Godwin Tsa, Abuja
The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), on Tuesday, told the Abuja division of the Federal High Court that it is planning to issue a criminal summon against former Minister of Petroleum Resources, Mrs. Diezani Alison-Madueke, to compel her appearance in court for trial.
The EFCC counsel, Faruk Abdullah, told Justice Ijeoma Ojukwu of the Federal High Court, Abuja.
This is coming on the heels of threat by Justice Ojukwu to strike out the money laundering suit filed against the former minister should it fail to produce the defendant in court by March 2020.
The commission had, in November 2018, filed 13 counts of money laundering against the ex-minister, accusing her of unlawfully taking into her possession the sums of $39.7m and N3.32bn with which she allegedly bought choice properties in Abuja, Lagos and Port Harcourt in Rivers, while she was in office.
The prosecuting counsel, Abdullah, had earlier pleaded with the judge to adjourn the case sine die (indefinitely), on the grounds that the EFCC was facing challenges in its bid to extradite the defendant from the United Kingdom (UK).
At the resumed hearing on Tuesday, Abdullah begged the court not to dismiss the suit over the inability to produce the defendant.
According to him, the matter is an extradition one and once this is struck out, the whole process collapses.
“We plead with the court to keep this matter within the docket of this court my lord.
“We make this passionate application for this matter to be adjourned sine die and this court has the jurisdiction to make such an order,” he said.
However, the judge asked the lawyer if he knew that “every case has a timeline which should be concluded within a reasonable period.
“My lord, it depends on the peculiarity of the case,” he responded.
“That submission is not for me. If you want me to interpret what reasonable time means, it will not be for me.
“My duty is to do what I am asked to do,” the judge said.
Abdullah, who acknowledged that every case had a reasonable time, however, pleaded further.
When Justice Ojukwu asked him what attempt the agency had made to ensure Alison-Madueke’s extradition, the counsel told the court that while EFCC filed a money laundering charge against the ex-minister before the judge, it also filed a gratification charge against her before late Justice Valentine Ashi of FCT High Court.
He said the late judge issued a warrant of arrest against the former minister.
“When we got the charge, we filed extradition process and we have gone to the UK to effect the arrest,” he explained.
Abdullah said all the efforts made were unsuccessful.
“Where is the proof of this? When you cannot serve a defendant personally, what do you do? Shouldn’t you do the needful to put your house in order before you adjourn sine dine?” she asked.
The EFCC lawyer, therefore, said in view of the development, he would liaise with the court registrar in issuing a criminal summon on the defendant.
“In view of this my lord, we will liaise with the registrar of this court to issue a criminal summon on the defendant.
“Our application is to plead with the court that criminal summon should be issued against the defendant,” he requested.
After Abdullah pleaded with the court to adjourn the matter to enable him to file the motion for the summon, Justice Ojukwu adjourned the matter till May 11 for mention.