By Lukman Olabiyi
Embattled former minister of Petroleum Resources, Mrs. Diezani Alison-Madueke, has declared intention to prove her innocence in various allegations bordering on fraud, preferred against her.
The former minister was mentioned in the charge preferred against a Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), Mr. Dele Belgore; and a former Minister of National Planning, Prof. Abubakar Suleiman before the Federal High Court Lagos by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC ).
At the resumed hearing of the matter, yesterday, one Obinna Onya, a lawyer from Abuja, appeared before Justice Aikawa with an application seeking to join Diezani as one of the defendants in the charge.
The embattled former minister asked the court to compel the Attorney General of the Federation (AGF) to bring her back to Nigeria from the United Kingdom, where she travelled to shortly after leaving office in 2015.
The lawyer said her client has intention of appearing in court in Nigeria to defend a criminal charge bordering on alleged laundering of N450 million, where her name was mentioned.
In 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, Onya 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 and 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 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.”
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 and said the application was not ripe for hearing, as he had yet to be served.
However, Onya told the court that he had attempted to serve Oyedepo yesterday morning on the court premises, but the prosecutor declined. He added that his effort to serve the application at the EFCC office last Friday was also frustrated.
But Oyedepo advised him to go and serve the application at the registry of the EFCC and assured 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.
The court has adjourned till today, for continuation of trial.