By Eric Elezuo
There have been loud clamour for the extradition of the former Minister of Petroleum, Mrs. Diezani Alison-Madueke from the United Kingdom to Nigeria to answer to charges of massive looting perpetrated during her tenure in office.
Mrs. Madueke has been accused to have superintended massive theft of the country’s resources to the tune of a monstrous $90 billion.
Based on this, there have been calls from many quarters, asking the Federal Government to facilitate her extradition from UK, a move the Federal government has engaged itself into bringing to fruition.
However, events have taken a dramatic turn as an opportunity presented by Diezani herself to voluntarily return to Nigeria was rebuffed by the Nigerian government.
The embattled ex-Petroleum Minister recently filed an application through her counsel, Mr. Onyechi Ikpeazu, before Justice Nnamdi Dimgba of the Federal High Court, Abuja, seeking to be joined as defendant in the trial of businessman, Jide Omokore, a request that will bring her home to face trial.
The application, which was filed on September 18, 2017, was as a result of the fact that her name was mentioned in count eight of the charge.
The counsel noted that the amendment of the charge was sought to include her as the seventh defendant, “in order to give her the opportunity to defend herself”.
Mr. Omokore, chairman, Atlantic Energy Brass Development and Atlantic Energy Drilling Concept, is facing a nine-count charge along with Victor Briggs, a former Managing Director, National Petroleum Development Company; Abiye Membere, a former Group Executive Director, Exploration and Production at the NNPC, and David Mbanefo, a former Manager, Planning and Commercial at NNPC, for an alleged $1.6 billion fraud.
In the said application, the former minister also requested the court to direct the Attorney General of the Federation to facilitate her appearance in court in Nigeria on the next adjourned date in October 2017, meaning requesting Britain to allow her travel out of the UK to attend the court hearing.
But the EFCC saw her request as a ploy to escape prosecution in the UK and frustrate the ongoing trial in Nigeria. This is making a cross section of people wonder where the heat is hottest, or where her presence is more required.
While many would have thought that the EFCC would jump at such offer, and have her in Nigeria for trial, they turned around to fight against her return.
Following up the fight to frustrate her return, the counsel for the EFCC, M.S. Abubakar, in an 18-paragraph counter-affidavit, vehemently opposed the filing, arguing that, “the applicant realized she was being investigated, and she absconded abroad and sometimes in March this year operatives were in London, but her lawyers refused to allow the operatives interview her.
“My lord, this present application is a plot by the applicant to enable her escape prosecution in London, also to enable her come to Nigeria and scuttle the ongoing case which has already gotten to an advanced stage.”
One would still be at sea as to how the embattled former Oil Minister would possible scuttle the case that even the anti-graft agency had wanted her to be present to prove her case.
Well, after hearing arguments by both parties, Justice Dimgba declined to grant the application, and instead, struck out the eighth count in which the former minister’s name appeared. He made it obvious that Diezani is not wanted in the country, at least for now.
Mrs. Madueke has been holing up in London for more than two years following anti-graft accusation that she looted the country massively while she held sway as Petroleum Minister.
This accusation has led to seizing of property running into billions of naira purportedly belonging to her. It remains unclear whether she would appeal the ruling.
It would be recalled that a group, OurMumuDonDo, led by maverick musician, Charly Boy, were at the Aso Rock recently to convince the Federal Government to hasten the extradition of Madueke. Speaking on behalf of the government, Mr. Femi Adesina, Senior Media Aide to President Mohammadu Buhari, promised the protesters that the government would do all they could to facilitate the extradition of the former minister. It is therefore strange that the government vehemently refused to take absolute advantage of the opportunity.
Madueke is however being investigated by UK National Crime Agency for corruption and money laundering. Already some assets linked to her in that country have been frozen.
It was also reported that she is barred from travelling out of the UK while the investigation lasts.
But whether the former minister is tired of staying in the UK, and now wants to return to Nigeria, where she is also being investigated for massive corruption or not, the fact remains that the EFCC just squandered a golden opportunity to prove to some that they are not conducting media trial against her as a section of the public has insinuated.