The family of former Minister of Petroleum Resources, Mrs. Diezani Alison-Madueke, Thursday denied the much-publicised arrest and detention of the ex-minister by the British National Crime Agency over allegations of bribery and corruption.
A statement by the family’s lawyer, Oscar Onwudiwe, also described as false a publication by an online news media that Diezani’s step son, Ugonna, owns three properties in the United States, stressing that two of the properties were purchased in 1995 and 1997, when Ugonna was eight and 10 years old, respectively, “while the family or a distant relation has no link whatsoever with the third property mentioned by the online publication”.
The lawyer, who claims to also represent Diezani’s mother’s family (Agama,) also stated that neither Ugonna, Somze nor Abiye or anyone related to the two families was picked up or arrested by anybody whatsoever.
He stated that at no time was the former minister’s passport seized, stressing that she was “merely invited, and she honoured it promptly”.
Onwudiwe pointed out that despite all the frenzy over the former petroleum minister, not even one reporter or journalist had tried to contact the family to verify any of the publications.
He said: “This may be because they know the stories are false but it feeds the mood of the moment; hence, the silence from Diezani all along. It is worth emphasising that Mrs Alison-Madueke was never arrested or detained and her passport was never seized. She was merely invited, and she honoured it promptly.”
The two families further stated that in this era of cyber terrorism, decency dictates that one should respond to false and defamatory allegations with silence.
“But there is a limit to how much any reasonable person can bear the tactics of these cyber terrorists. We all know that what makes a lie fly is the little truth contained therein. This happens to be the weapon used by most online news media to feed their weird obsession with defaming highly placed people,” their lawyer added.
Onwudiwe said the Madueke family was appalled by the ongoing media frenzy against the former petroleum minister by a section of the mass media.
According to him, the Madueke family has no issue with any persons from the family being invited anywhere in the world to answer questions about their private or official conduct, adding that the family believes in law and order, honour and due process.
Onwudiwe however alleged a deliberate and vicious campaign to demonise members of the Madueke and Agama families, with all manners of frivolous allegations that have no bearing in truth.
The lawyer stated that the online news media even called the property allegedly owned in the United States by Ugonna as “posh” and went on to state the addresses.
The attorney described the publication as lies, stressing that Ugonna has no property anywhere in the United States and has never owned one.
“The USA is a country which runs on transparency, accountability and technology. A little honest effort by the online news media would have provided in a few minutes the true ownership of the properties at issue,” Onwudiwe said.
According to him, the 11711 Scooter Lane (a three-bedroom town house) in Fairfax, Virginia, was acquired by the Madueke family in 1997 when Ugonna was only 10 years old.
He further clarified that Ugonna’s siblings lived in this property while attending George Mason University in Virginia, USA.
The lawyer stated that records available to the appropriate authorities in the United States can also confirm that 13116 Silver Maple Court in Bowie, Maryland, USA belongs to an uncle of the Madueke siblings and was purchased in 1995 when Ugonna was only eight years old.
“As a student of the University of Maryland in 2002, Ugonna stayed with his uncle at the said address. All of this was before Mrs. Diezani was appointed to government office,” he added.
He denied that Alison-Madueke or a distant relation has anything to do with the ownership of No. 4227 Summit Manor Court in Virginia.
“It is evident that what the online news media did was to turn on an internet search engine and maliciously reported that every property where Ugonna Madueke has ever lived in the United States or used as his address must belong to him. The description of the properties as posh was the icing on the propaganda cake. This is not only unprofessional, as it offends the tenets of journalism, it is clearly not in resonance with good conscience,” Onwudiwe explained.
He also cited another allegation by the online news media that Ugonna and his cousins registered a company by the name Hadley Petroleum Solutions Limited which they used to deal in Nigerian crude oil sales.
He acknowledged that as young men bubbling with enthusiasm and fantasy, they actually registered a company but after two years of no jobs, the company folded up.
According to the lawyer, the company never had a bank account, let alone being a trader of Nigeria’s crude oil, adding that the online news media lied in its claim.
He also noted that the online news media took its campaign to the in-laws of the Maduekes by alleging that Mrs. Beatrice Agama, the 81-year-old mother of Diezani, owns a house in the United Kingdom.
Onwudiwe described the allegation as a lie, stressing that Mrs. Agama has no house or property in the United Kingdom.
“She has been staying in a rented two-bedroom flat from where she is receiving medical attention for a broken femur. Her son, Timi Agama, who has been living in the UK for decades, used to have a house in the UK long before his sister was appointed to government and he sold it long ago. Since then, he has no house in the UK. Archbishop Doye Agama of the Apostolic Pastoral Congress in Manchester, who is in his 60s, is a successful professional and consultant well known amongst his peers, but he does not own Unit 8 Quebec Building in Manchester which the online newspaper ascribed to him,” Onwudiwe explained.
He also accused the mainstream media in Nigeria of alleging that the former petroleum minister attempted to purchase a property on Hyde Park Street in London “for a whooping amount which embarrassingly ranges from £12.5 million sterling to £13 billion sterling”.
Onwudiwe said: “This claim is utterly false and laughable, for the amounts mentioned are only in the imagination of the reporters. This property is quite popular. It belongs to a well-known eminently successful Nigerian entrepreneur who would also find this allegation embarrassing as the intention to sell the property has neither been contemplated nor disclosed to any person.
“The Madueke family, like most other families, has its own challenges. For instance, Mrs. Diezani Alison-Madueke has been receiving treatment for cancer in the UK which started while she was in office. The health crisis has unfortunately exacerbated in recent times. She completed months of chemotherapy just last week and she is scheduled to undergo surgery next week in London. The family has been bearing this challenge with prayers and as much grace and fortitude as possible; and would plead with all reasonable Nigerians to pray for her recovery so that she can face this allegation and give account of her stewardship. Yes, she can—and very well, too.”
According to the family lawyer, Ugonna’s father, Rear Admiral Allison Amaechina Madueke (rtd), has been in Lagos and working in his office, adding that “the lies about his having travelled with a team of lawyers should please stop.”
Their lawyer added that the Madueke family had taken a decision on how to appropriately deal with those who are on a mission to soil their hard-earned family name.