The absence of former petroleum resources minister, Diezani Alison-Madueke, stalled her scheduled arraignment in the Federal Capital Territory High Court, Apo on Monday.
The former minister, currently based in the United Kingdom, is facing a five-count charge bordering on conspiracy, fraud and illegal act of accepting and giving gratifications alongside former Chairman of Atlantic Energy Drilling Company, Olajide Omokore.
Consequently, Justice Valentine Ashi fixed Monday, March 4, for the arraignment of the two defendants, having issued bench warrant for Mrs Alison-Madueke arrest earlier.
The counsel to the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Faruk Abdullahi, told the court the arraignment of the duo would not hold as the former minister and her co-accused were not in court.
Mr Abdullahi explained the anti-graft agency had forwarded a request to the Attorney-General of the Federation (AGF), Abubakar Malami, for onward commencement of the process for Mrs Alison-Madueke’s repatriation from the United Kingdom.
He said the absence of the second defendant (Omokore) was linked to the commission’s inability to serve him with the court’s processes.
The prosecutor, therefore, prayed the court for a further adjournment to enable the team to tidy up its house.
Counsel to Mr Omokore, Adeniyi Adegbonmire, a senior advocate of Nigeria (SAN), said although his client was prepared to stand trial, the right process to commence the trial must be adhered to.
“My Lord, the prosecution appears not to be diligent with the prosecution of this case. In fact, I was the one who informed him this morning that my client was not served,” he said.
Justice Ashi held the prosecution has no excuse not to have served the second defendant who was in the country.
According to the judge, the EFCC must show diligence in pursuing the case or be prepared to discontinue it.
The judge, therefore, adjourned the case until May 22 for further hearing.
Messrs Alison-Madueke and Omokore are billed to be arraigned on a five-count charge bordering on conspiracy and illegal acts of accepting and giving bribe.
EFCC averred that the accused persons had conspired at different levels to commit the fraud.
The anti-graft body further alleged that the ex-minister accepted gift of properties, described as “Penthouse 22, Block B, Admiralty Estate, Ikoyi”, and “Penthouse 21, Building 5, Block C, Banana Island, Lagos.”
The EFCC said the alleged offence contravened the provisions of Sections 26(1) and 17 of the EFCC Act, 2000.
On December 5, 2018, Justice Ashi ordered the police, EFCC, Department of State Services (DSS), and others to produce Mrs Alison-Madueke in court within 72 hours.
Justice Ashi gave the order, following an ex parte motion made before the court by the counsel to the anti-graft agency. (NAN)