The Federal High Court in Abuja on Friday ordered a former Minister of Petroleum Resources, Mrs Diezani Alison-Madueke, to appear for arraignment on money laundering charges preferred against her by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission.
The EFCC had on November 11, 2018, filed the 13 counts of money laundering accusing Diezani of unlawfully taking into her possession, the sums of $39.7m (about N14.29bn) and N3.32bn when she reasonably ought to have known that the money formed part of the proceeds of unlawful activities.
According to Saturday PUNCH, Justice Ijeoma Ojukwu gave the order in a ruling on an ex parte application shortly after it was moved by EFCC’s lawyer, Faruk Abdullah.
The judge ordered the defendant, who was alleged to have fled to the United Kingdom shortly after leaving office in 2015, to appear in court to answer to the 13 counts of money laundering involving $39.7m (N14.29bn at N360 to $1) and N3.32bn said to be proceeds of unlawful activities.
Justice Ojukwu in her ruling ordered that the summons she issued on Friday should be published on the website of the EFCC and a national daily in a conspicuous manner.
The judge adjourned the case until October 28 for the defendant’s arraignment.
Due to Diezani’s absence, the judge had repeatedly adjourned the case, which was filed on November 11, 2018.
On November 12, 2019, the judge gave EFCC till March 10, 2020 to have the ex-minister extradited from the United Kingdom to Nigeria to face trial or the charges against her would be struck out.
The judge had said she would no longer allow the case to continue to clog her docket if no progress was being made.
At the March 10, 2020 proceedings, the judge noted that from her records, EFCC had not taken any step in respect of the case to either serve the ex-minister or apply for the issuance of an arrest warrant against her since the case was filed in November 2018.
She, however, backtracked on the threat to strike out the case after EFCC’s lawyer gave her an assurance that he would file an application for the court to issue criminal summons against the former minister.
Abdullah said he did not find it necessary to apply for an arrest warrant against the former minister since a similar order of arrest had been issued against her by the late Justice Valentine Ashi of the High Court of the Federal Capital Territory in Abuja.
He said the arrest warrant and the gratification charges filed before the late judge as well as the money laundering charges pending before Justice Ojukwu were filed as part of the extradition request sent to the UK authorities.
Abdullah informed the judge that Diezani rebuffed attempts by Nigerian authorities to serve documents in connection with the case on her in the UK.
He added, “We have submitted our extradition request to the UK authorities and we have done everything we needed to do.”
He then informed the judge that he would file an application for criminal summons against Alison-Madueke as hinted by the judge.
The EFCC subsequently filed an ex parte application for the summons which the judge granted on Friday.
In the application, the anti-corruption agency stated it had made futile efforts to question the former minister on her role in the award of Strategic Alliance Agreement to Septa Energy Limited, Atlantic Energy Drilling Concept Limited and Atlantic Energy Brass Development Limited by the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation.
The commission also said it sought to question her on her role in “the chartering of private jets by the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation and Ministry of Petroleum Resources and her role in the award of contracts by NNPC to Marine and Logistics Services Limited.”
It stated that it was investigating her business relationships with Mr Donald Amamgbo, Mr lgho Sanomi, Mr Afam Nwokedi, Chief lkpea Leemon, Miss Olatimbo Bukola Ayinde, Mr Benedict Peters, Christopher Aire, Harcourt Adukeh, Julian Osula, Dauda Lawal, Mr Leno Laithan, Sahara Energy Group and Midwestern Oil Limited.
The EFFC added that it needed to question the ex-minister on “her role in financing the 2015 general elections, particularly the money warehoused at a commercial bank in 2015 prior to the elections”.