The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), has denied a report stating that a 14 count-charge it filed against Diezani Madueke, a former Minister of Petroleum under Goodluck Jonathan’s administration has been withdrawn.
Naija News had reported earlier that the EFCC filed the charges against the Ex-Jonathan’s minister along with Ben Otti, Nnamdi Okonkwo, Stanley Lawson, Lanre Adesanya, and Dauda Lawal, all of them former officials of commercial banks and the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC).
A report monitored on Daily Trust by Naija News, said that at the resumed hearing of the matter before Justice Muslim Hassan of the Federal High Court in Lagos, Nigeria’s commercial city, on November 5, 2019, the EFCC through its lawyer, Rotimi Oyedepo, dropped the corruption charges against most of the accused persons through an amended four-count charge.
The report said the amended charges which border on money laundering only seeks to prosecute a former Executive Director of First Bank PLC, Dauda Lawal alongside Diezani Madueke and Ben Otti who served as Group Executive Director of finance at the NNPC.
Naija News reports that the news was greeted by a storm of criticism from Nigerians.
Reacting to the report on Wednesday morning, the EFCC said in a statement that it has not dropped the corruption charges it filed against the former minister and others.
The Commission said it only took a prosecutorial decision to split the initial 14-count charge to enable separate arraignment of the defendants following a spate of adjournments that prevented the arraignment of the defendants more than one year after the case was listed.
Part of the statement read: “The charges were first filed on November 28, 2018. Since then, every attempt to arraign the defendants had been frustrated by one excuse or the other. In more than four times that the matter was called for arraignment, it was either that Lanre Adesanya was sick and bedridden in a London Hospital or Nnamdi Okonkwo was hypertensive and on admission in a hospital or Stanley Lawson had had a domestic accident and could not appear in court.
“It was clear that these recurring excuses were ploys to frustrate the arraignment. To get around this, the commission took a deliberate decision, which was disclosed in open court, to separately prosecute the defendants in different courts.
“This explains why the four count amended charge brought against Dauda Lawal, a former executive director of First Bank, did not include other defendants, except the two who are at large( Diezani Alison-Madueke and Ben Otti). And the ingredients of the offence stated therein only pertains to Lawal’s involvement in the alleged crime, which is the receipt of $25million.
“From the $153million 2015 Peoples Democratic Party presidential election slush fund,” it added.
The Commission also said the non-inclusion of other defendants in the original charge in the amended four count charge does not mean that they have been exonerated by the commission of any criminal allegation.