The Federal High Court in Lagos yesterday held that an application by former Minister of Petroleum Resources, Mrs Diezani Alison-Madueke, seeking to be tried in Nigeria was “bizarre” and “misconceived”.
Justice Rilwan Aikawa dismissed the application for lacking in merit.
He agreed with the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) it was a bid by the former Minister to escape justice in the United Kingdom.
Mrs Alison-Madueke asked for an opportunity to defend allegations against her in a charge filed against a Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), Mr Dele Belgore, and a former Minister of National Planning, Prof Abubakar Suleiman.
The prosecution said in the charge that Mrs Alison-Madueke (who is at large) allegedly shared $115,010,000 (about N35billion) to different individuals in 36 states ahead of the 2015 general elections, and that Belgore and Suleiman allegedly got N450milion from her.
Ruling on the application, Justice Aikawa referred to EFCC’s counter affidavit where it was stated that while in the United Kingdom, Mrs Alison-Madueke was invited by the Metropolitan Police who are investigating her for several financial crimes.
EFCC said she had been released on bail in the UK, but cannot leave the country, as investigations had reached an advanced stage and her trial imminent.
The commission said the application to list her as a defendant and facilitate her return to Nigeria was designed to scuttle both her investigation and imminent prosecution in the UK and the ongoing trial of Belgore and Suleiman.
According to the prosecution, Mrs Alison-Madueke’s application was a bid is to escape justice in the UK under the guise that she was coming to face trial in Nigeria.
Justice Aikawa held: “This averment, as far as my record shows, has not been controverted by the applicant. They are by law deemed admitted by the applicant, in which case I have no option than to believe them.
“By this unchallenged averment, the action of the applicant is simply a ploy to avoid justice in the UK. This court, unfortunately, cannot be used promote just that.
“The discretion to prosecute or not to prosecute the applicant is entirely that of the Honourable Attorney-General of the Federation. This court has no power to interfere with that discretion. It will, therefore, not attempt to do so.
“On the whole, therefore, I find this application to be lacking in merit and is accordingly dismissed.”
Mrs Alison-Madueke’s lawyer Dr Onyechi Ikpeazu (SAN) had argued that Section 216 (1) of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act (ACJA) provides that a court may permit an alteration or addition to a charge or the framing of a new charge before judgment is pronounced.
He submitted that the section does not expressly state that the power to amend a charge was exclusively that of the prosecution.
But, Justice Aikawa held: “I disagree with him. It cannot by any stretch of the imagination be envisaged that a person other than the prosecution may amend a charge under this provision. The power to amend lies, in my opinion, exclusively with the prosecution and not any other person.”
Ikpeazu had also argued that Mrs Alison-Madueke was a “necessary party” to the case and therefore ought to be joined.
To that, the judge said: “Again, I disagree. As far as I understand, in every criminal trial, the necessary parties are the complainant and the named defendants.