N38bn Scam: EFCC Insists On Bankole's Trial
ABUJA, July 19, (THEWILL) - A fresh attempt to scuttle the on-going trial of a former Speaker of the House of Representatives , Dimeji Bankole was on Tuesday July 19th , 2011 frustrated by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC which insisted that the former number four citizen must allow his trial to continue unfettered, if he was sure of his innocence.
The EFCC, in a counter application, filed through its prosecution counsel, Festus Keyamo dismissed the latest application, filed by Bankole’s counsel, Adegboyega Awomolo, SAN seeking the withdrawal of Keyamo’s representation in the matter as a cheap ploy to delay or stall trial. Bankole had before now written several applications seeking to quash the case against him on the basis that the EFCC does not have the right to prosecute him. He had also questioned the linkage of the crime to himself among other things.
Awomolo had also in his application which was filed and served the prosecution on Monday night questioned the credibility and neutrality of Keyamo in the matter having accused the former speaker on the same issue before the National Assembly. He contended that Keyamo had taken the case personally, had been biased and hence is not qualified to prosecute the case.
The defence counsel further stressed that the recent Federal government gazette on the operation of EFCC released by the Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Muhammed Bello Adoke has not empowered Keyamo to take up the case on behalf of EFCC. Reacting to the development, Festus Keyamo insisted that as a citizen of Nigeria, he has every right to accuse and in fact prosecute anyone he feels has pilfered the commonwealth of the Nigerian people.
He disagreed with the defence counsel that he was biased and had taken Bankole’s case personally saying that he had nothing to gain personally from the prosecution of the former speaker other than that justice is done to check the impunity of corrupt elements in power who consider it their preserve to feed fat on the wealth of the country leaving others to wallow in abject poverty. On the excuse that Keyamo had earlier taken up Bankole on the same issue of taking illegal loan while holding sway as the Speaker of the House of Representatives, he replied that he “never at anytime written any petition or done anything personally in relation to this charge which has to do with the obtaining of illegal loans by the House of Representatives.”
He also submitted that accepting the prayers of Bankole against Keyamo would mean that “the court will always embark on a voyage of pampering an accused person until he chooses a prosecutor with whom he feels comfortable. The point we are making is that the fact that a prosecutor has, at one time or the other in life, crossed the path of an accused person in other spheres of human endeavour and questioned his integrity in those other endeavours, he is not precluded forever from prosecuting him in respect of other issues”.
Besides, he stressed that in prosecuting accused persons, a private prosecutor acts in the stead of the Attorney-General or the prosecutorial agency that briefs him and exercises all their statutory powers in that regard. So whatever disqualifies the private legal practitioner must also disqualify his principal.
Keyamo recalled that the late legal luminary, Gani Fawehinmi was also accused of being both an accuser and prosecutor in a case instituted against the former Director of Military Intelligence, Halilu Akilu but was later vindicated by a Supreme Court ruling which gave him an order to prosecute the accused person. “Besides, there is no case that a prosecution have interest in which anyone can interpret as bias, the prosecution’s ‘bias’ if there is any, is to proof that an accused person committed the crime in which he is being accused of.” Keyamo, therefore, stressed that it is “totally fallacious for anyone to propose to a court of law that our laws forbid anyone who has shown more than a passing interest in a case or who has shown some bias towards the guilt of an accused person from handling that case or prosecuting the accused person. The final decision as to whether there is a good case or not against the accused person is reserved for the court to make.”
In another development, Awomolo filed an application seeking for the release of the second accused person, Usman Nafada’s international passport to enable him travel for lesser Hajj and attend to his health challenges. The presiding judge, Justice Suleiman Belgore who assured that the ten applications have been consolidated has reserved Monday July 25th, 2011 for ruling on them.
Bankole and his former deputy, Usman Nafada were on Monday, June 13th 2011, arraigned at the High Court of the Federal Capital Territory, FCT, on a 17 count charge of criminal breach of trust, misappropriation and theft. They were arraigned before Justice Suleiman Belgore. They were alleged to have obtained and dishonestly disbursed N37.7 billion without the authorization and consent of the Revenue Mobilization, Allocation and Fiscal Commission when Bankole and Nafada were Speaker and Deputy Speaker of the House of Representatives.
Count one reads, “That you Dimeji Sabur Bankole and Usman Bayero Nafada, being Principal Officers of the House of Representatives of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, on or about the 12th day of May, 2010, in Abuja, within the jurisdiction of the High Court of the Federal Capital Territory, did agree amongst yourselves to commit a felony, to wit: criminal breach of trust by agreeing to approve the allowances and/or “running costs” of Members of the House of Representatives in violation of the approved Remuneration Package for Political, Public and Judicial Office Holders by the Revenue Mobilization Allocation and Fiscal Commission and the extant Revised Financial Regulations of the Federal Government of Nigeria, 2009 and thereby committed an offence contrary to Section 97(1) of the Penal Code Act, Cap 532, Laws of the Federation of Nigeria (Abuja) 1990 and punishable under Section 315 of the same Penal Code Act.
Count two reads, “That you Dimeji Sabur Bankole and Usman Bayero Nafada, being Principal Officers of the House of Representatives of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, sometime around January 2011, in Abuja, within the jurisdiction of the High Court of the Federal Capital Territory, being entrusted with House of Representatives’ Account No. 00390070000018 with the United Bank of Africa, Plc, property of the Federal Government of Nigeria, dishonestly used that account to obtain a loan of Ten Billion, Three Hundred and Eighty Million Naira (N10,380,000,000.00) from the United Bank of Africa, Plc, to augment allowances and “running costs” of members of the House of Representatives in violation of the extant Revised Financial Regulations of the Federal Government of Nigeria, 2009 and thereby committed an offence contrary to Section 311 of the Penal Code Act, Cap 532, Laws of the Federation of Nigeria (Abuja) 1990 and punishable under Section 315 of the same Penal Code Act.”