Former Minister of Petroleum, Allison Diezani Madueke has indicated interest to appear in court to defend an alleged N400m criminal charge where her name was mentioned by the defendants, in a case filed by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission.
The main defendants in the case, Mr Dele Belgore, a senior advocate of Nigeria, Prof Abubakar Suleiman, Minister of National Planning, were charged for collecting N450m from Diezani and laundering same in build-up to 2015 general elections.
Diezani’s lawyer, Obinna Onya, from Abuja had appeared before Justice Rilwan Aikawa, seeking for his client to be joined as one of the defendants in the case so as to have a fair hearing in the case.
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, 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 so that she could appear in court to take her plea and defend the charges..
“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, saying 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 on Tuesday morning on the court premises but that the prosecutor declined, adding that his effort to serve the application at the EFCC office on Friday was also frustrated.
But Oyedepo advised him to go and serve the application at the registry of the EFCC, assuring 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.