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BANKOLE TO REMAIN IN EFCC CUSTODY TILL MONDAY

By NBF News
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Embattled former Speaker of the House of Representatives, Dimeji Bankole, will spend the weekend in the custody of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), as his efforts to secure bail suffered a setback yesterday.

Ruling on his bail application, which was moved before the court by his lawyer, Chief Solomon Adegboyega Awomolo (SAN), was reserved till Monday by Justice Donatus Okorowo.

The adjournment came as the former Speaker raised alarm over plans by the EFCC to re-arrest him as soon as he was granted bail by the court.

Justice Okorowo said he was willing to deliver the judgment on the bail application yesterday but for time constraint and the volume of authorities cited by both counsel, he needed sufficient time to digest all the arguments canvassed by the respective lawyers.

Accordingly, he ordered that Bankole be remanded in the custody of the EFCC till Monday when ruling on his (Bankole's) application would be delivered.

This was after listening to arguments on the bail application by his lawyer, Chief Adegboyega Awomolo (SAN) and the prosecution counsel, Mr. Festus Keyamo, who vehemently opposed the bail application.

In the said bail application, Bankole said that he was entitled to bail in on self-recognition being the immediate past House of Representatives Speaker and a holder of national honour of Commander of the Federal Republic.

The applicant claimed that he had never been tried for any offence or convicted for any in Nigeria or any other jurisdiction.

The detained ex-speaker said that his reputation and past record attest to the fact that he would not jump bail if granted one.

Besides, the accused person who was sent on remand at the EFFC custody on Wednesday by the Federal High Court trying him on alleged fraud of contract inflation, denied ever engaged in the alleged offence.

He said, in the motion paper dated June 8, that he never conspired with anybody or group to inflate contracts as alleged by the EFCC.

In a 20-paragraph affidavit in support of the bail application, the ex-speaker was said to be happily married with two young children attached to him and may be emotionally traumatised if the court denied him bail being the breadwinner of his family.

The accused person was also said to be solely responsible for the emotion and material support of his aged parents and other defendants, who would be adversely affected by any denial of his bail.

The affidavit also indicated that the accused cannot escape out of the country because his travelling documents, including the diplomatic passports have been seized by EFCC and that it is in the interest of justice that he be allowed bail since EFCC has completed its investigation into the alleged offence.

Arguing the bail application, Awomolo urged the court to admit Bankole on self-recognizance, as the prosecution had not placed sufficient materials to convince the court to refuse the bail application.

He described as hearsays and speculative, the claim by the EFCC that Bankole was planning to run to the United Kingdom before he was arrested.

Besides, Awomolo said that the fear that an accused person will run away or jump bail is not a reason in law for denying bail because to jump bail has its own criminal consequences. In addition, it was his submission that the world is a global village where criminals have no hiding place.

He supported his argument with a Court of Appeal decision in James Ibori Vs Federal Republic of Nigeria.

Awomolo added that the court can only act on legally admissible evidence either orally or documentary in deciding applications before it relying on the authority of sections 76, 86, 87 and 89 of the Evidence Act to the effect that 'all facts except the content of document may be proved by oral evidence.'

Accordingly, he urged the court to expunged paragraphs 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 21, 22, 23, 24, 27, 28, 29 and 31 which he argued where speculative and an opinion of the despondent.

Responding, the prosecution counsel, Keyamo urged the court to refuse the bail application on the grounds that the applicant did not placed sufficient materials to warrant the court exercise its discretion in his favour.

He told the court that the prosecution has established a prima facie case against the accused and that many of the paragraphs in the bail applications did not meet the requirement of law in considering bail application.

Keyamo particularly drew the attention of the court to paragraphs 5, 6 and 7 of the application where the accused raised the issue of young children and aged parents as reasons for bail.

Meanwhile, the embattled speaker has raised alarm over plans by the EFCC to re-arrest him.

In a letter to the commission by his counsel, Chief Awomolo, Bankole said he heard from competent sources that the EFCC has perfected plans to re-arrest him immediately he is admitted to bail by the court.

The letter reads: 'We were further informed that the commission's operatives will re-arrest our client immediately he is admitted to bail on the ground that the commission requires him in respect of investigations of other allegations made against him not related to the charges before the court.

'We wish to bring your notice that the commission as a public authority should not misuse the statutory power of arrest and detention. Our client has no intention to run away from this country or avoid justice.'

In court to witness proceedings were Bankole' associates and colleagues in the House of Representatives and Senate, including his former special assistant, Senator Nureeden Abafemi, representing Kogi Central; former chairman, House Committee on Appropriation, Senator Ayo Ade Adesun, representing Oyo Central; Emmanuel Jime, Makurdi/Guma Federal Constituency; Yusuf Shinkafi, Zamfara and former House member for Ohimili/Otukpo Federal Constituency, Benue State, Nelson Alapa.

Bankole was arraigned before a Federal High Court on a 16-count charge of contract inflation amounting to the sum of N894 million by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).

The charge sheet, which specifically bordered on abuse of the public Procurement Act was filed on Tuesday by the prosecution counsel, Festus Keyamo to confirm Daily Sun report on the subject matter.

The charges where built around allegations bordering on contract inflation for the purchase of sundry items including but not limited to electronic gazettes, vehicles and other accessories.