THEY are beautiful, powerful; mostly brilliant and accomplished. They were the dream come true of the Nigerian feminist community which lauded the Jonathan administration’s affirmative action of appointing women into key government positions. They were to prove the widely held belief that what a man can do, a woman can do better. In his controversial 2014 book, My Watch, former president Olusegun Obasanjo had suggested there were five presidents in Nigeria – all female but for the substantive president himself. According to that book the latter was the weakest. But how has it all turned out?
Dieziani Allison Madueke
It is a long way off, for former petroleum minister Dieziani Allison Madueke, from the days when her word was law in the FCT. These days she has become something of a recluse in a country that has not only refused to give her refugee status. Apparently, the days when commercial first class cabins were not good enough are long gone. A story was told, at a meeting of NNPC in Moscow, of how the Russians had asked the Nigerian delegates if Madueke was the president of Nigeria. This was because she had a private jet at her beck and call throughout the meeting’s duration- two weeks.
She became Nigeria’s minister of transportation as far back as July 2007 but perhaps reached the peak in 2014 when in November she was elected the first female President of OPEC at the 166th OPEC Ordinary meeting in Vienna. She took refuge in the United Kingdom after her reign, but her dual nationality had proved to be her undoing.
Alison-Madueke made headlines worldwide in 2015 after she was arrested in London on suspicion of bribery and money laundering, but was not until a fortnight ago that the Nigerian anti corruption authorities took the cue and charged her with money laundering. Described by the charge sheet as “still at large”, she was accused of money-laundering in connection with a bribery allegedly given to three members of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC). One of the commissioners pleaded guilty at a hearing on April 5.
Her claims to ill health have neither been substantiated nor debunked, except by spin doctors. Pictures have appeared recently on the internet showing her walking through the streets of London. Still things are looking pretty awry these days, especially compared with the days when the former governor of Nigeria Central Bank Sanusi Lamido Sanusi was suspended after he claimed $20bn (£12bn) of oil revenue “had gone missing” from state oil company Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC).
It was reported in January that The United Kingdom (UK) is now in possession of a pile of evidence against former Minister of Petroleum Resources, Mrs. Diezani Alison-Madueke, courtesy of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission. These include a block of 6 unit service apartments on Awolowo Road, Ikoyi, Lagos; six units of terrace flats in Yaba, Lagos; twin four-bedroom duplexes in Lekki Phase I, Lagos; two duplexes in Banana Island,Lagos; a duplex in Asokoro District, Abuja; a mini-estate in Mabushi, Abuja; a set of 12 terrace duplexes at Omaremi Street, Port Harcourt; a large expanse of land at Oniru, Victoria Island in Lagos; a multi-billion Naira estate in Yenagoa, Lagos;two apartments in Dubai marked as J5 Emirates Hills (30million Dirham); E146 Emirates Hills valued at 44million Dirham; a hotel in Port Harcourt under investigation.
It has been never a dull moment for one-time aviation minister, Stella Oduah, who is still very much in government as a Senator of the Federal republic representing the people of Anambra North Senatorial district. Unfortunately this is not necessarily a positive thing as it would seem her fortunes have taken a downward turn since the ascendancy of the opposition.
In 2013 she was one of the delegates chosen by the President to attend the Papal inauguration of Pope Francis along with David Mark, President of the Senate and Viola Onwuliri, Foreign Minister. But that is about as religious as she would get.
The PDP politician is no visitor to controversy and would recently declare herself as one of Nigeria’s best Aviation ministers ever, to the chagrin of readers of a recent interview where she said: “I wanted it to be on the record that indeed we can transform. All we need to do is to ensure that we do all we have to do and think outside the box. If you remember how Abuja, Lagos and Enugu airports used to be…We did a holistic transformation. Again, it is just to prove that transformation is do-able (sic). All it requires is hard work and good people to implement the strategy”.
It is not only regular Nigerian citizens that seem to have a problem with that submission. Her former boss, Goodluck Jonathan, recently mentioned her in his defense of himself concerning allegations of corruption against him. Having sacked Oduah in the thick of one of her scandals during the administration, he cites this as proof that he actually fought corruption during his administration.
“You know Stella Oduah played a prominent role in my campaign in 2011. But when the investigation I ordered was carried out and the indictment was confirmed, I had to relieve her of her position. Up till today Stella hates me for her removal. No doubt, it was a very hard decision for me to take, but that was what leadership demanded,” he said.
In 2013, the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) had paid approximately $1.6 million to buy two armoured BMW cars from Coscharis Motors Limited in Lagos for the erstwhile minister. Meanwhile, a quotation provided by the armored car ballistic division of the International Armoring Corporation in Centerville, Utah (USA) had revealed that each of the BMW cars could have been provided to the NCAA for $200,000 plus the cost of shipping to Nigeria.
While she had stoutly denied knowledge of this and other allegations against her, the public backlash had been unprecedented and the administration had to eventually let her go. But here was a woman who was not built to break. In 2015, she was one of the few women elected into the Senate in 2015. In January 2016, the Supreme Court removed her summarily from the Senate. In July 2016, A Federal High Court in Abuja held that the suit seeking to remove the princess, Senator Andy Ubah and others from Anambra as national and state assembly members lacked merit.
