EFCC Quizzes Nafada, 5 others. Bankole To Remain In Custody

EFCC’s Head of Media and Publicity, Mr. Femi Babafemi, who confirmed the “arrest” through an SMS to our correspondent in Abuja, said the former principal officers of the House of Representatives would likely get bail at the end of their interrogation.

Babafemi said: “The following principal officers of the sixth House of Representatives were invited to make statements over some of the allegations levelled against ex_Speaker, Bankole. They are former Deputy Speaker, Usman Nafada, Baba Shehu Agaie, Sulaiman Kawu, Bello Mohammed, Tunde Akogun and Sen. Ali Ndume. They are likely to be granted bail after their interrogation later today.”

The Federal High Court sitting in Abuja, yesterday, ordered the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, to keep the former Speaker of the House of Representatives, Dimeji Bankole, under its custody till Friday when his bail request will be considered.

Justice Donatus Okorowo made the order shortly after the embattled former Speaker pleaded not guilty to the entire 16-count criminal charge preferred against him by the anti-graft agency.

Vanguard noted that frantic effort by his team of lawyers led by Chief Adegboyega Awomolo, SAN, to secure his immediate release from EFCC custody, yesterday, proved abortive.

Prosecuting counsel, Mr. Festus Keyamo, who opposed the move, informed the court that the commission ab-initio uncovered subterranean moves by the accused person to flee the country.

Keyamo who equally faulted the bail request on the premise that it was tendered orally, urged the court to allow the former Speaker to remain with the anti-graft agency, saying he still had questions to answer in relation to other allegations against him.

Judicial notice of  treatment

Earlier, Chief Awomolo who led three other Senior Advocates of Nigeria that represented Bankole, pleaded the trial court to take judicial notice of ‘inhumane’ treatments he said was meted to the accused person from the point of his arrest to his subsequent arraignment, insisting that his client, being a law abiding citizen, resolved to go ahead and “take plea of protest.”

Awomolo said: “My lord, we consider it appropriate to bring to your notice the manner EFCC operatives arrested him in his house around 8.00 pm on Sunday, June 5. He was not only manhandled, he was arrested in the full glare of pre_arranged cameramen that were engaged by the prosecution.

“My lord this is condemnable and we consider the hurried charge that was filed against him before this court highly unconstitutional. However, we will address that issue at the appropriate time.”

Refuting the allegations, counsel to the EFCC, Mr. Keyamo, maintained that the ex-Speaker was arrested in accordance with the due process of the law.

Keyamo told the court that the agency got an intelligence report that the accused person had concluded plans to abscond the country the next day, a situation he said informed EFCC’s decision to effect his arrest on Sunday night.

He said: “My lord it is not true that he was manhandled by EFCC operatives. We only took him into custody in order to forestall any attempt to thwart the course of justice; he was not handcuffed or pushed in the same manner the former IMF boss was arrested.”

Order to remain in custody

After listening to the parties regarding the propriety of releasing the embattled ex_Speaker on bail, Justice Okorowo, upheld the arguments of the anti_graft body, stressing that he should remain in custody till 12.00 pm Friday, a period within which his formal bail application would have been filed before the court.

The judge said: “I would have loved to take the bail application orally and deliver my ruling today (yesterday), but I cannot force the prosecution to concede to the oral bail application”.

He ordered the defence counsel to ensure that he filed the bail application before the close of work yesterday to enable the prosecution to promptly respond to it.

Before adjourning definite hearing on the substantive suit to July 26 and 27, trial Justice Okorowo warned the EFCC to refrain from issuing disparaging press statements against the accused person, adding that he should be treated as an innocent citizen until he is convicted of any of the criminal charge against him.

Bankole who was ushered into the High Court premises by stern looking security operatives at 8:45 am yesterday, looked unperturbed throughout the proceeding.

His relatives and well wishers besieged the High Court complex which was secured by about 30 heavily armed mobile police men that mounted sentry at various strategic positions within the vicinity.

After moves to secure his release crumbled, the former Speaker who wore a white ‘buba and sokoto’ with a matching cap and black sandals to court, was subsequently whisked away by EFCC operatives in a white coaster bus marked ABUJA_BR_ 739_ BWR.

EFCC had maintained that he connived with other persons at large, to inflate the cost of several contracts awarded by the House in 2008, to the tune of about N894 million, contrary to section 58(4) (a) of the Public Procurement Act No. 14 of 2007 and punishable under section 58(5) of the same Act.

