By SaharaReporters, New York
Two of the protesters confided in a correspondent of SaharaReporters that their organizers had promised to give each protester N5000 after the event.
The protesters, who called themselves “Concerned Market Women,” gathered in their hundreds at the main gate of the National Assembly. They chanted solidarity songs in support of the embattled minister and held up placards, two of them reading, “Leave Alison Alone” and “Let Minister of Petroleum Alone”.
The Minister of Petroleum Resources is accused of squandering an outrageous sum of N10 billion to charter jets from three jet charter companies, including Swiss-based Vistajet.
Members of the House of Representatives committee investigating the minister’s outlandish expenditure said they have secured the aircraft travel logs to kick off the probe. However, the minister and top management of the NNPC have so far refused to cooperate with the committee.
Details from the logs revealed the minister’s huge expenses on her numerous foreign junkets, including trips to China, South Africa, the United States and the United Arab Emirates.
Babatunde Adejare, a member of the House of Representatives from Lagos State, who brought the issue before the House, had stated that Ms. Alison-Madueke spent N3.12 billion on the private jet charters in the last two years alone. The matter was referred to the House Committee on Public Accounts for investigation.
The minister of Petroleum Resources is a close ally of President Goodluck Jonathan. Though a married woman, she is allegedly romantically involved with the president. An NNPC source told SaharaReporters that the minister has put the corporation under pressure to thwart the investigations.
Another investigation at the Senate relating to the theft of $20 billion in sales of crude oil proceeds has ground to a halt. A senator told our correspondent that it was an open secret that five members of the Senate committee received bribes of millions of dollars to put their probe in the cooler. The senator added that the bribes were packaged by Kola Aluko, a controversial businessman linked to Vistajet.
Meanwhile, a source at the Presidency in Abuja stated that the President Jonathan was likely to sacrifice the General Managing Director of the NNPC if the pressure builds against the Petroleum Minister. “The 2015 election is around the corner and the president needs the Petroleum Minister in order to finance a strong campaign,” said the source, adding that Mr. Jonathan could not afford to lose Ms. Alison-Madueke’s financial power at this critical juncture.