BANKOLE VS EFCC: DILEMA OF NIGERIA'S LEGAL PROCESS
The case between the dreaded anti graft agent, Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) and former Nigeria’s number four citizen, Hon. Dimeji Bankole has in recent time generated a lot of public outcry; some have even fingered the judiciary not to have been alive to its responsibilities in the fight against corruption, due to the way and manner this high profile case has been handled, especially now that the man at the centre of the storm (Bankole) has openly emphasised that no court in Nigeria has the constitutional powers to try him for any action he took in office as the speaker.
However, I consider it absolutely preposterous the vituperation and tantrums of those who think EFCC lacks the necessary potentials, competence and will to fight against crimes and corruption at all levels in Nigeria, owing to the ways most corruption cases have been treated in our country. Yet some political observers have also argued that whatever decision Bankole took while in office as the speaker is agreed by the body of the House or the Plenary Committee and if the EFCC really want to make a case they should gather all those people that were part of the decision making process, and also with the view that Bankole was wrong to borrow money from a commercial bank without due process and due diligence. In my own opinion I suppose the supply of fiscal funding comes from the government’s bank (CBN), therefore the House of Reps have no business seeking for loan to cater for its financial ‘burden’. They have an assigned budget and if they cannot work within the budget or funds appropriated to them I don’t think they don’t deserve extra fund.
I was not really alarmed when I read in the dallies that former Speaker, while speaking before his arrest, admitted drawing the controversial N10 billion loan said to have been unauthorised by the House. He, however, said the decision was collective and denied benefiting from its sharing. With reference to verifiable records, Mr Bankole issued the first authoritative confirmation of an intimidating payroll which the members of 7th Assembly approved for themselves alongside with the Senate in 2010. He said the loan was not a personal facility but was sourced on the directive of the House to foot the large increment in quarterly allowances approved for each members. He also said the directive was reached by a 37-member committee and endorsed by an executive session of the house. However, as Speaker and Deputy Speaker respectively, Mr Bankole and Usman Nafada, were not part of the proceeds from the loan since they already earned a whopping N100 million and N80 million quarterly each, as contained in the statement signed by Media Aide to Mr Bankole, Idowu Bakare and I quote: “Before the increment quarterly allowance to the office of the Speaker was N100million while his deputy received N80 million. The loan in question was distributed among other principal officers and the remaining members of the House,” the statement read.
All feed fat in the distribution made available in the statement, Mr Bankole’s and Mr. Nafada’s allowances remained at their initial N100 million and N80 million respectively, while those of the House Leaders rose from N46million to N60 million. The Deputy Leader took N57 million instead of the former N43 million while the Chief Whip took N55 million instead of the initial N41 million. The deputy Whip received N54.5 million instead of N40.5 million and the Minority Whip took N50 million from N36 million. Other members, including the members of the so called Progressives, led by Dino Melaye, who claimed the loan was not known to the House, collected N42 million instead of N28 million. In all, the differential of N14 million each for the 360 members, except for the Speaker and the Deputy, accounted for N5.012 billion and for two quarters which the loans were drawn, the amount became N10.024 billion with interest, the former speaker claimed. Mr Bankole further stated that the Executive Session, which was held on Tuesday March 30, 2010 where the report of a 37 member Committee set up on March 25, 2010 to look into “agitation of member for enhancement of running costs of members”, was reported by Independence Ogunewe, a member of the Melaye-group.
Meanwhile, during my discussion with a friend Ralph Nwoke, a seasoned legal practitioner (senior counsel at Dele Farotimi & Co) he chided those who have been mudsling members of the Bench and Bar over failed corruption and financial crimes cases in Nigeria. He maintained that the judiciary cannot work outside the provisions of the laws and constitution of the land, therefore Nigerians should not misconstrue that with attempt to circumvent or bend the laws to favour some selected few in the society. About Hon. Dimeji Bankole’s legal quagmire and authorisation or prosecution fiat, he told me it would be professionally wrong for him to directly comment on a matter that is already before the Court of competent jurisdiction, but he however said:
“Pursuant to section 174(2) and Section 211(2) of the 1999 Constitution as amended, the Attorneys General, at both the state and federal level can delegate their powers to officers in their department. The courts have interpreted this to include private legal practitioners.
