Erstwhile Minister of Petroleum Resources, Mrs Diezani Alison-Madueke has in the closing part of her exclusive interview with Mr Dele Momodu’s online publication, The BOSS Newspaper, maintained that she never looted public funds.
Embattled Diezani, who is currently undergoing treatment for cancer in a London hospital, said:
“I actually left $5.6billion in the NLNG alone but no one is talking about it. I’m not seeking to be praised but to be acknowledged that I made some little contributions.
“That money could have been wasted on frivolities but I was determined to keep something for the incoming government once we lost the election.”
She recalled: “On 4th of May, Ngozi (Dr Okonjo-Iweala, ex-Minister of Finance) wrote to the President to release $2billion from the money to clear her table and pay contractors, which would have depleted the money to $3.6billion, but I said to the President we shouldn’t do that.
“I explained what the accrued money was meant for and gave a detailed background of the account. Even in the past, Ngozi and the NSA had asked to be funded from it and I stood my ground because the money was meant for the gas project in Brass LNG in Bayelsa. Conoco Phillips pulling out affected it.
“We wanted to run a gas economy. It was the money that made it possible for President Buhari to pay the bail-out. If I was corrupt, I would have spent the money on paying contractors who would have been too happy to do anything. I got calls from some of them promising kickbacks if I could pay but I refused and the rest is history.”
According to her, the allegations of corruption were not shocking to her as President Muhammadu Buhari, despite his impeccable pedigree was alleged to have had N2.8billion vanished under his nose.
“Till this day no one has been able to prove that the then Major General Buhari stole a kobo,” she said.
She said while it is true that a Minister is influential, the real power is in NNPC.
“A Minister sits in the Ministry treating files, holding meetings at home and abroad, looking glamorous and taking all the flak but people forget that the soul and heart of the nation is NNPC. The kind of due process we followed was rigorous. You know, I came from Shell, where you had to account for everything properly”, she added.
Speaking on the negative perception about her, Diezani responded, “I was sitting on the prime portfolio in a mono product economy. I carried out my duty in the strictest terms. I stuck to my mandate which incidentally was one which I championed with my Boss, to open up the sector to our own people as long as they can satisfy the laid down rules in the Local Content Act.
“I ensured that Nigerians would get the right of first refusal. But unfortunately I stepped on toes, very powerful toes. I was not liked by the foreigners and also some Nigerians who lost out. Hakeem Bello-Osagie once told me something I cannot forget; that 90 percent of Nigerians want to do oil business but you can only satisfy about three percent, so the rest will get angry thinking you blocked them.
“Believe it or not, and God is my witness, I didn’t have to steal. I’m not an Angel but I’m not a devil. I don’t have billions anywhere. How is it possible for one woman to steal billions of dollars in a country like Nigeria? Did I blow up the vaults of the Central Bank or transfer the money to heaven? Where can you keep such money in this age of money laundering fiasco?
“I did my job professionally without even thinking of anyone as opposition. Otherwise we would not have approved the Oando-Conoco Phillips deal. Tinubu came to see me three times and we approved on merit…”
She also spoke on accusations that she funded President Jonathan’s re-election bid: “How can I use $20billion for elections, that is absolutely impossible. My boss will never do such a thing. Many people don’t know my boss. He is a very principled and stubborn man. There are things he will not do. And there are things I will not do. I protected the interests of my country.
“I can’t blame the doubters. They have seen more of the worst of Nigeria that it becomes difficult to trust anyone. But let me disclose something to you today because there is a difference between belief and reality. I did an unusual thing in our last days in government. I’m not sure I should tell you before people say I’m boasting.”
Diezani added that her priority now is how to take care of her poor health.
“I’m battling with a very serious type of cancer. I have tried everything to contain the malevolent spread. I have had two surgeries. The first was to take out the lumps from my breast and the second was to cut deeper into the tissues. I did the last one about three weeks ago (now about five weeks). I’m still in some pains. I’ve gone through Chemotherapy and now I’m starting Radiotherapy on Monday for five weeks (two Mondays ago).
“I’m praying this one goes well because I don’t know if there is any thing the doctors can do beyond this. The steroids were devastating and at a point, I slipped into coma on July 28. My sugar level went wild first to 25 and then to 80. The doctors called it a near-miss and I now know what they mean when people say, ‘health is wealth’.
“My 14 year old son has been asking if Mummy would die. I really don’t know because I believe nothing is impossible for God. I’ve told my son that I will carry his children and grandchildren…I pray I will.
“If I were a man may be things would have been different; it would never have gone to this extent. I have never stolen from my country. I will repeat that before God and man even if no one would listen. On this job, you don’t have to steal.
“Nigerians are the most wonderful people if you are lucky to have a few good friends who believe in you. All the foreign Ambassadors say it, the reason many often come back to work and reside in our country. People can call Nigeria and Nigerians bad names but we remain the most generous and humane people on earth.
“If I have another chance, I will be more tempered on stepping on big toes but I will still do my job the best way but in a moderated way. Perhaps, I should have done things more subtly. I did what I thought was good for my country. I own no oil well. The President signed none for himself. I do not indulge in extravagant things even if people think I’m flamboyant. My only indulgence is my family and may be architecture and architectural interiors.
“God will do as He wills. He said He will bless who He wishes to bless… There is nothing anyone can do about it. So be happy about people’s good fortune. It all feels like a bad dream but God knows the beginning from the end and the end from the beginning,” Diezani concluded.