THE Federal High Court sitting in Abuja on Wednesday struk out count eight of the charge where the name of the former Minister of Petroleum Resources, Mrs Diezani Alison-Madueke, was mentions in the alleged $16bn crude oil fraud trial.
The former minister, who is currently under investigation by the Metropolitan Police in London for several other financial crimes, had through her counsel, Dr Onyechi Ikpeazu (SAN), applied to Justice Nnamdi Dimgba of the Federal High Court to be joined as one of the defendants on the ground that count 8 of the 9 count charge had mentioned her name, even though the prosecution did not make her one of the defendants.
Apart from Omokore and Atlantic Energy Drilling Concept Nigeria Limited, other defendants in the matter are Atlantic Energy Brass Development Ltd, Victor Briggs, Abiye Membere and David Mbanefo.
When the matter came up on Wednesday, Diezani’s counsel argued that her application would not prejudice the criminal trial but afford her the opportunity to be heard in the interest of fair hearing adding that she will be grossly prejudices by a refusal of the application which will further compound the gross violation of her Constitutional rights.
In opposition to the application, counsel to the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Aliyu Yusuf urged the court to refuse Diezani’s application seeking to be joined as defendant.
Yusuf said, Diezani who is on self-exile, is being investigated by the Metropolitan Police for several crimes and has been admitted to bail in the United Kingdom (UK) but cannot leave the country.
According to him, “The applicant, seeing that the investigations by the Metropolitan Police had reached advanced stage and that trial in the instant charge before this court is proceeding smoothly had designed the instant application to distract and scuttle both her investigation and imminent prosecution in the United Kingdom and the trial before this court.”
He also argued that Diezani knew she would not be able to leave the United Kingdom in view of ongoing investigation and imminent prosecution, therefore, she is seeking the order to amend the charge for her name to be included on the face of the charge in order, “to escape from investigation and prosecution in the United Kingdom under the guise that she is coming to face her trial before this court and also scuttle the trial.”
In his ruling, Justice Dimgba ruled that the EFCC cannot eat its cake and have it because, by including Diezani’s name in count eight, the commission ought to make her one of the defendants.
“It is looking like a blackmail,“ the judge said, and added that the court had no option than to strike out count 8 of the charge where Diezani’s name was mentioned.
Justice Dimgba the adjourned trial of the substantive matter till October 5 and 6, 2017.