Indications emerged yesterday that former Minister of Petroleum, Diezani Allison-Madueke, and four other people arrested by the National Crime Agency (NCA) in the United Kingdom yesterday will be tried in London.
Late reports from London yesterday said Allison-Madueke and the four other suspects were released on bail pending their arraignment in a London court on Monday on allegations of bribery, corruption and money laundering.
The suspects were said to have been questioned for several hours following their arrests in different parts of London four months after the British Prime Minister, Mr. David Cameron, pledged his country’s support for President Muhammadu Buhari’s anti-corruption war.
Cameron had in a meeting with Buhari during the latter’s visit to London in May assured the Nigerian president of his government’s readiness to provide technical assistance to the Nigerian government to aid its anti-corruption reforms.
Reports yesterday indicated that Allison-Madueke was arrested by the NCA along with four others for crimes related to bribery, corruption and money laundering.
Nigeria’s anti-graft agency, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), was said to have been working quietly with NCA towards arresting Allison-Madueke and other Nigerians believed to have corruption cases to answer.
The EFCC yesterday invaded the Asokoro, Abuja home of the former Minister of Petroleum Resources simultaneously as she was arrested in London and later sealed it off.
According to investigation, EFCC operatives were drafted to the posh residence of the ex-Minister at about 5 pm yesterday.
While the NCA was yet to disclose the identities of the five suspects arrested in London at press time, the British High Commission in Nigeria confirmed that it had been notified of the arrest of five suspects by the NCA.
Based on a warrant, the EFCC operatives were still searching the residence of the ex-Minister at press time.
A top source in EFCC, who spoke in confidence, said: “Based on preliminary investigation, our operatives were drafted to the residence of ex-Minister Diezani Alison-Madueke for a search.
“The search was conducted in connection with the ongoing investigation of some corrupt practices during Diezani’s tenure as minister.
“We will not give you details now but the nation will be briefed accordingly soon on our findings.”
Responding to a question, the source added: “We have been collaborating with NCA for a while but we will not disclose the identities of those arrested in the UK in order not to prejudice investigation.”
A statement on the website of the NCA simply said: “The National Crime Agency’s recently formed International Corruption Unit has arrested five people across London as part of an investigation into suspected bribery and money laundering offences.”
When further calls were placed to NCA line(+442079795835), it was only a machine that was responding.
The Press and Public Relations Officer of the British High Commission in Nigeria, Mr. Joe Abuku, who spoke with our correspondent at 5.56 pm said: “Yes, I know of some arrests by the National Crime Agency, but there was no mention of their nationalities.
“Five people between the age range of 21 and 60 years were arrested by the NCA for bribery and corruption but they have not given us the details of those involved.”
Asked about the amount involved, Abuku said: “No one can say now but it was in connection with acts related to bribery and corruption.
“But the NCA has notified the British High Commission in Nigeria about the arrests.”
The NCA is the UK agency that leads law enforcement against serious and organised crimes.
It has national and international reach and the mandate and powers to work in partnership with other law enforcement organisations to bring the full weight of the law to bear on serious and organised criminals.
During his recent visit to the US, President Buhari had interacted with Nigerians in the diaspora at the country’s embassy in New York, during which he said that the Federal Government was examining evidence which could lead to the arrest and prosecution of some former ministers and other government officials who looted government funds and stole the nation’s crude oil.
He lamented that some of the affected officials were involved in illegal sale and diversion of crude oil monies belonging to the federal government to multiple private accounts abroad.
He said: “We are now looking for evidence of shipping some of our crude, their destinations and where and which accounts they were paid and in which country.
“When we get as much as we can get as soon as possible, we will approach those countries to freeze those accounts and go to court, prosecute those people and let the accounts be taken to Nigeria.
“The amount of money is mind-burgling but we have started getting documents.
“We have started getting documents where some of the senior people in government, former ministers, some of them had as much as five accounts and were moving about one million barrel per day on their own.
“We have started getting those documents. Whichever documents we are able to get and subsequently trace the sale of the crude or transfer of money from Ministries, Departments, Central Bank, we will ask for the cooperation of those countries to return those monies to federation accounts and we will use those documents to arrest those people and prosecute them. This, I promise Nigerians.”
At the UN General Assembly a few days ago, President Buhari reiterated his resolve to ensure that those who misappropriated billions of naira belonging to the Nigerian National Petroleum were prosecuted.