By Ikechukwu Nnochiri
ABUJA — Former Speaker of the House of Representatives, Mr Dimeji Bankole, and his erstwhile deputy, Mr Usman Bayero Nafada, will on December 14, open their defence against the 17-count charge preferred against them by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC.
The duo are facing trial over allegation that they approved the allowances and “running costs” of members of the 6th session of House of Representatives, in violation of the approved remuneration package for political, public and judicial office holders as prescribed by the Revenue Mobilization, Allocation and Fiscal Commission, RMAFC, and the extant Revised Financial Regulations of the Federal Government of Nigeria, 2009.
Justice Suleiman Belgore, yesterday, ordered them to adduce their defence against the allegation, shortly after the anti-graft agency called its last batch of witnesses against them.
Among those that testified in court were the Clerk of the National Assembly, Alhaji Salisu Abubakar Maikasuwa, principal administrative officer with the Federal Ministry of Finance, Mr. Franklyn Onyesagbe and a Deputy Superintendent of Police on secondment to the EFCC, Mr. Rasheed Abdullahi.
In his evidence in chief, Maikasuwa told the court that in Bankole’s capacity as the then Speaker of the House of Rep, he held sway as the custodian and authorizing officer of the accounts of the lower chamber of the legislative house.
According to him, “My Lord, there are three custodians of the accounts of the National Assembly. The Senate President is the authorizing officer/custodian of Senate account, Speaker of the House of Representatives is the authorizing officer/custodian of the account of the House, while I act as the authorizing officer/custodian of the Management account.”
On the role he played with regards to the said controversial loan, the Clerk told the court, “I endorsed memo for the said loans in compliance with the resolution of the House which is binding on all principal authorities.”
Meanwhile, counsel to the two accused persons, while describing the trial as mere persecution, said they would make a “no case submission” on the next adjourned date.
EFCC had in a 17-count criminal charge it preferred against them, alleged that the accused persons, being entrusted with House of Representatives’ Account No.00390070000018 with the United Bank of Africa, Plc and the Overhead Account of the House of Representatives with First Bank of Nigeria, Plc, properties of the Federal Government of Nigeria, dishonestly used the said accounts to obtain loans totalling to about N40 billion.