Commercial Law

Court declines plea to issue arrest warrant against Diezani

By Olalekan Awojodu

Abuja

A plea by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) to a Federal High Court, Abuja to issue an arrest warrant for the extradition of former Petroleum Minister, Diezani Alison-Madueke was on Wednesday turned down by the court.

While declining the application, Justice Ijeoma Ojukwu held that an affidavit with evidence in support to proof that the earlier court summon granted the agency had failed in the extradition of Diezani must be filed by EFCC 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 impetus to  bring the defendant to Nigeria to answer to charges against her.

But the Judge said it would give the anti-graft agency a room to put its house in order in the trial of the ex-minister.

She said: “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). Court orders are not made in vain. It is my view that the summons 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 learned 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, learned 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.

At the resumed hearing, 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.

He said: “My lord, this honorable 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 honorable court”.

According to the lawyer, the agency is 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-emphasized.

After hearing out both parties, the trial judge thereafter adjourned the matter till December 3rd for report and arraignment of the defendant.

The court had in a ruling in July 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 equally 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.

While arguing the motion, Abdallah noted that since Diezani allegedly fled the country, it was difficult to get her back to respond to the various criminal allegations against her.

According to him, 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.”

According to Abdallah, 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.

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