A fresh war of words has broken out between a former Minister of Petroleum, Mrs. Diezani Alison-Madueke, and the Emir of Kano, Muhammadu Sanusi II, over the alleged disappearance of $20 billion under ex-President Goodluck Jonathan. While Diezani fired shots at Sanusi in an interview with The Boss online newspaper in London, the emir and erstwhile Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria replied her in an exclusive chat with Sunday Telegraph.
As CBN Governor, Sanusi had, early 2014, accused the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation of failing to remit about $20bn to the Federation Account between 2012 and 2013. His allegations brought him into conflict with the administration of President Goodluck Jonathan, who suspended him in February 2014. The Federal Government later hired an audit firm, PricewaterhouseCoopers, to look into NNPC’s accounts.
Diezani came out to say that its findings disproved Sanusi’s allegations and exonerated the state-owned oil corporation. However, Sanusi quickly countered Diezani in a May 2015 article in the Financial Times of London, in which he stated the PwC report confirmed that at least $18.5bn was missing. Diezani, who granted her first interview after undergoing surgery for breast cancer in London, said she would do all in her power to debunk Sanusi’s allegations.
“If there is one issue I must pursue in this world, it is the biggest lie of this money. How can $20 billion disappear just like that? Where did it disappear to? Is it possible that such an amount would not be traceable?
This is more painful coming from someone I considered a good friend who should appreciate the gravity of such an allegation. I challenge anyone to come forward with facts showing that I stole government or public money. I’ve never stolen Nigeria’s money. “Rather, I worked hard to halt the rampant business of round-tripping. When I brought in (former PPMC boss) Reginald Stanley to clean up the place, I requested for a list of the defaulters.
There were about 92 of them and I made sure we sanctioned them. You can imagine the threat to my life but I was ready to defend the economic interests of my country.
In fact, we were able to reduce the oil subsidy by about half. No one has applauded our effort. “There were those who said the then Governor of Central Bank (Sanusi) must have been angry at me because of the way the Presidency treated him. In all honesty, he was being blocked from seeing the President by some of Oga’s people (presidential aides) but it had nothing to do with me. I was the one who even told Oga about the development and Oga said he would meet him in London on one of his trips.
Unfortunately my boss fell ill and was rushed to King Edward Hospital and the meeting was aborted.” “Sanusi and I had been friends. There was no way I would have done anything bad to him. He even came to my house to inform me about his interest in heading the African Development Bank and we discussed for about two hours.
I promised to support him and I spoke to Oga about it. We were together on the Reconciliation Committee that looked into the accounts of NNPC. Yes there were gaps but not on the alarming scale being circulated. Markafi (former Governor of Kaduna State) did a thorough job. You know he is a very sound accountant.”
However, Sanusi replied Diezani, saying there were issues to be cleared around the subsidy regime under Jonathan. Speaking with Sunday Telegraph, he said was denied Nigeria’s backing for the AfDB job because of the $20bn allegation. He told Sunday Telegraph that it was on record that a week after he exposed the matter, Jonathan wrote a letter withdrawing his nomination as Nigeria’s candidate and replaced him with then Minister of Agriculture, Dr. Akinwunmi Adesina, who later won the election.
Sanusi said it was not a hidden fact he exprwessed interest in the AfDB job when the position became vacant. He noted that while he expressed lack of interest in a second term as CBN Governor, he wrote a letter to Jonathan and the Senate and also discussed his AfDB ambition extensively with the Ministers of Finance, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, and the Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Mohammed Adoke.
The monarch further explained that his meeting with Jonathan on the AfDB job was witnessed by the former President’s Principal Private Secretary, Hassan Tukur. Sanusi recalled that Jonathan even directed Hassan to start campaigning for him among African leaders, which the aide did by writing a letter to one of them.
“It is not something that is hidden that anybody who is seeking that job must get the support of his country. Knowing fully that I went to the President with my intention and before I made the exposure of the $20bn oil deal, Jonathan clearly indicated his support for me. He even directed Hassan Tukur, his Principal Private Secretary to write to African heads of state. So, what is Diezani saying? One can now see that she is lying.
“My suspension came a week after I made the disclosure of the missing monies, precisely on February 20, 2014. As at that time, I was the only candidate from Nigeria gunning for the AfDB job, but you know one cannot have it when he is suspended. My passports were all confiscated. Jonathan in trying to punish me denied me of the job and replaced me with Akin Adesina, who is my personal friend.
“The question that remains for Diezani to answer is: Was there $6bn said to have been remitted to NPDC which they denied? As for that denial, who is holding that money? What happened to the inflated N6 per litre kerosene subsidy?
Where is the money said to be paid to that effect? All these questions formed the basis upon which I was suspended and denied the AfDB job,” he stated.
He reminded the former minister that what he did was neither a personal war nor was it targeted at anybody. He declared that if anybody feels affected by the revelation, he or she should come forward and clear their name.
“Certainly, there is nothing personal. It is our nation’s money we are talking about. One cannot take away the treasury and expect to go scot-free. He must answer the basic questions. Everyone is aware that I was punished by former President Jonathan for exposing the missing $20bn. The punishment after suspending me from the CBN and taking away my passports was also blocking me from becoming the AfDB President. But Allah in his mercy today has given me something much more better than that.”
He expressed sympathy for Diezani’s health condition and wished her quick recovery. He, however, urged President Muhammadu Buhari to get to the bottom of the matter.