The Federal High Court, Abuja, on Monday, issued an arrest warrant against a former Minister of Petroleum Resources, Diezani Alison-Madueke, over corruption charges pending against her.
It is the second arrest warrant to be issued against the ex-minister, who is believed to have fled to the United Kingdom since leaving office in 2015.
On December 4, 2018, a judge of the High Court of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Valentine Ashi (now deceased), ordered the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), the Nigerian Police Force, the States Security Service (SSS), and all other security agencies to arrest her within 72 hours.
The matter was later taken to the Federal High Court in Abuja where the EFCC filed 13 counts of money laundering against Ms Alison-Madueke in anticipation of her extradition to Nigeria.
On July 24, 2020, Ijeoma Ojukwu, the judge of the Federal High Court, Abuja, handling the matter, issued a summons for the former minster to appear to answer to the charges preferred against her.
Ms Alison-Madueke ignored the summons which, anyway, could not be confirmed was served on her.
EFCC subsequently requested the judge to issue a warrant of arrest against the former minister.
But the judge turned down the request, insisting that the summons she issued was sufficient to process her extradition to Nigeria to face her trial, adding that she would not issue another order in vain.
Fresh arrest warrant
The commission was still struggling with the extradition process which largely depends on the office of the Attorney-General of the Federation (AGF), when it sought a fresh warrant of arrest from the new judge handling the case on Monday.
Bolaji Olajuwon of the Federal High Court in Abuja, who took over the case from Mrs Ojukwu, issued the fresh warrant of arrest against the former minister following an oral application by EFCC’s lawyer, Farouk Abdullah.
Mr Abdullah told the court that all efforts by the agency to get the ex-minister extradited proved abortive while the matter was being handled by the former judge.
He said the summons issued by Mrs Ojukwu had not been able to achieve the intended goal of extraditing the defendant.
He explained in his oral application that an arrest warrant is a mandatory requirement needed by the AGF office to process the extradition of the former minster.
The prosecutor added that the arrest warrant needed to be given to the International Police (INTERPOL) which would effect the arrest.
He urged the court “to issue an arrest warrant against Alison-Madueke, who is believed to be in the UK to enable all law enforcement agencies and the INTERPOL to arrest her anywhere she is sighted and be brought before the court to answer to the allegation made against her before the court.”
Mr Olajuwon then granted the application and adjourned the matter indefinitely pending when Ms Alison-Madueke would be arrested and produced in court.
Past proceedings in the case had ended in a deadlock due to Ms Alison-Madueke’s unavailability for trial and EFCC’s inability to implement the warrants of arrest and summons issued against her.
PREMIUM TIMES reported that earlier on October 28, 2020, Ms Ojukwu refused to grant EFCC’s request for the issuance of a warrant of arrest against the former minister.
The judge had said the summons she issued on July 24, 2020, ought to be sufficient for the commission to process her 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.
But neither Ms Alison-Madueke nor the prosecuting counsel was present at the March 3, 2021 proceedings, a development that forced the judge to again adjourn the case.
Ms Ojukwu adjourned till May 17, 2021 for EFCC’s report of compliance.
She also directed the court registrar to issue and serve the hearing notice for the next sitting on the prosecuting counsel.
The judge has since been transferred out of the Abuja division of the Federal High Court prompting the case to be reassigned to the new judge.
EFCC had alleged that the former minister escaped to the UK shortly after the end of her tenure as minister.
It 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 plum petroleum sector under the former President Goodluck Jonathan’s administration.
While still struggling to have her extradited to Nigeria to face trial, EFCC had secured several court orders for the forfeiture of assets linked to her.
On November 11, 2018, the commission filed the 13 counts of money laundering against her before Ms 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.
Since Ms Alison-Madueke’s exit from office in 2015, her name has featured in series of investigations of corruption allegations directly against her or her associates.
Many assets linked to her have also been forfeited to the federal government through the orders of court.
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