ECONOMIC and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) officials have withdrawn 14 charges against former petroleum minister Diezani Alison-Madueke and five of her associates opting to condense the allegations against her into four.
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.
Earlier this month, Justice Ijeoma Ojukwu of the federal high court in Abuja, gave the EFCC until March next year to produce Ms Alison-Madueke in court or they charges against her would be struck off. Since leaving office, Ms Alison-Madueke has constantly evaded repatriation and deportation as the EFCC has struggled to establish a prima facie case against her.
As part of its review of the case against Ms Alison-Madueke, the EFCC decided to repackage its case against her, dropping 14 charges against her and five of her co-accused. Those affected include Ben Otti, Nnamdi Okonkwo, Stanley Lawson, Lanre Adesanya, and Dauda Lawal, all former officials of commercial banks and the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC).
At the resumed hearing of the matter before Justice Muslim Hassan of a Federal High Court Lagos, the EFCC through its lawyer Rotimi Oyedepo dropped the corruption charges against most of the accused persons through an amended four-count charge. These amended charges which border on money laundering only seek to prosecute a former executive director of First Bank, Dauda Lawal alongside Ms Alison-Madueke and Ben Otti who served as group executive director of finance at the NNPC
Both Ms Alison-Madueke and Mr Otti have been at large since the beginning of the matter which was first filed in court on November 28 last year. Also Nnamdi Okonkwo, the managing director of Fidelity Bank; Stanley Lawson a former group executive director, finance, of the NNPC and Lanre Adesanya an executive director at Sterling Bank did not make any appearance in court and have not been arraigned.
At the initial hearing, the EFCC had in 14 charges accused the bank executives and the NNPC officials of conspiring to conceal $153m in Fidelity Bank, claiming they ought to have known the money was proceeds of corruption punishable under the Money Laundering Act. In 2015, the EFCC discovered $153m collected from oil companies allegedly to fund the presidential campaign of the Peoples Democratic Party’s (PDP) presidential candidate, President Goodluck Jonathan, was deposited with the bank.