By Ikechukwu Nnochiri
ABUJA—The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, has instituted a fresh criminal charge against former Minister of Petroleum Resources, Diezani Allison-Madueke, before a High Court of the Federal Capital Territory sitting at Apo.
The ex-minister, who has remained in the United Kingdom since she vacated office in 2015, is facing a five-count charge the anti-graft agency entered against her and an oil mogul, identified as her ally, Mr. Olajide Omokore.
They were charged with conspiracy and alleged complicity in illegal act of accepting and giving gratifications.
Specifically, EFCC accused them of accepting and giving gifts of properties described as penthouse 22, Block B, Admiralty Estate, Ikoyi, Lagos, and penthouse 21, Building 5, Block C, Banana Island, Lagos.
EFCC told the court that the alleged offence was contrary to Sections 26(1) and 17 of the Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Act, 2000.
Meanwhile, the commission, yesterday, secured leave of the high court to arraign the two defendants.
Trial Justice Valentine Ashi fixed February 25, 2019 to take their plea.
Counsel to EFCC, Mr. Faruk Abdullahi, told the court that while the agency was still conducting its investigations, the former minister ran away from the country.
He said Mrs. Alison-Madueke had since refused to honour invitation to surrender herself to the commission.
EFCC had earlier disclosed that it has initiated the process to extradite the former minister from the UK to Nigeria to face trial.
It will be recalled that the Federal High Court in Abuja had, on September 20, 2017, struck out a charge that indicted the former minister to the illegal diversion of about $1.6 billion from proceeds of sales of petroleum products belonging to the Federal Government.
Justice Nnamdi Dimgba struck out the allegation contained in count eight of a money laundering charge marked FHC/Abj/CR/121/2016, which EFCC lodged before the court.
The decision was based on the fact that though the former minister’s name was mentioned in the charge, she was, however, not listed as one of the defendants.
Aside from Omokore, other defendants in the case included the former Managing Director of the Nigerian Petroleum Development Company, NPDC, Victor Briggs; former Group Executive Director, Exploration and Production of the NNPC, Abiye Membere; former Manager, Planning and Commercial of NNPC, David Mbanefo.
Mrs. Alison-Madueke had shortly after the case commenced, briefed her lawyer, Dr. Onyechi Ikpeazu(SAN), to approach the court to join her as a defendant in the case.
“The applicant’s constitutional right of fair hearing is being infringed as the trial is proceeding in her absence, in spite of the fact that allegations of astronomical proportion were made against her,’’ Diezani’s lawyer, Dr. Ikpeazu, argued in the application dated August 17, 2017.
The application was, however, opposed by EFCC which accused the ex-minister of attempting to stall the trial of her accomplices.
EFCC told the court that the application was an attempt by the ex-minister to escape trial in the United Kingdom where she was granted administrative bail, pending conclusion of investigations into corruption allegations against her.
Meanwhile, following perceived delay by the UK authorities to prosecute the former Minister, EFCC said it would repatriate her to Nigeria to face trial.