Editorial

N14bn Jewelry Forfeiture; Diezani’s example, lesson to others

 

Acourt in Lagos has put to rest the matter about the jewelry of the
once powerful ally of the former minister of petroleum resources.
Diezani Allison-Madueke was also minister of Transportation, Before
coming to government in 2007 she was a top executive with the Shell
Development Company. The company variously accused of bringing both
pain and joy to the Nigerian land. On one hand, they are running crude
oil deals on the other, they ruin the soil of their host communities.
Maybe that is how Diezani got inspiration. On one hand, she has all
the experience, education and personality, on the other, it’s a N14
billion jewelry haul locked inside one of her numerous mansions which
the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), has described as
“unexplained wealth.”
A Federal High Court finally took a decision on one of the several
properties linked to the architect. Earlier, she was stripped of her
real estate in Banana Island. It was an apartment building by the sea
shore in that exclusive part of Lagos. Reports suggest there are many
others shrouded in complex ownership traces. In a Lagos court, on
Tuesday, she permanently forfeited to the Federal Government jewelry
valued at $40 million (N14.4 billion), recovered from Mrs
Alison-Madueke.
The jewelry, court papers say are categorised into 33 sets, include
“419 expensive bangles, 315 expensive rings, 304 expensive earrings,
267 expensive necklaces, 189 expensive wristwatches and 174 expensive
necklaces and earrings.”Others are: 78 expensive bracelets, 77
expensive brooches and 74 expensive pendants. Justice Nicholas Oweibo
made the final forfeiture order while delivering judgment in a motion
filed by the EFCC.
EFCC said, “The deponent in the affidavit of the motion is not the
owner of the properties sought to be forfeited and the deponent did
not state in the affidavit where she got the information from.
“On the whole and in the view of the respondent’s failure to show
cause why the properties should not be finally forfeited, the order of
final forfeiture is hereby granted. The properties are hereby finally
forfeited to the Federal government of Nigeria.”
During the course of the hearing, EFCC lawyer Rotimi Oyedepo told the
judge that the court was empowered to make such forfeiture order under
Section 17 of the Advance Fee Fraud and Other Related Offence Act
2006, because “the respondent’s known and provable lawful income is
far less than the properties sought to be forfeited to the Federal
Government of Nigeria.”
Oyedepo supported his application with, among others, an affidavit
deposed to by an EFCC investigator, Rufai Zaki. Zaki recalled that
Alison-Madueke was appointed Minister of Petroleum Resources on April
12, 2010. He said EFCC findings showed that she started acquiring the
jewelry in 2012 from one Bukola Oyewumi of Trinket Box Bespoke
Jewellery at Ikeja City Mall, Alausa, Lagos.
The investigator said the commission was in possession of details of
the United Bank for Africa (UBA) account through which Alison-Madueke
received her salary as a minister. “The respondent did not utilise her
salary or any part of her legitimate income to acquire the assets
sought to be forfeited to the Federal Government of Nigeria,” Zaki
said. He averred that a “damning intelligence report” received by the
EFCC led to a search of Alison-Madueke’s house at No. 10 Fredrick
Chiluba Close, Asokoro, Abuja.
Zaki’s said the EFCC invited Oyewumi and she made a statement, saying
she started selling jewelry to Diezani in 2012. According to Zaki,
Oyewumi also made available to the EFCC the invoices issued in respect
of the jewelry in which ‘Aunty D’ was written as the buyer. He said
the EFCC also discovered that apart from Oyewumi, Alison-Madueke also
bought jewelry from one Minal Ratanani of Bella Vista Apartment,
Banana Island, Ikoyi, Lagos. According to him, Ratanani admitted
during questioning by the EFCC that Alison-Madueke bought jewelry
worth $865,300.00 from her over a period and the former minister paid
cash.
The outcome of these investigations clearly show how our country’s
minister of the treasure throve of the nation spent her time bingeing
on trinkets. Jewelry that is so expensive such that within a year
alone she had invested monies valuable enough to build a standard
Nigerian university.
With her kind of consumption pattern and luxury, there is little doubt
of the kinds of things she would have done if she stayed longer in
office. She was the typical technocrat in government, rather than show
expertise in her portfolio she showed it in acquiring luxurious
trinkets from sources that are still not clear. Nigeria cannot develop
with this kind of mindset of people in authority.  Let us hope that
government will find a good monument to invest such recoveries. It
will serve to remind future generations of why behaviours such as
Diezani’s is reprehensible.

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