“Please note that the office of the Attorney General is a corporate sole, which can continue to function even when there is no incumbent in office. However, the powers conferred on the Attorney General are personal to him and cannot be delegated to another party where there is no incumbent. This flows from the Supreme Court decision in the case of Attorney General (Kaduna State) v. Hassan. Where there is no express delegation of powers and a private legal practitioner purports to act under delegated powers of the Attorney General, any act done by the private legal practitioners, including charges filed are void.”
In my own opinion this clearly shows that EFCC and its legal counsel Festus Keyamo do not have the powers to prosecute Dimeji Bankole on any matters bothering on corruption in this instance. The fearless human rights lawyer, Festus Keyamo claimed to have the Attorney Generals fiat when there was no Attorney General at that material time, which technically means no one can actually delegate. Therefore if no one delegates, then any act done pursuant to the purported delegation is void, such act includes the charges filed, involving former Speaker and EFCC. It would have been better for EFCC to file their charge(s) or Director of Public Prosecution who are professionally empowered to, since there was no incumbent Attorney General to delegate to a private counsel.
With all these disturbing lacunas in our local laws which is seemingly impending the course of justice in the land, I think it is fair to conclude that the former Attorney General of Nigeria, Mohammed Adoke was spot on at the Senate Ministerial Screening (June 30, 2011) when asked on his assessment of the corruption cases raised against some politically exposed persons. He explained that a number of the cases raised against the individuals were built on sentiments and lacked substance. He said the pursuit of the cases were sometimes diversionary and costly in both time and resources. ''Many high profile corruption cases, including the $180m Halliburton bribe scandal, the alleged N50bn Police Equipment Fund fraud and the N3bn Vaswani Brothers rice importation scandal, failed because of the incompetence of the two anti-graft commissions. More often than not, people are arrested before they are investigated, they are arrested even before there is evidence, they traumatized them and the people are dramatically tried on the pages of newspapers and at the end of the day, when they are unable to prove their case, they end up blaming the courts. Most of our anti-corruption agencies lack the capacity to do thorough investigations. They lack capacity to collate evidences to sustain a charge and secure conviction in court and until we properly reform these agencies, we will continue to experience the problems we are experiencing today.''
Retrospectively, Hon Dimeji Bankole’s ugly episode started sometime in June 2010, when there was unhealthy and over publicised rumble in the Lower House, he literally got it wrong with the former Chairman of House Committee on Information and National Orientation, Dino Melaye. In an intriguing format, the former Speaker, Dimeji Bankole was given an ultimatum to resign or be forced to quit, by a group headed by Melaye and his “progressive” group who only constitute minority in the House. Melaye was also reported to have promised to make the House ‘‘ungovernable’’ if Bankole failed to resign voluntarily. Unfortunately for Melaye and his group their threat did not stand as Bankole survived the fiery storm. Instead it was Melaye and his colleagues in the agitation that ended up being suspended from the House. During those dark days, many rumours were seemingly flying in the air. Some unconfirmed reports even have it that part of the strategies used by Bankole was to outsmart his accusers and survive the onslaught against him, was to play somewhat ‘‘religion card’’. At that occasion he had claimed that Melaye and his friends (who had majority Christian membership) were on a mission of bequeathing to the country a lopsided leadership in favour of Christians. Few weeks to the last general elections, Bankole once again proved that his staying in power was not a fluke when he survived factions of his party in his native Ogun State, and the removal of his name from the party’s list of candidates submitted to the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC). It was later restored as he was permitted to run for a second term. However, he eventually lost the election to Action Congress of Nigeria’s (ACN) candidate Olusegun Williams.
Corruption has ravaged Nigeria, whenever I think of what has become of my country I feel a deep pain in my heart, this is sad, and frightening. I do not know how to explain what has brought Nigeria to its current state, but it saddens me to know that my country is full of: Leaders who lack decency, leaders without shame, and above all, leaders without honour. When a man loses his love for his fellow countrymen, he has lost everything. Corruption has become a culture in Nigeria; children are born and raised in a system that strips them of the ability to feel shame. I believe that in a very short time, corruption will lose its grip on Nigeria since decent Nigerians are in the majority. My only hope is that the world will join in the fight and not let down those who choose to spearhead the fight against injustice, lawlessness, corruption, to mention but a few . God bless Nigeria.
Emmanuel Ajibulu is a social commentator and media expert residing in FCT, Abuja, Nigeria. [email protected]