Nigeria’s former oil minister, Diezani Alison-Madueke, has been charged in the UK with bribery adding to the ranks of politicians enshrouded in corruption. As corruption soars and authorities embezzle resources, Nigerians continue to plummet into poverty forgotten by those who swore to protect them.
On Tuesday 22 August 2023, Diezani Alison-Madueke, Nigeria’s former oil minister, who also served as the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries president, was charged by the UK National Crime Agency (NCA) with bribery. The offences follow an investigation by the NCA, which alleges that she accepted bribes in exchange for oil and gas contracts worth millions of pounds while in government.
Alison-Madueke served as Nigeria’s Minister for Petroleum Resources during Goodluck Jonathan’s administration from 2010-2015. During this period, she allegedly received bribes amounting to £100,000 in cash and much more. According to the NCA, ‘She is alleged to have benefitted from at least £100,000 in cash, chauffeur-driven cars, flights on private jets, luxury holidays for her family, and the use of multiple London properties.’
In March 2023, the NCA presented proof of her corrupt activities to the US Department of Justice which aided them in reclaiming assets valued at $53.1 million. The amount recovered is of record-breaking feat according to Andy Kelly, the Head of the NCA’s International Corruption Unit. Kelly said: ‘We suspect Diezani Alison-Madueke abused her power in Nigeria and accepted financial rewards for awarding multi-million-pound contracts. These charges are a milestone in what has been a thorough and complex international investigation.’
Alison-Madueke currently lives in St John’s Wood, London, and will appear at Westminster Magistrates Court on 02 October. This is not the first time a Nigerian politician has been accused and charged for financial crime abroad. A former governor of Bayelsa State, Deprieye Alamieyeseigha, who held his position from 1999 to 2005 was arrested in London in 2005 on charges of corruption amounting up to $1 million. In March 2023, an agreement was signed between the US and the Nigerian government to return the amount. The announcement was made by the US ambassador to Nigeria, Mary Leonard, who noted that the funds would be directed towards improving healthcare services in Bayelsa State. Apart from bribery, Nigerian leaders have been accused of dabbling in other illicit activities—even organ trafficking.
Earlier this year in May, Senator Ike Ekweremadu, his wife and a doctor were sentenced to prison by British courts for attempted organ harvesting in the UK. Ekweremadu was sentenced to nine years and eight months. His wife, Beatrice, was sentenced to four years and six months, and the doctor, Obinna Obeta, was sentenced to 10 years at the Old Bailey in the UK. The attempt only became known when the victim reported the case at Staines Police Station on 05 May 2022.
The immediate result of corruption and greed by those in power is the suffering of the masses. Nigeria ranks 11th on the list of countries with large oil reserves at 38.6 per cent but also holds a similarly high ranking on the list of countries with the most corruption. Consequently, the petroleum industry has become a breeding ground for corruption and embezzlement. The fuel subsidy removal, although marketed as an avenue for the poor to benefit from the revenue saved, is instead another opportunity for corruption in the industry.
The intricate web of corruption in Nigeria casts a shadow over the country’s economic growth and development prospects. One of the most noticeable consequences is the undermining of economic progress. Corruption discourages domestic and foreign investments and skews resource allocation in favour of those who engage in illicit practices rather than those who genuinely contribute to economic productivity. As a result, the people’s trust in their leaders is eroded.
This also perpetuates a cycle of unequal distribution of wealth and opportunities, contributing to the persistence of poverty. According to the National Bureau of Statistics, 133 million Nigerians (63 per cent of the country’s population) are multi-dimensionally poor. This number does not seem to be reducing soon as inflation continues to skyrocket while the naira plummets.
Another consequence is the negative international image Nigeria has gained. Although corrupt politicians are not the sole cause of the decline in Nigeria’s global status, the embarrassment they cause the country has contributed to the negative associations made about Nigerians as a whole. Between organ trafficking and bribery, it’s no wonder why countries across the globe are closing their doors to the faces of Nigerians looking to visit their shores.
From Turkey eliminating the e-visa option, to the United Arab Emirates banning Nigerian passport holders indefinitely, Nigerians find themselves facing the consequences of a select few who continue to tarnish the country’s reputation in the international sphere.
Alison-Madueke’s case is just one of the many instances of Nigerian politicians and leaders abusing their power to benefit themselves while the masses suffer. As the economy worsens, life will only get harder for the average citizen who faces poverty and international discrimination because of their passport⎈
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