Embattled former petroleum resources minister, Diezani Alison Madueke, has reportedly pleaded with a Federal High Court sitting Lagos to order the Attorney-General of the Federation (AGF) to ensure her return to Nigeria.
The former minister said she was ready to stand in court and defend a criminal charge linked to her relating to an alleged laundering of N450 million. Alison-Madueke, has been in the UK since 2015 when Goodluck Jonathan lost the presidential election to Muhammadu Buhari.
The Punch reports that the major defendants in the charge are Dele Belgore, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria, and Professor Abubakar Suleiman, a former national planning minister. The report said Belgore and Suleiman were charged before Justice Rilwan Aikawa for reportedly receiving N450 million from the former minister.
They were arraigned on a five-count charge which linked Diezani and said she was ‘at large’. The allegation against them by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) was that the money was laundered in the build-up to the 2015 general elections which saw the defeat of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).
According to the EFCC, the amount was part of the $115 million which Diezani reportedy gave out during the election. Obinna Onya, a lawyer from Abuja, came to the court with an application asking the court to join Diezani as one of the defendants in the charge. The lawyer denied that the former minister was at large arguing that the woman was in the UK and willing to return to Nigeria to defend the charges against her.
Onya argued that it would be against Diezani’s right to fair hearing if the case is heard and she is not given 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 the trial judge. The application is seeking to mandate “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.”
In his own argument, however, the counsel to the EFCC, Rotimi Oyedepo, said the application was not ripe for hearing. He also argued that he had not been served. But Onya said he attempted to serve the application on Oyedepo at the court premises, but that the latter declined while his effort to reach the EFCC was frustrated.
The court asked all that all the parties in the application be served before the court would entertain it.