If a report by Daily Trust is anything to go by, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), has dropped all 14 count charges against Former Minister of Petroleum Resources, Diezani Alison-Madueke.
The EFCC was also said to have dropped the charges against Ben Otti, Nnamdi Okonkwo, Stanley Lawson, Lanre Adesanya, and Dauda Lawal, all of whom are former officials of commercial banks and the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC).
Since 2015, Diezani has been dogged by a series of corruption allegations, including the alleged diversion and distribution of N23 billion.
The former minister has also been holed up in the United Kingdom, where she faces a separate probe for alleged bribery, corruption and money laundering.
From then till date, the EFCC has obtained court rulings that have ordered the forfeiture of properties and funds linked to the former minister.
At the resumed hearing of the matter before Justice Muslim Hassan of a Federal High Court Lagos on November 5, 2019, the anti-graft agency through its lawyer, Rotimi Oyedepo dropped the corruption charges against most of the accused persons, including Diezani, through an amended four-count charge.
The amended charges which border on money laundering, now only seeks to prosecute a former Executive Director of First Bank Plc, alongside Diezani and Ben, who served as Group Executive Director of finance at the NNPC.
Madueke and Ben Otti have both reportedly been at large since the beginning of the matter which was first filed in Court on November 28, 2018.
Similarly, Nnamdi, Stanley, and Lanre, all did not make any appearance in court and have not been arraigned.
In what appeared like a twist at the resumed hearing of the matter, a source close to Dauda, who noted that the former Executive Director of First Bank did not fail to appear in court in all adjourned dates of the matter, was shocked that all other accused persons have been exonerated.
The matter before the court
The EFCC had in the 14 count-charge accused the bank executives and the NNPC officials of conspiring to conceal $153 million in Fidelity bank, which they ought to have known were proceeds of corruption punishable under the Money Laundering Act.
In 2015, the EFCC discovered that the $153 million was deposited, to allegedly fund the presidential second term campaign of former President Goodluck Jonathan.
The matter was investigated by the EFCC and the bankers were alleged to have conspired with Diezani and other NNPC officials to conceal and distribute parts of the fund.
Lawal who was an Executive Director of First bank, was accused of assisting Diezani to purchase a property, Merdien Hotel Ogeyi Palace in Port Harcourt, when he received $25 million from Fidelity Bank and deposited the same amount with Sterling Bank, allegedly on the instruction of Stanley.
The source who’s familiar with the transaction, stated it is pathetic that Dauda, who had no contact with Diezani and was only acting on the instruction of a customer can be charged for conspiracy, while those who were alleged to be directly linked to the funds have been exonerated.
Although, when contacted for comments, EFCC spokesman, Wilson Uwujaren said he is not aware of the matter.