Order AGF to bring me back to Nigeria, Diezani tells court

Diezani Alison-Madueke

Former Minister of Petroleum Resources, Diezani Alison-Madueke, has asked the Federal High Court to compel the Attorney General of the Federation (AGF), Abubakar Malami, to bring her back to Nigeria to answer charges against her.

Alison-Madueke, who served as petroleum minister under former President Goodluck Jonathan, is currently in Britain where she is also facing corruption probe.

She is on police bail after being arrested in connection with a British probe into international corruption and money laundering.

On Tuesday, she told the Federal High Court sitting in Lagos she would like to appear before it to defend a criminal charge bordering on alleged laundering of N450m, where her name was mentioned.

The main defendants in the charge are a former Minister of National Planning, Prof. Abubakar Suleiman, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria, Dele Belgore.

Suleiman and Belgore were charged before Justice Rilwan Aikawa for allegedly collecting N450m from Diezani and laundering same in the build-up to the 2015 general elections.

The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), which filed the charges, claimed that the amount was part of a sum of $115m which Alison-Madueke allegedly gave out to compromise the 2015 general elections.

The SAN and the professor were arraigned on five counts, wherein Alison Madueke’s name was mentioned, but she was declared as being “at large.”

At the resumed proceedings in the case on Tuesday, Obinna Onya, a lawyer from Abuja, appeared before Justice Aikawa with an application seeking the joining of the former petroleum minister as one of the defendants in the charge.

Onya contended that contrary to the declaration by the EFCC that the former minister was at large, she was in the UK and willing to return to Nigeria so that she could appear in court to take her plea and defend the charges.

He argued that since Alison-Madueke’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 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.”

Prosecuting counsel for the EFCC, Rotimi Oyedepo, opposed the application, saying he had yet to be served.

After listening to arguments from both counsel, Justice Aikawa said the court could not entertain the application until all the parties had been properly served.