The absence of counsel to the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) and the former Minister of Petroleum Resources,  Diezani Alison-Madueke, in court on Wednesday stalled the money laundering trial.

The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that a Federal High Court, Abuja had fixed today, Nov. 3, for the EFCC to give a report on its effort at extraditing Alison-Madueke to the country to stand her trial, and for possible mention of the case.

NAN reports that though Justice Ijeoma Ojukwu was the presiding judge in the matter, the case was reassigned to Justice Bolaji Olajuwon, following the transfer of Ojukwu to the Calabar division of the court.

Although the suit, marked: FHC/ABJ/CR/208/2018, was on number 9 on the Wednesday’s cause list, neither the EFCC lawyer nor Mrs Alison-Madueke was in court.

When the matter was called, the court registrar said: “No counsel in court my lord.”

Justice Olajuwon then adjourned the matter until Jan. 24, 2022, for report of mention.

NAN also reports that the trial of the ex-minister before the former judge was, on May17, hindered  due to the strike by the Judiciary Staff Union of Nigeria (JUSUN).

The matter was fixed for the date, following the absence of the EFCC’s lawyer, Farouk Abdullah, in court on March 3.

On March 3, the case, which was earlier fixed for report or arraignment of the ex-minister, could not proceed as neither Abdullah nor Diezani was in court.

NAN reports that the court had, on Dec. 3, 2020, adjourned the matter until March 3 following the inability of the anti-graft agency to fully comply with its orders in the trial of Diezani.

Ojukwu fixed the date after counsel to the EFCC, Abdullah, prayed the court for more time to enable the anti-graft agency ensure full compliance with the court orders.

The judge had, on Oct. 28, 2020, refused to grant the EFCC’s application seeking the court order on issuance of warrant of arrest against Alison-Madueke.

Ojukwu held that an affidavit with evidence in support to proof that the earlier court summon granted the agency had failed in the extradition of Diezani must be filed by the commission before another request could be made.

The judge noted that the EFCC had informed the court that the Office of the Attorney General of the Federation (AGF) hinted that the arrest warrant was needed to further give the International Police (INTERPOL) the impetus to  bring the defendant to Nigeria to answer to charges against her.

The judge, however, said it would give the anti-graft agency a room to put its house in order in the trial of the ex-minister because court orders were not made in vain.

Abdullah had, in an application, urged the court “to issue an arrest warrant against Alison-Madueke, who is believed to be in the UK to enable all law enforcement agencies and the INTERPOL to arrest her anywhere she is sighted and be brought before the court to answer to the allegation made against her before the court.”

He said since the summon had not been able to achieve the desired result, the need for a warrant of arrest cannot be over-emphasised.

The court had, on July 24,  2020, ordered the former minister to appear before it and answer to the money laundering charge filed against her by the EFCC. The judge gave the ruling in an ex-parte motion marked FHC/ABJ/CR/208/2018 brought by Abdullah.

The EFCC had accused the former minister of fleeing the country for the UK in order to escape justice, among others.

The lawyer, in a document filed along with the motion ex-parte, said it sought to question Alison-Madueke, without success, in relation to many allegations against her, including “her role as the Minister of Petroleum Resources and her role in the award of Strategic Alliance Agreement (SAA) to Septa Energy Limited, Atlantic Energy Drilling Concept Limited and Atlantic Energy Brass Development Limited by NNPC.