Following calls by former Minister of Petroleum, Mrs. Diezani Allison-Madueke for the government of Nigeria to facilitate her return to Nigeria from the United Kingdom where she has been since after leaving office in 2015, the Presidency has said her presence is not an issue.
Nigerian government through its anti-graft agency, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) had instituted corruption charges against the ex-minister who is also being investigated in the United Kingdom for money laundering.
Her plea lends credence to believe that she is restricted from leaving the UK.
Diezani has been mentioned in an ongoing case bordering on about $115 million allegedly given to a former Minister of National Planning, Abubakar Suleiman and a Senior Advocate of Nigeria, Dele Belgore by her towards 2015 elections both of whom are currently being prosecuted.
Her lawyer, Obinna Onya therefore contended that contrary to the declaration by the EFCC that the former minister was at large, she was in the UK. The lawyer also said that his client was willing to return to Nigeria so that she could appear in court to take her plea and defend herself against the charges.
However, speaking to State House correspondents (in Hausa) in Abuja on Wednesday, the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami said the former minister has no power to detect when she should be brought to face trial in Nigeria.
The Minister while responding to a question as to whether the former minister’s request will be granted said: “the truth of the matter is that the government is doing something especially on issues of corruption and litigation in Nigeria and outside the country.
“Considering the fact that there is an existing understanding between Nigeria and other countries especially the United Kingdom on the recovery of stolen funds, you cannot say the government is not doing anything.”
Speaking further, Malami said: “If Nigeria feels strongly that there is need to bring Mrs. Diezani Allison-Madueke here to face charges of corruption, the government will not hesitate to do that.
Malami stated that since the UK government is already investigating Allison-Madueke, the Nigerian government will do nothing to threaten the ongoing investigation.
On the issue of Mrs. Allison-Madueke getting a fair hearing in Nigeria, the Minister said: “Well, the issue is not about fair hearing now, we are talking about investigation first and it’s not within Mrs. Diezani Allison-Madueke’s power to ask the Federal Government to bring her to testify in any case in Nigeria.
“Mrs. Diezani Allison-Madueke is facing charges of money laundering and acquisition of properties in the United Kingdom. So it is important to face the charges there than for her to come as a mere witness in a case in Nigeria.”
Her lawyer has said the position of the Nigerian government presupposes that his client will be condemned in absentia.
“The statement made by the prosecution means that the applicant is going to be convicted without being given the opportunity to defend herself,” Mr. Onya said.