The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, on Monday opposed an application filed by a former Minister of Petroleum Resources, Diezani Alison-Madueke, seeking to be joined as a defendant in a N450 million fraud charge before Justice Rilwan Aikawa of the Federal High Court sitting in Ikoyi, Lagos.
Mrs. Alison-Madueke, who is currently in London where she is being investigated for money laundering, is seeking an opportunity to defend the allegations in a charge filed against her, Mohammed Belgore, and a former Minister of National Planning, Abubakar Sulaiman.
Mr. Belgore, a governorship candidate during the 2011 Kwara State gubernatorial election, is standing trial alongside Mr. Sulaiman, for allegedly receiving N450 million on March 27, 2015 out of the $115,010,000 paid into a new generation bank by Mrs. Alison-Madueke.
Moving the application on Monday, her lawyer, Onyechi Ikpeazu, pleaded with the court to allow her to defend herself in four of the counts in the interest of justice and fair hearing.
Mr. Ikpeazu further submitted that the prosecution should remove his client’s name from the charge, if it would not give her an opportunity to defend herself.
“It is the fundamental right of the applicant that a criminal proceeding of this nature should not go on in her absence.
“We have no objection if her name is extracted from the charge and the case goes on,” he added.
In his further submission, Mr. Ikpeazu cited a case involving the Federal Government and Olajide Omokore, a businessman, before Justice Nnamdi Dimgba of the Federal High Court Abuja in which Mrs. Alison-Madueke was mentioned in the charge, though she was said to be at large.
He said Justice Dimgba struck out the count involving Alison-Madueke when a similar application was brought before him.
However, the prosecuting counsel, Rotimi Oyedepo, opposed the application, saying that it was an abuse of court process.
Mr. Oyedepo, who described the application as frivolous, said it was intended to annoy all parties and stall the trial.
He further said that the prosecution, according to Section 269 of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act, ACJA, could only amend a charge by either adding or removing counts, but not adding a defendant(s).
“My Lord, it will be unfair to the prosecution and the defendants if, at this stage, a defendant is added, as the case will have to start De Novo (afresh).
“My Lord, it will amount to a miscarriage of justice,” he added.
He also said that the applicant was given an opportunity to answer the charge against her, but that she chose to abscond.
“Her lawyer in London, John Beans, said the EFCC team could not meet with her as she’s outside our jurisdiction,” he added.
Mr. Oyedepo, therefore, urged the court to dismiss the application.
Also, counsel to the first defendant, Ebun Shofunde, told the court that the applicant was not a necessary party to the case.
Mr. Shofunde, who also submitted that the applicant had no excuse waiting so long to file her application before the court, said: “My Lord, in the end, without the applicant being a party, the court will determine the guilt or innocence of the first and second defendants.
“The trial started since February, so it will be unfair to start it all over.”
He, therefore, urged the court to dismiss the application.
Consequently, Justice Aikawa adjourned to Wednesday, November 1 to rule on Mrs. Alison-Madueke’s application.