Former Minister of Petroleum Resources, Mrs. Diezani Alison-Madueke, has requested a Federal High Court in Lagos to compel the Attorney-General of the Federation (AGF) to bring her back from the United Kingdom, stating that she would like to appear in court in Nigeria to defend a criminal charge bordering on alleged laundering of N450million, where her name was mentioned.
The main defendants in the charge are Mr. Dele Belgore (SAN) and a former Minister of National Planning, Prof. Abubakar Suleiman, who were both charged before Justice Rilwan Aikawa for allegedly collecting and laundering N450million from Diezani in the build-up to the 2015 general elections.
The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), which filed the charges, claimed that the N450million was part of a sum of the $115million which Diezani allegedly spent in order to compromise the 2015 polls.
The senior advocate and the professor were arraigned on five counts, wherein Diezani’s name was mentioned, but she was declared as being “at large”.
At the resumed proceedings in the case on Tuesday, an Abuja-based lawyer, Obinna Onya, filed an application seeking the joining of Diezani as one of the defendants in the case.
The application, which was filed pursuant to Section 36(1),(5),(6 (a)-(e) of the Constitution and sections 216 (1) (2) (3) (4); and 217 of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act, 2015, sought an amendment to the charges against Belgore and Suleiman, so that Diezani can be joined as one of the defendants.
The lawyer argued that contrary to the declaration by the EFCC that Diezani is at large, the former minister is in the UK and is willing to return to Nigeria so that she could appear in court to take her plea and defend the charges.
Onya argued further that since Diezani’s name had been mentioned in the charge, it would be against her right to fair hearing for the case to proceed without giving her the opportunity to defend herself.
“The statement made by the prosecution means that the applicant (Diezani) is going to be convicted without being given the opportunity to defend herself,” Onya told Justice Aikawa.
The application prayed for an order “mandating the Attorney General of the Federation, being the agent of the complainant, to facilitate the prompt appearance of the applicant in court on the next adjourned date, to take her plea and to defend the allegations made against her in counts 1, 2,3 and 4 of the charge, numbered FHC/L/35c/2017.”
He urged Justice Aikawa to hear and determine the application before proceeding with the case on Tuesday.
But the counsel for the EFCC, Rotimi Oyedepo, opposed the application, stating that it was not due for hearing, as he was yet to be served.
However, Onya told the court that he had attempted to serve Oyedepo on Tuesday morning on the court premises but that the prosecutor declined, adding that his earlier effort to serve the application at the EFCC office on Friday was frustrated.
But the prosecution counsel advised him to go and serve the application at the registry of the EFCC, assuring him that the application would be accepted.
Ruling on the matter, Justice Aikawa held that the court could not entertain the application until all the parties had been properly served.