An effort made by Diezani Alison-Madueke to return to Nigeria and testify in an ongoing graft case has been opposed. Diezani is asking to be joined as a defendant in the trial of Dele Belgore, senior advocate, and Professor Abubakar Suleiman. The EFCC claims both men benefited from the $115,010,000 (about N35billion) war chest Diezani distributed to different individuals across the 36 states of Nigeria shortly before the 2015 general elections.
At the hearing of the case at the Federal High Court, in, Lagos, Diezani’s counsel, Onyechi Ikpeazu argued his client ought not be excluded from the trial since she is mentioned in the charge. He also said it was wrong for the prosecution to claim in the charge that Diezani was at large, whereas she is offering to defend her name. He cited a similar case before a federal court in Abuja, which struck out Diezani’s name from the charge sheet since it didn’t grant her request to defend herself. Ikpeazu urged the trial judge, Rilwan Aikawa, to do the same.
“We have no objection if her name is extracted from the charge and the case goes on,” he added.
However, one of the defendants, Belgore opposed Diezani’s request to be joined as a party to the suit.
Similarly, Rotimi Oyedepo, counsel to the EFCC, prayed the court to dismiss Ikepeazu’s argument, adding it is a “violent abuse of court processes.”
Oyedepo said the case would have to begin afresh, if she is made a witness.
“The application is frivolous and is intended to annoy the parties,” he said.
Oyedepo argued that based on Section 269 of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act, the prosecution can only amend a charge by adding to the counts or reducing them, not adding a defendant.
Furthermore, Oyedepo said Diezani was not even within the court’s jurisdiction having admitted in her application that she was in London.
The EFCC lawyer said the former minister was given an opportunity before trial commenced to answer the charge, but she allegedly escaped.
“Immediately she got to know about the investigation of this case, she absconded from Nigeria. Upon realising that she is in London, we made effort to meet her interview her there.
“But she has always refused to meet with our team members. Her lawyer in London, one Mr John Beans, said the team would not be permitted to meet her because she’s outside jurisdiction,” Oyedepo said.
“This application is intended to delay this case,” Oyedepo said.
Justice Aikawa will decide the application on Wednesday.