In his judgment, the judge, Adeniyi Ademola, dismissed the suit instituted by Senators Annie Okonkwo, Chris Ubah and 42 others. But it is not yet Uhuru. Her latest travail is an indictment by Sterling Bank Plc. The bank alleges that Ms. Oduah and her Sea Petroleum and Gas company owe it over $16.4m and N100.4m.
Prior to this the court had two months ago, restrained Senator Oduah, Sea Petroleum and its directors, from making any withdrawals whatsoever from the account of the company and of three other limited liability companies at 21 commercial banks listed before the court over the indebtedness at issue.
The court granted another order directing the said commercial banks holding Stella Oduah and the four companies’ assets to sequestrate up to the indebtedness of Stella Oduah and Sea Petroleum and Gas Company Limited in in both sums as of November 2016, and keep same in an interest-yielding account in the name of the Chief Registrar of the Federal court pending the determination of the suit filed before the court to recover the debt.
Again, she has stoutly denied this allegation, claiming she had resigned from the company, Sea Petroleum, which was alleged to be indebted to banks; since 2010. The saga continues.
Meanwhile, WO can categorically state that former Nigerian First Lady, Patience Jonathan, now flies commercial, although with a retinue of followers. She was spotted recently in Germany, boarding a Lufthanza flight while one of her entourage- a man, carried her handbag.
Still it is definitely not business as usual for the former Bayelsa permanent secretary, who was also the state’s First Lady. Arguably the most entertaining first lady the nation has ever had, she recently hit perhaps her lowest point when it was revealed last week in a book, ‘Against the Run of Play’ by former Presidential spokesperson, Segun Adeniyi, that immediate past Senate President, David Mark said ex-President Goodluck Jonathan lost the support of key members of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, who discreetly worked against his re-election due to the auspicious nature of his wife.
He was quoted as saying, “I guess she (Patience) had the same fear about me even but she never said it to my face. She once accosted Senator Joy Emordi to say, ‘Joy, I hear you are the manager of David Mark Presidential Campaign Organisation,’ which was a baseless accusation”.
In the same book it was revealed that in 2006, operatives of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) seized $13.5million from a former first lady, Patience Jonathan, according to WikiLeaks.
“Perhaps the most damaging USEmbassy cable released at the same period was the one which read, “In September 2006, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) seized USD13.5 million from Dame Patience Jonathan at an airport. Reports indicated the money was laundered through an associate; Jonathan managed to distance himself from the deal. The anti-graft commission investigating the source of the money has reported no findings to date.” All that is water under the bridge, and the woman who was said to have run the Jonathan administration with an iron fist has bigger fish to fry these days.
A Federal High Court in Lagos last week ordered a temporary forfeiture of $5.8 million belonging to Dame Patience, to the Federal Government. The order followed the ex-parte application by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, seeking the forfeiture of the amount to government, pending the determination of the motion on notice. She had earlier confirmed that she withdrew some money from her unfrozen Skye Bank domiciliary account, containing the funds. She had visited the bank a few days after Justice Mojisola Olatoregun of a Federal High Court sitting in Lagos, ordered the de-freezing of the account.
Ngozi Okonjo Iwealla
Long before she ever took up a job with the Federal Government of Nigeria, Ngozi Okonjo Iwealla had been an international superstar in financial circles. Educated in top elite universities in the United States, she remains a respected global economist, even as her compatriots remain largely unimpressed by the way she had run the Nigerian economy as Finance minister under the Jonathan administration.
Under the Obasanjo administration during her first stint as finance minister, she had been perceived as being far more impressive, particularly as she had in 2005 she had secured the write-off of an 18 billion dollar debt by the Paris club on Nigeria’s behalf. Allegations in 2015 by some governors that Okonjo-Iweala spent $2.1 billion out of the Excess Crude Account “without authorization” proved to be water off a duck’s back.
The governors of Edo State, Adams Oshiomhole; and Kaduna, Nasir El-Rufai, had said that the National Economic Council, at a meeting, found that $2.1 billion of the Excess Crude Account was spent without the approval of the council.
The former minister said no unauthorized expenditure from the ECA was made under her watch in the Finance Ministry, and that decisions on such expenditure were discussed at meetings of the Federation Accounts Allocation Committee (FAAC) attended by finance commissioners from the 36 states.
A fortnight ago she was quoted as saying she had high hopes for the country, while she was growing up, from a panel at the Mo Ibrahim Forum in Morocco. “I had very high expectations of a country where it would have what it needed infrastructure wise and people could go up and down the ladder anywhere they pleased”, she said.
Okonjo-Iweala also singled out unemployment as one of the greatest challenges Nigeria was battling with. “One thing is important, you cannot create these jobs unless you have a conducive environment in the economy that enables and encourages your domestic private sector to invest as well as the foreign private sector so that is where it begins”, she added. As she goes around the world giving speeches and sitting on high level panels, Nigerians remain harshly critical and wonder why she did not help create an enabling environment.