A former Minister of Petroleum Resources, Mrs. Diezani Alison-Madueke, has prayed a Federal High Court Abuja to set aside the bench warrant issued against her on July 24, 2020.
Alison-Madueke, in a motion on notice brought by her counsel, Chief Mike Ozekhome, SAN, before Justice Mobolaji Olajuwon, sought court order extending the time within which she could seek leave to apply for the order discharging the bench warrant.
Alison-Madueke served as minister between 2010 and 2015 in the President Goodluck Jonathan government.
The ex-minister, who sought an order granting leave to apply for the order, also urged the court to strike out her name as “a defendant in charge number; FHC/ABJ/CR/208/2018 between the Federal Republic of Nigeria V. Diezani Alison Madueke, pending before this honourable court.”
The motion, which has FRN as complainant/respondent, had Alison-Madueke as sole defendant/applicant.
It was brought pursuant to Sections 36 (1) and (8), 35 of the 1999 Constitution (as altered); Section 1, 113, 114, 382 (4 & 5) of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act, 2015; and under the inherent powers of the court as preserved by Section 6(6A) of the 1999 Constitution.
The Federal Government, through the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), had, in an ex-parte motion, sought a bench warrant against Alison-Madueke
Justice Ijeoma Ojukwu, who granted the order on July 24, 2020, after the anti-corruption lawyer moved the motion, directed that Alison-Madueke should be arrested by local or international police anywhere she was sighted within or outside the country.
The development followed the inability of the EFCC to extradite her back to the country from the United Kingdom (UK) where she resides to stand the money laundering trial preferred against her.
The case was, however, reassigned to Justice Olajuwon following the transfer of Ojukwu to the Calabar division of the court in 2021.
The ex-minister, in a five-ground attached with the motion, said the bench warrant was issued without jurisdiction, and ought to be set aside ex debito justitiae.
She argued that it was issued in breach of her right to fair hearing as guaranteed by Section 36 (1) of the 1999 Constitution (as altered).
She further argued that she had neither been served with the charge sheet and proof of evidence in charge number: FHC/ABJ/CR/208/2018, nor was there any other summons howsoever and whatsoever in respect of the criminal charge pending against her before the court.
Alison-Madueke submitted that the court was misled into issuing the bench warrant against her based on suppression or non-disclosure of material facts.
“The ex-parte application for an order of bench warrant against the defendant/applicant was obtained upon gross misstatements, misrepresentations, non-disclosure, concealment and suppression of material facts and this honourable court has the power to set aside same ex debito justitiae, as a void order is as good as if it was never made at all,” she concluded.
In the affidavit she personally deposed to, Alison-Madueke, averred that she had resided in the UK since May 22, 2015, when she voluntarily travelled for medical treatment.
According to her, before then, I had served as Honourable Minister for Transportation and Honourable Minister for Mines and Steel Development under the Umaru Y’arAdua administration between 2007 and 2009.
She said before she served in the government, she had held the position of Executive Director in the Shell Petroleum Development Company of Nigeria, being the first woman to be so appointed to that position in the country, in the history of the corporation.
“That during the course of my service as minister of Petroleum Resources, I spearheaded the enactment and implementation of the Nigerian Local Content Development Act.
”This made provisions aimed at encouraging and securing the participation of Nigerian companies in the provision of services in both the downstream service sector and the upstream exploration and development sector of the Oil and Gas Industry in Nigeria.
“For the first time in Nigeria’s 90 plus years of oil exploration and producing history, an unprecedented number of Nigerian companies began doing very highly technical work within the industry. resulting in current figures of over 100,000 direct jobs from over 9,600 operators and service companies, as well as over 400,000 indirect jobs.
“Thus ensuring current Nigerian content level of over 54 per cent, in the downstream service sector,” she said.
The ex-minister said she also re-drafted the critical Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB) in order to achieve a much higher degree of transparency and accountability in the sector and a fairer and more equitable national distribution of petroleum profits, to increase Nigeria’s percentage share of the lucrative deep offshore exploration profits.
She said these were among many other implemented policies she did.
Alison-Madueke, however, said that towards the end of the tenure of the administration of President Jonathan, she was diagnosed of the most aggressive form of breast cancer — Triple Negative Cancer.
“I hurriedly flew into England on 22nd May, 2015, in order to undertake a critical course of treatment, which consisted of two operations, eight months of intensive chemotherapy and five weeks of radiotherapy and I have remained in England ever since then, where I have undergone intensive medical care and treatment.
“In the course of receiving my treatment and only one week after completing, the eight-month course of treatment in my extremely aggressive chemotherapy (during which time I was erroneously put into a near fatal coma.
”On Oct. 2, 2015, I was invited by the UK National Crime Agency (NCA), to the Charing Cross Police Station, London, where I was questioned for several hours and subsequently released on police bail.
“That prior to that time, the officers of the NCA had invaded my personal residence and conducted a search, carting away with them several documents and other valuable items.
“That since then, I have consistently and severally been invited for interviews by the NCA, many of which have been serially adjourned or postponed to future dates due to no fault of mine,” she said.
The former minister further alleged that almost contemporaneously, with the raid on her residence by officers of the NCA, the officials of the EFCC also broke into and raided her private residence in Abuja and carted away several documents and many items of value.
“All this was done in my absence and without any prior invitation or notice to that effect,” she alleged.
She said she had either read in the media or been informed by close associates and relatives, about several forfeiture orders said to have been made in respect of certain monies and property in some charges or other civil proceedings all of which were usually ascribed and allegedly said to belong to her in the media.
“That I have till date never been served with any court processes in respect of all the aforementioned charges or forfeiture proceedings in Nigeria, to enable me respond, or defend myself,” she said.
Alison-Madueke alleged that the EFCC, which had been filing the said charges or forfeiture proceedings, knew very well she resides in the UK; and had indeed on an occasion, in the past, actually served a particular document on her through the NCA.
According to her, the above document served on the NCA by the EFCC has to do with properties in the UK, which they purported to belong to me.
She alleged that the EFCC usually collaborates with the NCA with regard to matters involving her, but had bluntly refused to do so in this particular case and in ail the Nigerian forfeiture cases that relate to her.
She alleged that the anti-graft agency’s application was made against her in extreme bad faith in order to inconvenience and humiliate her.
She said since residing in the UK, she had been living openly and had never made any attempt to conceal her identity, location and/or home address, from any persons, or authorities, whether abroad or in Nigeria
“The NCA is fully aware of my location in the UK,” she added.
The ex-minister alleged that she was subjected to unfair media trial and internet space – lynching without being afforded any opportunity to defend herself against the diet of lies continually fed to the public about her by the EFCC.
She, therefore, prayed the court to vacate the order of bench warrant against her and struck out her name from the charge in the interest of justice.
Meanwhile, hearing date was yet to be fixed as at the time of filing the report.
Justice Olajuwon had also, on Jan 24, 2022, issued arrest warrant against Alison-Madueke.
The order followed a complaint by the EFCC’s lawyer, Faruk Abdullah, that all efforts by the agency to get the ex-minister extradited when the matter was before Justice Ojukwu were unsuccessful.
He said that the arrest warrant was needed to further give the International Police (INTERPOL) the impetus to bring the defendant to Nigeria to answer to charges against her.
Olajuwon then granted the application and adjourned the matter sine die pending when the ex-minister is arrested and produced in court.
Reports had on Jan. 30, said that in another suit marked: FHC/ABJ/CS/21/2023 and filed before Justice Ekwo, Alison-Madueke is also seeking an order to vacate the earlier order granted to the EFCC for final forfeiture of her seized assets.