On the 16th of February I was at the Federal High Court as an Advocate of the Courts in Nigeria but on that day I heard a case going on which I followed with keen interest. The case of EFCC v. Mrs. Diezani Allison-Madueke :
Mrs. Diezani Allison-Madueke, former Minister of Petroleum Resources during the Goodluck Jonathan’s administration was appointed on 6 April 2010. Alison-Madueke was the first woman to hold the position of Minister of Petroleum Resources in Nigeria and in October 2010 she became the first woman to head a country delegation at the semi-annual OPEC Conference. She was also the first female Minister of Transportation, and the first woman to be appointed to the board of Shell Petroleum Development Company Nigeria.
In her beautiful profile, she has failed to stand against corrupt practices. She embezzled public money and acquired luxuries at the expense of the Nigerian masses. She was arrested in London on 2 October 2015. She has been charged with responsibility for $20 billion missing from the Petroleum agency.
The seized money, according to the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, was stolen from the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation and stashed in three banks in Nigeria, in US dollars and Naira.
Out of the loot, N23.4 billion was kept in Sterling Bank Plc. The sum of N9.08 billion was kept in First Bank Plc and $5m in Access Bank Plc.
On the 16th of February 2017 at the serenity of Federal High Court, Ikoyi, Lagos, Nigeria before Hon. Justice Muslim Sulaiman Hassan presiding Judge over her matter ordered her forfeiture over N34billion to the Federal Government of Nigeria. The final forfeiture which was ordered is made up of various sums of money N23, 446, 300,000, N9, 080,000,000 and $5m.
The court had, on January 6, 2017, given an order of interim order of forfeiture on the money, following an ex-parte application by the prosecution lawyer of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, seeking a similar relief.
However, at the hearing of the matter, counsel to the second respondent submitted that he wanted ‘‘a common sense approach to resolving the matter’’, after filing two fresh applications for ‘‘abridgement of time’’ and further counter- affidavit on February 8, 2017.
He further told the court that the value of the N9, 080,000,000, which was the proceeds of illegal activity linked to his client, had changed from what it was last year. According to him, ‘‘For as long as this matter is tied to litigation, the value will continue to diminish. In the spirit of peace, we are currently exploring reconciliatory talks towards seeking an amiable settlement in this matter,’’ he said.
In his reaction, prosecution counsel said that he had filed a counter- affidavit to ‘‘some strange applications’’ he received from the counsel to the second respondent. He further urged the court to strike out both applications filed by the counsel to the second respondent if the intention was to keep the applications in abeyance.
‘‘It is to arrest your Lordship’s judgment fixed for today. It is like the case of a woman in the delivery room being invited to attend a wedding. If she must attend the wedding, she must first be delivered of the baby. Your lordship had given both of us fair hearing in this proceedings. You had listened to our arguments and received affidavit evidence from us. So, I pray my Lord to remove this clog so that the coast will be clear for my Lord to deliver judgment,’’ he said.
After listening to both counsel, Justice Hassan stood down the matter in order to rule on the applications.
His Lordship ruling, Justice Hassan dismissed the application of the counsel to the second respondent on the grounds that it was an after-thought.
‘‘It will be prejudicial to allow the application to stay. I will not grant an amendment if the essence is to over-reach the respondent,’’ he said.
While delivering his judgment later, Justice Hassan ordered that the sum of N23, 446, 3000 and $5m should be forfeited to the Federal Government.
His Lordship said he was satisfied with the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission’s argument that the monies were proceeds of illegal activity.
He further said that there was no evidence that the sum of 9.8bn linked to the second respondent was given to him by friends and family.
The former Minister had allegedly siphoned the money from the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, NNPC, and stashed in three banks, including Sterling Bank Plc.