From Godwin Tsa, Abuja
The Abuja Federal High Court on Wednesday fixed May 17 for the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) to give a progress report in the trial of former Minister of Petroleum Resources Diezani Alison-Madueke.
Justice Ijeoma Ojukwu fixed the date following the absence of prosecution counsel Farouk Abdullah and the ex- minister in court.
The case, which was earlier fixed for report or arraignment of the ex-minister, could not proceed as neither Abdullah nor Diezani were in court.
However, when the matter was called, no lawyer appeared for the prosecution.
Justice Ojukwu, who fixed May 17 for report on EFCC’s compliance with court order, directed the court registrar to issue the prosecution counsel with the next hearing notice.
The court had on December 3, 2020, adjourned the matter until March 3 following the inability of the anti-corruption agency to fully comply with its orders in the trial of Alison-Madueke.
Justice Ijeoma Ojukwu fixed the date after counsel to the EFCC, Abdullah, prayed the court for more time to enable the Commission ensure full compliance with the court orders.
‘The court made some orders in the last date that this matter came up,’ Abdullah had said.
‘The prosecutions has taken steps to ensure that the orders are complied with; that has not come to fruition yet but steps have been taken.
‘In view of this, may I humbly apply that this matter be adjourned to enable the prosecution comply fully with the order of the court.’
The judge had, on October 28, 2020, refused to grant the EFCC’s application seeking the court order on issuance of warrant of arrest against Alison-Madueke.
Ojukwu held that an affidavit with evidence in support to prove that the earlier court summon granted the agency had failed in the extradition of Diezani must be filed by the Commission 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 indicated that the arrest warrant was needed to further give the International Police (INTERPOL) the impetus 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 because court orders were not made in vain.
Abdullah had in an application urged the court to issue an arrest warrant against Alison-Madueke, who is believed to be in the UK, to enable all law enforcement agencies and INTERPOL to arrest her anywhere she is sighted and be brought before the court to answer to the allegation made against her before the court.
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, 2020, ordered the former minister to appear before it and answer to the money laundering charge filed against her by the EFCC.
The judge gave the ruling in an ex parte motion marked FHC/ABJ/CR/208/2018 brought by Abdullah.
The EFCC has accused the former minister of fleeing the country for the UK in order to escape justice, among others.