A group that tags itself whistleblowers against corruption has accused Nigeria’s Petroleum Minister, Diezani Alison-Madueke, of squandering millions of dollars of public funds to rent private jets for the conduct of her official activities. In a petition to the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), the group, known as Crusader for Good Governance,” demanded that Ms. Allison-Madueke be investigated for her habit of spending extravagant sums to rent private jets for her official hops.
Ms. Alison-Madueke has frequently traveled around the world in private jets since becoming a minister, first under the late President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua and later under President Goodluck Jonathan. In addition, she often moves members of her family in private jets.
In 2010, President Jonathan appointed Ms. Alison-Madueke to the Ministry of Petroleum Resources, the nerve center of the Nigerian economy and traditionally the vortex of corruption in a country that is widely regarded as one of the most corrupt in the world.
Since being appointed minister of Petroleum Resources, Ms. Alison-Madueke has become one of the most powerful Nigerian government officials. Several reports have linked her to sleazy oil deals and a penchant for wastage of public funds.
She has spent some N2 billion on private jet rentals, according to the petition submitted to the EFCC by Enugu-based “Crusader For Good Governance.” The petition was signed by Okechukwu Obiora Nnamdi, the group’s leader.
The group accused Ms. Alison-Maduekwe of spending $300,000 on an average international trip outside of Nigeria. She reportedly spends as much as $500,000 on trips to such destinations as China, Malaysia and several North American countries, according to the petition.
The petitioners listed some of the minister’s most lavish trips.
• During Easter break, she flew a private jet to Dubai with members of her family at the cost of $300,000.
• During President Jonathan’s visit to South Africa, she flew in a private jet that cost Nigeria $300,000.
•The Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), a government agency she oversees, maintains a Challenger 850 Visa jet which serves the minister’s needs as well as those of her family. The cost of running the jet is $500,000 per month.
• Ms. Allison-Madueke went to a meeting of the Oil Producing and Exporting Countries (OPEC) in Austria in a private jet.
In addition, the petitioners alleged that, in the last two years, the Petroleum minister has never attended any meeting outside Nigeria in a commercial jet or in any of the jets maintained by the Nigerian Presidency. They stated that she had wasted more than N2 billion on the maintenance of aircraft in the last two years. They accused her of being the only minister who consistently uses private jets to arrive at destinations when the Nigerian president travels abroad.
The petition also carpets Ms. Allison-Madueke for often doing official jobs out of her house, which means that she is frequently absent from her official desk at the ministry.
In the past, investigations by SaharaReporters had revealed that the minister rents or owns several private jets. She is known to gallivant with a jet registered to a businessman, Jide Omokore, but several sources told SaharaReporters that she was the real owner. “Chief Omokore is a front for the minister,” a source in Abuja told our correspondent.
As alleged in the petition to the EFCC, Ms. Alison-Madueke also frequently uses the services of Vista Jet, a Swiss luxury aviation company that provides jets to wealthy businessmen around the world. Vista Jet has done deals with such Nigerians as Governor Godswill Akpabio of Akwa Ibom State and Nduka Obaigbena, the flamboyant publisher of Thisday newspaper.
Curiously, Vista Jet has a Nigerian businessman, Kola Aluko, on its board. Mr. Aluko, who once acted as Vista Jet’s West African representative, is known to be close to Ms. Alison-Madueke. “[Kola] Aluko and Mrs. Diezani Allison-Madueke are neck deep in the oil business,” said a source at the NNPC. “She helped him [Mr. Aluko] to land a choice allocation of pricey oil blocks through a company called Seven Energy,” added the source.
In a petition sent to the Nigerian Senate by the Delta Producing Communities, Ms. Alison-Madueke is accused of transferring the ownership of four oil mining licenses (OML), 30, 34, 26 and 42, to Atlantic Energy Drilling Concept which belongs to Mr. Omokore.
Our NNPC source disclosed that some of the financial details of Ms. Alison-Madueke’s usage of private jets may be hidden. According to him, the minister “often uses several companies, Septa Energy, Atlantic, Seven Energy International,to absorb the cost of her rentals.” The source added that she has significant, if not ownership, stakes in the three oil companies as well as firms in engaged in oil-related activities. Three other companies owned by Bayelsa born bussinemen, Ateo, Televeras and Ontario energy regularly picks up Ms. Alison-Madueke tabs. The last three companies were specially selected to sell excess crude oil that ought to be sold by Duke Oil, a subsidiary of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation. The three companies each makes $26 million every month from the deals nd pays kickback through the minister to President Goodluck Joanatan.
Several sources said Ms. Allison-Madueke constantly uses helicopters whenever in Lagos to avoid traffic. They stated that the minister relies on Caverton, a Lagos-based helicopter rental company, to provide choppers that ferry her as well as her family around Lagos.
Despite her reputation for arrogance, greed and corruption, Ms. Allison-Madueke is deemed one of the most trusted associates of President Jonathan. She reportedly manages a huge chunk of Mr. Jonathan’s own business deals. An Abuja-based businessman told SaharaReporters that the minister coordinated the stowing away of funds that helped Mr. Jonathan finance his 2011 presidential campaigns. The source added: “Today, there’s little or no money around Abuja. But everybody knows that Diezani has all the money. She will fund the 2015 election for the president.”
Ms. Allison-Madueke is so powerful that she survived a big effort by First Lady Patience Jonathan to remove her from the cabinet. A source who used to be close to Ms. Jonathan said the First Lady was uncomfortable about the personal closeness between her husband and the Petroleum minister. “Madam [Ms. Patience Jonathan] asked the president to drop Diezani [Allison-Madueke] from his ministerial line-up, but he [the president] refused. Madam was forced to make peace with Diezani’s role in her husband’s life.”
The US-educated minister was long known for her interest in wealth and social climbing. During Nigeria’s last years of military dictatorship, she was linked to several military officers, including one-time Foreign Minister, General Ike Nwachukwu (ret.) and Rear Admiral Allison Amaechina Madueke (ret.), her current husband who was once Nigeria’s chief of naval staff.