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THE TRIAL OF BANKOLE

By NBF News
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Many people who expected that the Clerk of the House of Representatives' testimony at the on-going trial would rip the former Speaker's underbelly apart especially as he was appearing as a prosecution witness must have been disappointed. Rather than dig-in Bankole and Nafada, the Clerk of the House of Representatives' seemed to have absolved them and exposed the fact that there was a deliberate misleading of the public by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission in the media trial and conviction of Bankole even before the commencement of the trial.

The Clerk of the House of Representatives, Mr Mohammed Sanni Omolori, told an Abuja High Court that, the decision to obtain loans by the leadership of the sixth session of the House was not a unilateral  one, but taken with the consent of all members. Omolori also told the court that no part of the loan facilities were converted into the personal accounts of the former Speaker of the House of Representatives, Dimeji Bankole and his deputy, Alhaji Usman Bayero Nafada, Omolori went further to say that, contrary to the claim by the anti-graft agency, the two accused persons did not benefit from the loans taken, as the running costs of their offices were decreased to N100million for the Speaker and N80million for his deputy. He also said that the accounts maintained belonged to the House of Representatives and not the Speaker and that the former Speaker had no control over any House' accounts.

The Clerk of the House of Representatives' testimony seemed to have confirmed earlier belief in some quarters that Bankole's trial is political. The way in which Economic and Financial Crimes Commission launched its manhunt on Bankole in the last days of his administration raised eye brows on the real agenda of the anti-graft agency.

Most people point at Bankole's role in the emergence of Hon. Aminu Tambuwal as the Speaker of the 7th House of Representatives as the main reason for his trial. Farouk Lawan said this much when he said that 'you cannot run away from the fact that some of these issues are political; we know why he (Bankole) is going through his present ordeal. Bankole is being hounded because members of House of Representatives chose to elect Tambuwal and Emeka Ihedioha as Speaker and Deputy Speaker respectively'.

Former Ogun State Governor, Aremo Olusegun Osoba, also alleged that former Speaker of the House of Representatives, Hon. Dimeji Bankole's arrest may be politically motivated. He said that the way and manner Bankole was arrested cannot be divorced from politics of the House of Representatives speakership. 'Definitely, there was a political angle. Their game plan was to arrest Bankole on Sunday, as a signal to destabilize members of the House voting the way of their conscience on Monday,' he said. Osoba who declared that he was totally against corruption, decried the way and manner Bankole was arrested. According to him, having told the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) that he would make himself available, the anti-graft agency ought to have given him that privilege.

Another reason adduced by some on why they believe Bankole's trial is politically motivated is that the EFCC did not beam its searchlight on the 6th Senate too. The 6th Senate bought Toyota Camry for its members at N10 million each and nobody raised an eyebrow. How did the 6th Senate fund its jumbo pay? How much is a Nigerian Senator paid? Shouldn't the EFCC be curious about the 6th Senate Accounts as well?

The Clerk of the House of Representatives testimony came at an auspicious time when a new leadership is being put in place for the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission. The EFCC should therefore seize this opportunity to re-invent itself and stop political trial by going after real culprits in its prosecution of anti-graft war. EFCC investigations should be conducted with fairness and in such a manner that is not persecutory. It is only when investigations are conducted in such a transparent manner that the public will not read meaning to the actions of the anti-graft agency as being political.

Jacob writes from Lagos.