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N984M CONTRACT SCAM: BANKOLE HAS CASE TO ANSWER -COURT

By NBF News
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A Federal High Court, Abuja has ruled that embattled former Speaker of the House of Representatives, Dimeji Bankole has a case to answer. He must therefore face trial over the allegations bordering on alleged inflation of contracts involving the sum of N984 million, the court declared. Besides, the court dismissed Bankole's objection against the prosecutorial powers of Mr. Festus Keyamo as baseless in law.

The former Speaker had through his counsel; Adegboyega Awomolo [SAN] challenged the competence and prosecutorial powers of the lawyer to the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission [EFCC], Mr. Festus Keyamo to prosecute him on the 16-count charges.

Consequently, Bankole currently in the custody of the EFCC with his deputy, Usman Bayero Nafada has asked Justice Donatus Okorowo of a Federal High Court to quash the charges against him.

Justice Okorowo in his ruling on the application yesterday agreed with Keyamo that there was a nexus linking the former speaker with the offences brought against him.

He said by the express provisions of section 33 [1] of the Federal High Court Rules, criminal proceedings are summary in nature and does not required a detailed proof of Evidence.

He said 'Criminal proceedings shall be conducted substantially in line with the criminal Procedure Act, therefore criminal trial before this court is by summary trial.

'Where a prosecutor filed a Proof of Evidence that is not in detail, the court cannot quash a charge against an accused person because he is not bound by it. So the insufficiency of a Proof of Evidence is immaterial at this stage,' he stated.

'Besides, the court must be cautious not to get into the merit of the case at this stage, but to look whether there is a nexus between the accused and the offence.

'I'm convinced with the position of the prosecutor that there is a link between the accused and the offence in which case, the trial has to proceed to trial.'

On whether Keyamo lacked the competence to exercise prosecutorial powers of the Attorney-General of the Federation because as at the time of filing the charges, there was no Attorney General of the Federation to give him the fiat to prosecute, the court held that the office of the AGF is a legal entity.

'The office of the AGF is a legal person. The holder of the office leaves at the expiration of his tenure, but the office remains valid therefore, the charge filed by Keyamo in the absence of Mr. Muhammed Bello Adoke is valid.'

On the issue of bias on the part of Keyamo, Justice Okorowo held that 'the bias of the prosecution will not affect the decision of the court as the court will look into the evidence placed before arriving at its decision.'

He said provisions of the Public Procurement Acts the office of the Speaker of the House of Representatives is liable to any acts an omission done pursuant to the provisions of the Public Procurement Act, 2007.

In addition, the court agreed with Keyamo that under the provisions of section 7 of the Criminal Procedure Act [CPC] any person suspected to aid and abate the commission of a crime is liable to the ofence.

'On the whole, the objection of the accused person has failed and prosecution should proceed with trial.'

The matter was accordingly adjourned to February 7 and 8, 2012 for hearing.

In asking the court to quash the charges against him, Bankole had argued that he was not a person answerable to any acts or omission done pursuant to the provisions of the Public Procurement Act, 2007, the law he was accused to have contravened.

In addition, he contended that the office of speaker of the House Representatives which he occupied between the years 2007 and 2011 is not cognizable for the purpose of criminal responsibility or liability within the scope and intendment of the Public Procurement Act, 2007.

Attacking the Proof of Evidence, Bankole said that the document did not link him with the items allegedly procured in contravention of the Public Procurement Act.

He argued that he was never by law or in practice, a staff of the National Assembly under section 9 of the National Assembly Service Commission Act or in the Public Service of the Federation under the Act.

He further stated that he was neither the accounting officer nor the procurement officer and wondered why he would be accused of inflating contract sums.

The former Speaker described as dubious some counts charges which alleged conspiracy between him and 'others mow at large' because none of the persons who constituted the 'Body of Principal Officers of the House of Representatives' was at large.

Bankole said that he was not likely to have a fair trial because he had been vilified, demonized and condemned unfairly in the public domain.