”It is just a ploy for her to run away from justice in the United Kingdom (UK) where she is facing similar charges”.Justice Rilwan Aikawa said of Diezani Alison-Madueke’s request for trial in Nigeria.
Justice Aikawa of a Federal High Court sitting in Lagos Wednesday gave the order while delivering a ruling on Alison-Madueke’s application to be joined as a defendant in the money laundering charge made against a Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN) Dele Belgore, alongside the former minister of national planning, Professor Abubakar Suleiman.
“This is not the proper time to join the applicant as a defendant.
“The applicant has aroused my curiosity as to why she waited this long before coming up with the application for joinder
“The court lacks the power to interfere with the powers of the Attorney General of the Federation (AGF).
“The application for joinder is lacking in merit and same is hereby dismissed.”
It would be recalled that Alison-Madueke’s counsel, Onyechi Ikpeazu (SAN) had prior to this time urged Justice Aikawa to issue an order, mandating the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) to list her as a party to a N500 million fraud charge involving Belgore and Suleiman
The former petroleum resources minister had made the request at the continuation of trial of the duo on a five count charge bordering on the alleged offence.
The EFCC had dragged the duo before the judge, where Alison-Madueke was named as an accomplice in the criminal trial.
But the anti-graft agency tagged the former petroleum resources minister as being at large.
But Ikpeazu (SAN) argued that, in the 4th count of the charge, the applicant’s name was mentioned clearly, and there is no alteration to the fact that she has been charged; it simply suggests that it is a consummated complaint.
“By the definition of Section of 494(1) of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act, (ACJA) a defendant is any person against whom a complaint or charge is made, while a charge refers to an allegation that any named person has committed an offence.
“From count one to count four, the name of the applicant was mentioned as an accomplice. It would be in the interest of justice to join her in the charge.
“We will have no objections if the applicant’s name is extracted from the charge, then, trial can proceed. Otherwise, she should be included in the charge.
“I know that she will be happy to come and face the trial,” he said.
In objecting to the motion for joinder, counsel to the first defendant, E. O Shofunde (SAN) argued that the applicant was not a necessary party to the suit since in the end, the court will only decide the guilt or innocence of the first and second accused who were charged.
The SAN insisted that it would be incongruous for any other party to seek an amendment of a criminal charge, adding that the court will not make an order in vain.
Shofunde argued that it will amount to a waste of precious judicial time if that amendment is allowed since progress have been made in the case.
Responding, counsel to the EFCC, Rotimi Oyedepo, in opposing the application for joinder noted that the state can only amend a charge for the purposes of adding offences and not defendants if trial had commenced.
While insisting that if an amendment is allowed at this stage, it will occasion a miscarriage of justice.
Oyedepo added that several attempts were initially made to interrogate the applicant, but that she fled to London after she got wind of the move by the EFCC, and has since then, carefully avoided any meeting with the commission.
“Whenever the applicant returns to Nigeria, she can still be tried, as time does not run against the prosecution in criminal trial.”
According to the amended charge, Alison-Madueke was alleged to have conspired with Belgore and Sulaiman on or about March 27, 2015, to directly take possession of the sum of N450 million, which they reasonably ought to have known forms part of proceeds of unlawful act.
The trio were also alleged to have taken the said funds in cash, which exceeded the amount authorized by law, without going through the financial institutions.
Belgore and Sulaiman were also alleged to have paid the sum of N50 million to one, Sheriff Shagaya, without going through any financial institution.