By Ikechukwu Nnochiri
ABUJA — EMBATTLED former Speaker of the House of Representatives, Dimeji Bankole, yesterday, challenged the entire 16-count criminal charge preferred against him by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, insisting that they were baseless and dubious.
Bankole maintained that none of the proofs of evidence tendered against him before the Federal High Court in Abuja connected him with any of the items that the EFCC said he procured in contravention of the Public Procurement Act.
The former Speaker through his lead counsel, Chief Adegboyega Awomolo, SAN, therefore, urged trial Justice Donatus Okorowo to quash the entire charge against him on the basis of six legal grounds he raised in his motion paper.
He challenged the legal propriety of the criminal action instituted against him by the anti-graft agency on the premise that the prosecuting counsel, Mr. Festus Keyamo, was bereft of the mandate to exercise prosecutional powers of the Attorney-General of the Federation, contending that at the time the case was filed against him, there was no substantive AGF on seat to issue a fiat for his prosecution.
Vacation of office of AGF
Bankole said: “The last AGF was Mohammed Bello Adoke, SAN, who officially vacated the office on the dissolution of the Federal Executive Council on May 28, 2011,” stressing that the 16-count charge was entered against him on June 7, when no AGF was in office.
He maintained that throughout his tenure as Speaker of the sixth session of the House of Representatives, he never engaged in any action pursuant to provisions of the Public Procurement Act, 2007, as alleged by the anti-graft agency.
Bankole insisted that the office of Speaker of the House Representatives which he occupied between 2007 and 2011 was not cognizable for the purpose of criminal responsibility or liability within the scope and intendment of the Public Procurement Act, 2007.
The accused/applicant 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 prayed the trial court to take cognizance of the fact that he was neither the accounting officer nor the procurement officer of the House of Representatives, just as he wondered why he would be accused of inflating contract sums to the tune of N894 million.
Body of principal officers
Bankole who termed some of the allegations against him as dubious, described the alleged conspiracy between him and ‘other persons now at large’, as ridiculous since none of the persons who he said constituted the ‘Body of Principal Officers of the House of Representatives’ has ever been at large.
The accused person equally told the court, yesterday, that he was not likely to have a fair trial on the matter considering that he has been vilified, demonized and condemned unfairly in the public domain by the anti-graft agency.
The High Court had, Monday, granted bail to the former Speaker in the sum of N5m, even as he was ordered to provide a responsible surety in like sum.
He was re-arrested and subsequently re-arraigned alongside his erstwhile deputy, Alhaji Usman Bayero, over a fresh 17_count criminal charge bothering on an alleged N40billion loan scam.
They were specifically accused of breaching public trust by agreeing to approve the allowances and ‘running costs’ of members of the sixth session of 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 as well as 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.
EFCC 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 accounts to obtain a loans totalling about N40 billion.
Sequel to an objection that was raised against an oral bail request that was made by their counsel, trial Justice Suleiman Belgore ordered them remanded in the custody of the EFCC till tomorrow when their formal bail application will be argued.