A former Minister of Petroleum Resources, Diezani Alison-Madueke, has prayed the Federal High Court in Abuja to set aside the bench warrant issued against her on July 24, 2020.
She accused the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) of concealing facts to obtain the bench warrant, contending that she was not on the run but travelled to the United Kingdom in 2015 to get treatment after being diagnosed with “the most aggressive form of breast cancer — Triple Negative Cancer.”
Alison-Madueke, in a motion on notice brought by her counsel, Mike Ozekhome (SAN), urged Justice Mobolaji Olajuwon to extend the time within which she could seek leave to apply for the order discharging the bench warrant.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that Alison-Madueke served as minister between 2010 and 2015 in former President Goodluck Jonathan’s government.
The ex-minister 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.
NAN reports that the Federal Government, through the 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, where she resides, to stand trial for the money laundering charges pressed against her by the Commission.
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 the five grounds attached to the motion, said the bench warrant was issued without jurisdiction, and sought that it be set aside ex debito justitiae.
She argued that it was issued in breach of her right to fair hearing.
She further argued that she had neither been served with the charge sheet nor the proof of evidence in charge numbered FHC/ABJ/CR/208/2018.
“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 said.
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.
She said that towards the end of Jonathan’s administration, she was diagnosed with “the most aggressive form of breast cancer — Triple Negative Cancer.”
“I hurriedly flew into England on May 22, 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 October 2, 2015, I was invited by the UK National Crime Agency, to the Charing Cross Police Station, London, where I was questioned for several hours and subsequently released on police bail.
“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.
“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, 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 funds 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.
“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.
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.
She, therefore, prayed the court to vacate the order of bench warrant against her and strike out her name from the charge in the interest of justice.
The court has yet to fix a date for hearing.