By Ikechukwu Nnochiri
ABUJA — The embattled former Speaker of the House of Representatives, Mr Dimeji Bankole, yesterday, urged an Abuja High Court in Apo, to compel the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, to prosecute the Clerk of the House, Mr Sani Omolori, over the alleged N40 billion loan scam.
Bankole, who made this plea on a day he sought an order to disqualify the EFCC lawyer, Mr. Festus Keyamo, from handling his trial, further prayed presiding Justice Suleiman Belgore to go ahead and quash the entire 17-count criminal charge against him for want of evidence.
The ex-speaker contended that it was due to an “accumulated animosity” the prosecuting counsel, Keyamo, had for him since 2008 that he deliberately dragged only himself and his erstwhile deputy, Usman Bayero Nafada, to court over actions he said were perfected by the clerk and other management staff of the sixth session of the House of Representatives.
The 1st accused persons, therefore, beseeched the trial judge to consider antecedents of the EFCC lawyer and several petitions he raised against him ab-initio and declare him unfit to prosecute the case objectively.
Bankole, who argued through his lead counsel, Chief Adegboyega Awomolo, SAN, insisted that going by the proof of evidence tendered in court by the anti-graft agency, the Clerk, being the chief accounting officer of the House, ought to have been arrested and prosecuted over the alleged breach of sections 111 and 112 of Financial Regulations, 2001, pertaining to the manner the said controversial loan was secured.
On the qualification of Keyamo to prosecute him, Bankole submitted that under section 174 of the 1999 constitution, only the Attorney General of the Federation, AGF, can initiate criminal proceeding against anyone charged with such offence as was levelled at him, noting that the prosecuting counsel, being a private legal practitioner, failed to obtain the requisite fiat before proceeding to court.
In his argument, the 2nd accused person, Nafada, through his counsel, Mr. Tayo Oyetibo, SAN, also challenged the powers of the EFCC counsel to prosecute him over the alleged offence without an express permission from the AGF.
Meantime, Justice Belgore, yesterday, ordered the EFCC to release the international passport of the 2nd accused persons to enable him to travel to Saudi Arabia in August for the lesser Hajj.
He was, however, ordered to hand back the documents to the EFCC before the 3rd week of September, even as the case was adjourned till October 21 for the court to rule on the application seeking to disqualify Keyamo from the matter.
It would be recalled that the accused persons who are facing trial over alleged roles they played in a N40 billion loan scam, had on June 13 pleaded not guilty to a 17-count criminal charge preferred against them.
EFCC specifically alleged that they breached public trust by agreeing to approve 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 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.
The anti-graft commission further 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 loans totaling to about N40 billion.