Former Nigerian Minister of Petroleum Resources Diezani Allison Maduekwe will be tried for money laundering in the United Kingdom in June. For many observers, Maduekwe is the face of high-level corruption in Nigeria. A former minister of transport, she served as petroleum minister in the government of Goodluck Jonathan. During her days of flying high, she collected “firsts,” she was the first female minister of transport, the first female minister of petroleum, and the first female secretary general of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC). She was also the first female appointed to the board of the Shell Petroleum Development Corporation.
Her extravagant lifestyle – ranging from multiple hotel suites in the same city on the same trip to private planes to private palaces costing millions (if not billions) of naira was notorious. The rumor mill had her “close” to then-President Goodluck Jonathan, rivaling his wife, Patience (also popularly excoriated for her conspicuous consumption).
Seemingly arrogant, greedy, and vain, Diezani’s public persona in a poor country evokes disdain. However her culpability in stealing hundreds of millions of dollars from the Nigerian state remains to be proven. Nigerian agencies, notably the Economic and Financial crimes Commission (EFC), has been cooperating with the UK authorities. According to one spokesman, “We have taken more evidence to the UK… We have a huge pile of documents.”
Diezani will be tried with her two brothers. Ostensibly she went to the UK where her mother lives following Jonathan’s defeat in the 2015 presidential elections for treatment for breast cancer. She denies any charges of wrongdoing and that she “fled” Nigeria.
Central to Muhammadu Buhari’s victory in the 2015 presidential elections over Goodluck Jonathan was public revulsion over the scale of official corruption. In response to public outcry, Buhari campaigned on an anti-corruption platform. Since his election he has made the fight against corruption one of the two centerpieces of his administration. The other has been the defeat of the radical jihadist movement called Boko Haram.