A former Minister of Petroleum Resources, Mrs. Diezani Alison-Madueke, on Tuesday, October 3, 2017 prayed the Federal High Court, Lagos to join her in the suit filed against a Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), Mr. Dele Belgore, and a former Minister of National Planning, Prof. Abubakar Suleiman, by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).
The defendants were charged before Justice Rilwan Aikawa for allegedly collecting N450 million from Diezani and laundering it in the build-up to the 2015 general elections.
The EFCC in the charge claimed that the N450 million was part of a sum of $115 million, which Diezani allegedly doled out to compromise the 2015 general elections.
Diezani said she would like to appear in court in Nigeria to defend the criminal charge.
At the resumed proceedings on Tuesday, a lawyer, Obinna Onya, appeared before Justice Aikawa with an application seeking to join Diezani as one of the defendants in the charge.
The application, 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 as to join Diezani as one of the defendants.
The lawyer contended that, contrary to the declaration by the EFCC that Diezani was at large, the former minister was in the UK and was willing to return to Nigeria so that she could appear in court to take her plea and defend the charges.
The lawyer argued 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 affording her the opportunity to defend herself.
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..”
Onya urged Justice Aikawa to hear and determine the application before proceeding with the case on Tuesday.
But the prosecuting counsel for the EFCC, Rotimi Oyedepo, opposed him, saying the application was not ripe for hearing as he was yet to be served.
However, Onya told the court that he had attempted to serve Oyedepo on Tuesday morning in the court premises but that the prosecutor declined, adding that his effort to serve the application at the EFCC office on Friday was also frustrated.
But Oyedepo advised him to go and serve the application at the registry of the EFCC, assuring him that the application would be accepted.
Responding, Justice Aikawa said the court could not entertain the application until all the parties had been properly served.
Meanwhile, the trial proceeded with the second witness for the EFCC, Usman Zakari, continuing his testimony.
Through the witness, Oyedepo tendered two letters written to the EFCC in relation to the case by Standard Charted Bank Nigeria Limited and Guaranty Trust Bank.
Justice Aikawa adjourned till Wednesday, October 4, for continuation of trial.
By Chinyere Obia