The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, has withdrawn a 14-count charge filed against a former Minister of Petroleum, Diezani Alison-Madueke, along with Ben Otti, Nnamdi Okonkwo, Stanley Lawson, Lanre Adesanya,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.
It was gathered that at the resumed hearing of the matter before Justice Muslim Hassan, of a Federal High Court, Lagos, the EFCC through its Lawyer, Rotimi Oyedepo, dropped the corruption charges against most of the accused persons, through an amended 4-count charge.
The amended charge which borders on money laundering, only seeks to prosecute a former Executive Director of First Bank PLC, Dauda Lawal, alongside Diezani and Otti, who served as Group Executive Director of Finance at the NNPC.
Madueke and Otti have both been at large since the beginning of the matter which was first filed in court on 28th November, 2018.
Also, Nnamdi Okonkwo, the Managing Director, Fidelity Bank, Stanley Lawson, a former Group Executive Director, Finance, NNPC, and Lanre Adesanya, an Executive Director at Sterling Bank, all did not make any appearance in court, and have not been arraigned.
However, in a twist at the resumed hearing of the matter on 5th November, 2019, almost one year after the charges were filed, a source close to Dauda Lawal, who noted that the former Executive Director, First Bank, did not fail to appear in court in all adjourned dates of the matter, were shocked that all other accused persons have been exonerated.
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.
It was learnt that in 2015, the EFCC discovered $153 million was deposited, being collection from Oil companies allegedly to fund the Presidential campaign of the Peoples Democratic Party’s Candidate, President Goodluck Jonathan.
The matter was investigated by the EFCC, and the Bankers were alleged to have conspired with Madueke and other NNPC Officials, to conceal and distribute parts of the funds.
However, Lawal, the then Executive Director of First Bank, is being accused of assisting Madueke to purchase a property known as 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 Lawson.
A source familiar with the First Bank transaction, noted that it is curious how the Banker who had no contact with Madueke, 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, there are speculation that Diezani may join the All Progressives Congress, APC, if fully exonerated.