Court rejects Allison-Madueke’s application for trial in Nigeria

#1
A Federal High Court in Lagos on
Wednesday refused an application by a
former Minister of Petroleum Resources,
Mrs Diezani Allison-Madueke, seeking to be
joined in a N500 million criminal charge.
In his ruling on Wednesday, Justice
Mohammed Aikawa held that the
application by the ex-petroleum minister
was not only a misuse of court processes,
but a deliberate attempt to evade justice in
the UK.
The Economic and Financial Crimes
Commission (EFCC) had arraigned a Senior
Advocate of Nigeria, Dele Belgore and a
former Minister of National Planning, Prof.
Abubakar Suleiman, on a five count charge
bordering on N500 million fraud.
Belgore and Suleiman had pleaded not
guilty to the charges. Alison-Madueke, said
to be “at large’’, was named an accomplice
in the criminal trial of the duo.
The former petroleum resources minister
had on Oct. 6, through her lawyer, Mr
Onyechi Ikpeazu (SAN), urged the court to
compel the Attorney General of the
Federation (AGF) to extradite her to Nigeria
from the United Kingdom to defend the
charges against her.
On Oct. 30, defence and prosecuting
counsels had argued their various motions
before the court, both in support and
against the joinder of Allison Madueke.
The judge, Justice Aikawa, had then
reserved his ruling until November 1.
Justice Aikawa said in his ruling: “This is
not the proper time to join the applicant as
a defendant.
“The applicant has aroused my curiosity as
to why she waited this long before coming
up with the application for joinder.
“The court lacks the power to interfere with
the powers of the AGF. The application for
joinder is lacking in merit and same is
hereby dismissed.”
The judge adjourned the case until Nov. 13
and November 14 for the continuation of
trial.
In his argument for joinder at the last
adjourned date, Ikpeazu had argued that
from count one to count four, Allison-
Madueke was mentioned as an accomplice,
adding that it would be in the interest of
justice to join her in the charge.
Persuasively citing the authority of Frn vs
Jide Omokore, FHC/Abj/CR/121/2016, which
he argues bears similarity with the instant
case, he had noted that the judge had
struck out the charges on similar grounds.
He had submitted: “We will have no
objections if the applicant’s name is
extracted from the charge, then, trial can
proceed. Otherwise, she should be included
in the charge.
“I know that she will be happy to come and
face the trial.”
Objecting to the motion for joinder, counsel
to the first accused, Mr E. O Shofunde (SAN),
informed the court of his counter affidavit
filed in opposition to the application.
Firstly, Shofunde argued that the applicant
was not a necessary party to the suit since
in the end, the court will only decide the
guilt or innocence of the first and second
accused who were charged.
In his response, the prosecutor, Mr Rotimi
Oyedepo, hinged his argument in alliance
with the first defence counsel and
vehemently opposed the application for
joinder.
Oyedepo submitted that if an amendment is
allowed at this stage, it will occasion a
miscarriage of justice.
He added that several attempts were initially
made to interrogate Allison-Madueke but
that she fled to London after she got wind
of the move by the EFCC.
According to Oyedepo, it is misconceived
and too late in the day for the applicant to
now seek to be joined in the charge when
she is already under investigation in
London.
He submitted that whenever the applicant
returned to Nigeria, she can still be tried, as
time does not run against the prosecution
in criminal trial.
In the amended charge, Allison-Madueke
was alleged to have conspired with Belgore
and Suleiman on or about March 27, 2015,
to directly take possession of the sum of
N500 million, which they reasonably ought
to have known forms part of proceeds of
an unlawful act.
The trio was also alleged to have taken the
said funds in cash, which exceeded the
amount authorized by law, without going
through the financial institutions.
Belgore and Sulaiman were also alleged to
have paid the sum of N50 million to one,
Sheriff Shagaya, without going through any
financial institution.
The offences are said to have contravened
the provisions of Sections 15(2)(d), 1(a),
16(d) and 18 of the Money Laundering
(Prohibition) (Amendment) Act, 2012.
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