Madueke was looking into the camera, if she did not did not give permission to have her photo taken, Mr. Onwudiwe was unable to provide an answer.
SaharaReporters recently ran a social media poll on Mrs. Alison-Madueke's recent statements, with 87% of participants believing that the former minister stole public funds and was lying.
When SaharaReporters contacted Mr. Momodu, he said he did not know who Oscar Onwudiwe was, adding that he therefore could not have sought permission from the lawyer. He added, “I do not want to be drawn into this controversy.”