Recently, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) announced that it had commenced the process of extraditing former minister of petroleum resources, Diezani Alison-Madueke, from the United Kingdom.
According to reports, the acting chairman of the commission, Ibrahim Magu, had sealed a deal with UK’s National Crime Agency to recover looted funds and also extradite back to Nigeria Alison-Madueke and other politically exposed persons to face trial over corruption charges.
Diezani, who was petroleum minister between 2011 and 2015, has been on the EFCC radar since the Jonathan administration was ousted in the 2015 general election. Apart from her, there are several other politically exposed persons who fled into exile when the current administration of President Muhammadu Buhari came on board in May 2015.
Whatever may have jolted the anti-graft agency into action at this material time is of no consequence. The fact that the extradition process is unfolding into reality is laudable. There had been calls from different quarters for the extradition of the former minister following several allegations of impropriety against her.
The value of the assets and cash allegedly linked to the former minister is above N10billion and is still increasing going by feelers from the EFCC. A Federal High Court in Lagos had on August 22, 2018, ordered that four buildings located in Lagos, Rivers State and Abuja, valued at N2. 611, 592, 199 billion, linked to Diezani and her associates be temporarily forfeited to the federal government for being proceeds of corrupt activities.
Nigerians and civil society groups, who insisted that the federal government apply for extradition, contend that the rampant stealing such huge public funds by government officials in a developing country like Nigeria has not only drained the people of their valuable commonwealth but also contributed to poverty, irregular electricity supply, bad roads, poor and inadequate health facilities, underdevelopment, conflicts and insecurity.
Still, it is imperative that the former minister answer to the charges because condemning her in the public space without giving her fair hearing in a court of law would violate the principles of natural justice and equity. Weighing the two points of argument on a scale of truth, it entails that the extradition process is of immense benefit to the accused, the government and the Nigerian people as well.
This paper believes that it is in the current administration’s interest that action on the extradition process be expeditiously pursued, especially against the backdrop of insinuations that the federal government is somewhat undecided and indecisive in the anti-corruption war. Those alleging mendacity on the part of government are persuaded by the conviction that the relevant government agencies saddled with the responsibility of prosecuting corrupt persons are working at cross-purposes.
A case in point is the statement credited to the minister of justice and attorney-general of the federation (AGF), Abubakar Malami, who reportedly said in October last year that Nigeria had no immediate plan to bring Alison-Madueke back home to face trial. Curiously, Malami’s position came at a time the former petroleum minister had urged the federal government to bring her back to Nigeria to face corruption charges against her. But the AGF was quoted to have said that bringing her back to the country would jeopardise the investigation being carried on her in the UK.
Alison-Madueke had urged a Federal High Court in Lagos to compel the AGF to bring her back to Nigeria from the UK, where she relocated to shortly after leaving office in 2015.
At present, there are applications for assets forfeiture filed in various Nigerian courts, in the United States and other developed countries, with revelations of an unimaginable proportion of sleaze attributed to politically exposed persons. No doubt, the onus lies with the country the person resides to perfect the extradition process. They can decide or decline to send the person for trial; it can happen even when there is an existing bilateral agreement.
But the federal government, in our view, can take advantage of recent bilateral agreements it entered into with some of these countries to make the anti-corruption war a success. In a bid to strengthen the anti-graft war in the country, it signed three Memoranda of Understanding (MoUs) bordering on mutual assistance in criminal matters, transfer of sentenced persons and an extradition treaty with the Government of the Republic of Italy. Also, on August 5, 2017, President Buhari signed instruments of ratification for a number of bilateral agreements on anti-corruption with some countries, including the United Arab Emirates (UAE).
These pacts will no doubt assist the anti-graft agencies in getting those accused of graft to trial in the country.
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