By IKECHUKWU NNOCHIRI
ABUJA—A Federal High Court sitting in Abuja, yesterday, fixed February 9, to commence hearing on a suit asking it to invoke its jurisdiction and issue an order of mandamus, compelling the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission, ICPC, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC and the Inspector General of Police, IGP, to forthwith, commence legal proceedings against the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Dimeji Bankole and his Deputy, Usman Nafada, over an alleged role they played in the N2.3 billion car scam.
The plaintiff, who is an Abuja-based legal practitioner, Chief Nkereuwem Udofia Akpan, is contending that the refusal and or reluctance by all the anti-graft agencies in the country, as well as the Attorney General of the Federation, AGF, to investigate the alleged fraud and prosecute those behind it amounted to gross illegality and irresponsibility.
He also sought a declaration that there was nothing in the EFCC Act 2004 that required the agency to submit report of preliminary investigations it hitherto conducted into the matter to the presidency for prosecution “approval”.
He is praying the high court to make 13 separate declarations, among which are, “a declaration that the purchase of cars from Peugeot Automobile of Nigeria, PAN, by the Speaker and the House of Representatives, to the tune of N2, 359,486,500, was riddled with corruption and unbridled gratification and that same was done without lawful authority, illegal, void and fraudulent.
“A declaration that the said purchase of cars was not only irresponsible, fraudulent and an abuse of power by the Speaker, but that a whooping N421, 468, 500 of tax payers money is missing and unaccounted for under the speaker.
“A declaration that out of the contract sum,N117, 974,325, was paid as VAT and a declaration that the aforesaid sum paid to Federal Inland Revenue Service, FIRS, by the House leadership, was fraudulent and unlawful.”
The plaintiff is further seeking “an order of mandamus directing the EFCC, her agents, assigns and privies to file charges against Bankole without further delay or consultation with any member of the political class”.
He is also seeking “an order of mandamus directing both the speaker, House of Rep and Peugeot Automobile to refund N421, 486,500, being the difference in value from the said transaction, to the coffers of the Federal Government within seven days.”
Listed as defendants in the suit were Bankole as a person, his office, the House of Rep, Peugeot Automobile, ICPC, IGP, AGF, EFCC, FIRS and the deputy speaker, as the 1st to 10th defendants respectively.
Meanwhile, the ICPC has filed its statement of defence to the suit, insisting that the plaintiff lacked the locus-standi to seek such compelling orders against it.
According to the process deposed by its petitioner Registrar and Head of Petition Unit, Mr. Folarin Popoola, the agency maintained that the plaintiff had never written any petition to it nor made any complaint against any of the defendants in respect of official corruption.
It added that “the only petition so far written against the 1st defendant and the leadership of the House was written by one Mr. Festus Keyamo, which petition was immediately assigned, two days after it was received, to our Special Investigation Team, SIT, for investigation. Mr Keyamo is not complaining that the petition was not investigated to his satisfaction.”
Contending that the plaintiff failed to disclose a cause of action against it, the ICPC urged the court to dismiss the suit and award substantial cost against the litigant, stressing that the suit was misconceived, incompetent, premature, frivolous, and an abuse of court process.
Beside the ICPC, the Speaker, through his lawyer Mr. Tokunbo Shoremi, yesterday, described the plaintiff as a meddlesome interloper and a professional busy-body seeking cheap popularity.