Diezani Court rejects ex-minister's attempt to return to Nigeria

Justice Rilwan condemned the former minister's application as a misuse of court processes.

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Former Nigerian oil minister and OPEC president Diezani Alison-Madueke has been accused of corruption

(AFP)
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Justice Rilwan Aikawa of the Federal High Court in Lagos rejected the application filed by former Minister of Petroleum Resources, Mrs. Diezani Alison-Madueke to be named as a defendant in the alleged N450m money laundering trial involving her associates.

At the hearing on Wednesday, November 1, Justice Rilwan declined all of Diezani's prayers and condemned the former minister's application as a misuse of court processes.

The judge also ruled that the minister was "merely crying wolf" as she'd not been named as a defendant in the trial, meaning she has no case to answer.

He noted that he'll not allow the former minister to use his court as a tool to interrupt ongoing investigations against her in the United Kingdom.

The embattled former minister had filed the application on October 3 seeking to be named as a defendant by the prosecution since she was mentioned in the money laundering charge sheet involving her associates Dele Belgore (SAN) and former Minister of National Planning, Prof. Abubakar Suleiman.

She had urged the court to compel the office of the Attorney General of the Federation to bring her back from the UK to enter a plea for the charges.

She said she was eager to return to the country to defend herself, contrary to claims by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) that she was dodging investigators.

On Monday, October 30, her counsel, Mr Onyechi Ikpeazu, argued that she was more or less a defendant in the case since she was mentioned as a person of interest who was at large.

Ikpeazu said, "It is the fundamental right of the applicant that a criminal proceeding of this nature should not go on in her absence."

He further argued that if the prosecution is uninterested in naming her as a defendant, then her named should be completely withdrawn from the charge.

In the charge, Diezani was alleged to have conspired with Belgore and Suleiman on or about March 27, 2015, to directly take possession of N450 million, which they reasonably ought to have known formed part of proceeds of an unlawful act.

The main defendants in the N450m money laundering trial, Belgore and Prof. Suleiman, are both standing trial for allegedly collecting the sum of money from Diezani while she was minister, and laundering it in the the build-up to the 2015 general elections.

They were both arraigned on five counts by the EFCC who filed the charges and mentioned Diezani's name without including her as a defendant.

The defendants pleaded ''Not Guilty'' to the allegations of making a cash transaction of N450m on March 27, 2015, without going through any financial institution.

ALSO READ: EFCC blocks Diezani's plan to return to Nigeria

With a trail of corruption allegations against her, Diezani has been holed up in the United Kingdom where she is also waiting to stand trial for alleged bribery, corruption and money laundering.

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