NIGERIA’S Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) has been given until March next year to extradite former petroleum minister Diezani Alison-Madueke from the UK to face corruption charges pending against her.
Oil minister during the tenure of former president Dr Goodluck Jonathan, Ms Alison-Madueke has been the subject of a series of corruption probes, with the federal high court in Nigeria confiscating some of her assets and handing them over to the government. Under investigation both in Nigeria and the UK, Ms Alison-Madueke, who was in office between 2011 and 2015, has been accused of participating in largescale corruption, including using her position to allocate lucrative oil wells to close associates worth billions of dollars.
Since leaving office, Ms Alison-Madueke has taken refuge in the UK, where she was arrested and granted bail pending the filing of formal charges against her. Ms Alison-Madueke has been asked to forfeit UK properties worth over £11m and been forced to forfeit about N7.6bn hidden in a Nigerian bank to the government.
According to one report, two of her properties in Regents Park in central London, along with one in Buckinghamshire, have now been seized based on the request of Nigerian authorities. In September this year, an Abuja high court ruled that she must forfeit 2,149 pieces of jewellery valued at $40m to the federal government.
However, Ms Alison-Madueke remains a fugitive living in the UK despite repeated attempts by the EFCC to get her to return to Nigeria to face the charges against her. Yesterday, Justice Ijeoma Ojukwu of the federal high court in Abuja threatened to strike out the money laundering case against her should the anti-corruption agency fail to produce the defendant in court by March 2020.
In November 2018, the commission had filed 13 counts of money laundering against the ex-minister accusing her of unlawfully taking into her possession $39.7m and N3.32bn with which she allegedly bought choice properties in Abuja, Lagos and Port Harcourt in Rivers State, while she was in office. When the matter was heard yesterday, however, the prosecuting counsel, Faruk Abdullah, pleaded with the judge to adjourn the case indefinitely, on the grounds that the EFCC was facing challenges in its bid to extradite the defendant from the United Kingdom.
Mr Abdullah told Justice Ojukwu that given the circumstances, it would be better for the case to be adjourned indefinitely so that it would not continue to clog the court’s docket. However, the judge said her docket is not going to be a waiting room for the prosecution and she will give the EFCC just one more adjournment and if nothing happens on the next date, she will strike the case out.
In her ruling, the judge adjourned the matter till March 10 for report or striking out. Earlier this year, British crime investigators arrived in Nigeria to gather further evidence against Ms Alison-Madueke in an indication that they may soon files charges against her in the UK.