Godwin Tsa, Abuja
The Abuja division of the Federal High Court, on Wednesday declined an application by the Economic and Economic Crimes Commission (EFCC) to issue a warrant of arrest against former Minister of Petroleum Resources, Mrs Diezani Alison-Madueke.
Justice Ijeoma Ojukwu refused the granting of the application on the ground that an affidavit evidence to proof that it had failed in it’s extradition attempt on Diezani, as was earlier ordered, before another request could be made.
Ojukwu noted that the EFCC had informed the court that the Office of the Attorney General of the Federation (AGF) and Minister of Justice hinted that the arrest warrant was needed to further give the international police (INTERPOL) the legal power to bring the defendant to Nigeria to answer to charges against her.
The judge, however, said it would give the anti-graft agency a room to put its house in order in the trial of the ex-minister.
“I have carefully perused the application of the prosecution. The earlier order of this court was made pursuant to Section 831 of Administration of Criminal Justice Act (ACJA),” she said.
According to the judge, court orders are not made in vain.
“It is my view that the summon should have assisted in the extradition of the defendant by the Office of the AGF.
“Today, the defendant is not in court and no reason was giving. I am being informed that the defendant is believed to be in the United Kingdom (UK).
“The learner counsel also informed the court that the extradition process has failed as a result of the absence of the warrant of arrest.
“But if that is the case, learner counsel shall file an affidavit to that effect supported by evidence from the Office of the Attorney General of the Federation.
“I hereby give you time to put your house in order,” the judge held.
Justice Ojukwu then adjourned the matter til Dec. 3 for report and arraignment of the defendant.
Earlier at the resumed hearing on Wednesday, the EFCC’s Lawyer, Farouk Abdullah reminded the court of the orders it gave and that the anti-graft agency had complied with them .
“This is evident by an affidavit of compliance filed in this case and before your lordship. It was filed on Oct 8, 2020,” he said.
He said since the defendant was not in court, the EFCC would urge the court to issue an arrest warrant against Diezani.
“My lord, this honourable court issued a summon for the defendant to appear today but the defendant has failed to appear.
“Giving the aforesaid fact, I apply that a warrant of arrest be issued against the defendant pursuant to Section 83(1b) of the ACJA 2015.
“We urge the court, in making the order, to direct all law enforcement agencies and the INTERPOL to arrest the defendant anywhere she is sighted and be brought before the court to answer to the allegation made against her before this honourable court,” he said.
According to the lawyer, we are also liaising with the office of AGF and Minister of Justice to get in touch with any country that may be hosting the defendant for the purposes of extradition in line with Extradition Act and General Convention of Nations.
He said since the summon had not been able to achieve the desired result, the need for a warrant of arrest cannot be over-emphasised.
The court had, on July 24, ordered the former minister to appeal before it and answer to the money laundering charge filed against her by the EFCC.
The judge gave the ruling on an ex-parte motion marked FHC/ABJ/CR/208/2018 brought by the EFCC’s Lawyer, Abdullah.
Ojukwu ordered the issuance of summons on Diezani for her to be arraigned on the charge.
The EFCC had accused the former minister of fleeing the country for the UK in order to escape justice.
The judge, who ordered that the court’s summons be published on the website of the anti-corruption agency and a national daily in a conspicuous manner, said the development would make it easier for Diezani to be aware of the invitation.
Abdallah had, while arguing the motion, noted that since Diezani allegedly fled the country, it was difficult to get her back to respond to the various criminal allegations against her.
He said there was the need for a court’s summons or arrest warrant to compel her appearance in court.
The lawyer, in a document filed along with the motion ex-parte, said it sought to question Diezani, without success, in relation to many allegations against her, including “her role as the Minister of Petroleum Resources and her role in the award of Strategic Alliance Agreement (SAA) to Septa Energy Limited, Atlantic Energy Drilling Concept Limited and Atlantic Energy Brass Development Limited by NNPC.
He said it also wanted Diezani to respond to questions about “her role in the chartering of private jets by the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) and Ministry of Petroleum Resources and her role in the award of contracts by NNPC to Marine and Logistics Services Limited.”
Abdallah said the agency was investigating Diezani’s business relationships with Mr. Donald Amamgbo, Mr. Afam Nwokedi, Chief lkpea Leemon, Miss Olatimbo Bukola Ayinde, Mr Benedict Peters, Christopher Aire, Harcourt Adukeh, Julian Osula, Dauda Lawal, Nnamdi Okonkwo, Mr. Leno Laithan, Sahara Energy Group and Midwestern Oil Limited.
He added that Dezani was also required to clear air on “her role in financing the 2015 general elections, particularly the money that were warehoused at Fidelity Bank Plc in 2015 prior to the elections.”
He said it equally wanted the ex-minister to speak on several items, documents and Jeweleries recovered from her house at No: 10, Chiluba Close, off Jose Marti Street, Asokoro, Abuja, and some identified property that were linked to her In Nigeria, UK, United States of America (USA), United Arab Emirate (UAE) and South Africa.
The judge had then adjourned the matter until Oct. 28 for Diezani to attend court for the purpose of her arraignment on the pending money laundering charge but she was not in court inspite of orders made by the court.