The scheduled hearing in the money laundering case against a former Minister of Petroleum Resources, Diezani Alison-Madueke, failed to hold on Monday due to the ongoing nationwide strike by judiciary workers.
The strike embarked upon by members of the Judiciary Staff Union of Nigeria (JUSUN) will be seven weeks old on Tuesday.
The case against Ms Alison-Madueke, who is believed to be in the United Kingdom (U.K.), last came up before Ijeoma Ojukwu, the trial judge at the Federal High Court in Abuja, on March 3.
Without anticipating the JUSUN strike would start on April 6, Mrs Ojukwu had adjourned the matter till May 17 (Monday) for the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) to appear and report on its effort to have the former minister extradited to Nigeria to face her charges.
The adjournment was the latest in the series of postponements the case has been suffering due to the absence of the former minister who is believed to have escaped to the U.K. shortly after leaving office in May 2015.
EFCC had alleged that the former minister escaped to the U.K. shortly after the end of her tenure as minister in May 2015.
She served as the petroleum minister superintending over the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) during the administration of the former President Goodluck Jonathan.
The commission alleged that she fled after she got wind of the plan to charge her with various offences of corruption allegedly perpetrated by her and her allies while she presided over the Nigerian plum petroleum sector under Mr Jonathan’s administration.
On November 11, 2018, the commission filed 13 counts of money laundering charges against her before Mrs Ojukwu.
The former official was accused of, among other charges, unlawfully taking into her possession, $39.7 million and N3.32 billion when she reasonably ought to have known that the money formed part of the proceeds of unlawful activities.
She was also accused of purchasing choice landed assets with the alleged proceeds of fraud using different fronts as the owners.
Following an application by the EFCC, the court on July 24, 2020, issued a summons on Mrs Alison-Madueke to appear in court for arraignment.
The judge also ordered that the summons be advertised in a newspaper.
But despite that, the former minister refused to return to Nigeria to face the charges.
The commission, therefore, on October 28, 2020, urged the court to issue a warrant of arrest against the former minister.
But the judge refused the request, saying the summons she issued on July 24, 2020, ought to be sufficient for the commission to process the former minister’s extradition to Nigeria to face her trial.
She then adjourned the matter till December 3 for EFCC to report on its efforts to bring the former minister to Nigeria.
On December 3, EFCC’s prosecuting counsel, Farouk Abdullah, appeared before the judge pleading for more time to enable the anti-graft agency to enforce the court summons against Ms Alison-Madueke.
The judge then adjourned till March 3, 2021 for “possible arraignment” of the defendant.
She further adjourned till May 17 due to the absence of the defendant from the March 3, 2021 proceedings.
Case against ex-minister not abandoned
PREMIUM TIMES reported how the chairman of the EFCC, Abdulrasheed Bawa, recently assured that the case against the former minister had not been abandoned.
“We are looking forward to the time when we will, maybe, have her in the country, and of course review things and see what will happen going forward. The case has certainly not been abandoned,” Mr Bawa said.
While trying to have her extradited to Nigeria to face her trial, the anti-graft agency has been able to secure several court orders for the forfeiture of assets linked to her.
Mr Bawa said the commission had recovered $153 million and over 80 properties from the former minister.
“There are several cases surrounding that. As you may have read, I was part of that investigation, and we have done quite a lot. In one of the cases, we recovered $153 million; we have secured the final forfeiture of over 80 properties in Nigeria valued at about $80million.
“We have done quite a bit on that. The other cases as it relates to the $115 million INEC bribery as the media has sensationalised it, is also ongoing across the federation.”