Some of the alleged illicit deals that formed the conduit pipes through which the said monies were pilfered by the accused person, includes the purchase of 400 units of 40_inch Samsung (LNS. 341) television sets, 800 units of Desktop Computers (HP Compaq dc 5700), 100 units of Sharp Digital Copier 5316, 400 units of HP LaserJet 2600N,  among others.

The EFCC further alleged that he rigged the bid for the purchase of 3 units of Mercedes Benz S_600 cars, 2 units of Range Rover vehicles (without bullet proofs) and 400 units of DSTV systems, by refusing to follow all the procedures prescribed for public procurements in Sections 17 to 56 of the Public Procurement Act No.14 of 2007, leading to a loss of value to the national treasury and thereby committed an offence contrary to Section 58(4)(e) of the Public Procurement Act, No.14 of 2007 and punishable under Section 58(5) of the same Act.

Fundamental human rights

The embattled Speaker had earlier approached the Federal High Court with an application seeking an enforcement of his fundamental human right. He is specifically praying the court to issue “a declaration that the detention of the applicant without trial is illegal and unconstitutional as it offends the applicant’s right to free movement and personal liberty as guaranteed by section 41 and 35 of the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999.”

He is also asking for an order directing the EFCC to release him, even as he sought for damages in the sum of N20 million, contending that it was loss he has suffered due to his unlawful and unconstitutional detention.

SOURCE: VANGUARD

5 COMMENTS

  1. Well done and congrats to the EFCC .. they should not go unpunished .. Nigerian people applauds the corrupt government officials and they should be stripped of all assets and remain in jail before and during there trial. They use the name of God as inferiority scenario to unjustly do harm against the Nigerian people and that should take notice and does warrant there dire punishment. They should NOT be granted bail or release.

  2. Politics of Bankole’s Travails
    Everything about former Speaker, House of Representatives, Mr. Dimeji Bankole, was disharmonious with his public image last Sunday night. The black T-shirt he wore on top of light brown chinos was a sharp contrast to the all white kaftans and matching trousers he is renowned for wearing. His dressing was also symbolic of the dark cloud that hung over his fate
    As the camera beamed its light on him as he was entering the office of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission after his arrest, Bankole looked somber.
    The Road to Golgotha
    For about two weeks, Bankole had been in the news for all the wrong reasons. Although there had been many accusations leveled against the House leadership, none had gripped public attention as that on the borrowing of N10 billion loan from the United Bank of African Plc to finance the jerking up of the law-makers running cost.
    Bankole denied taking a unilateral decision in taking the loan, saying it was a collective decision and he and his deputy did not benefit from.
    According to a statement on the day of Bankole’s arrest by his Chief Press Secretary, Mr. Idowu bakare, the lawmakers’ had last year approved for themselves a higher running cost regime that the house lacked the cash to back. As a way out of the financial quandary, the house at an executive session on March 30, 2010 had approved the loan to foot the new quarterly allowances due to each member.
    Bankole and his deputy, Hon. Usman Nafada, however, did not benefit from the increment. Their quarterly allowances remained N100 million and 80 million.
    “Before the increment, quarterly allowances to the office of the speakers was N100 million while his deputy received N80 million. The loan in question was distributed among other principal officers and the remaining members of the house, “the statement added.
    Under the new regime, the allowances of the lawmakers rose by N14 million each. The deputy leader’s allowances rose to N57 million from N43 million and the chief whip’s became N55 million instead of N41 million. The deputy whip got N54.5 million instead of N40.5 million and the minority whip’s allowances jumped to N50 million from N36b million. The allowances of the other lawmakers, irrespective of party affiliation, rose to N42 million instead of N28 million.
    According to Bankole’s explanation, the total for the first quarter was N5.012 billion and for the two quarters which the loan was supposed to cover, it totaled N10.024 billion plus interest.

    Hide and Seek
    For two weeks, Bankole played hide and seek with the EFCC over an invitation that he should appear before the commission to answer allegations of misconduct on the loan deal. EFFCC in its first letter dated May 24, addressed to the clerk of the House of Representatives, summoned the former speakers to clarify issues pertaining to the N10 billion loan transactions. In a reply dated same day, the former speaker sought a few days grace to honour the invitation so that he could attend to what he described as “urgent state assignment.”
    When he failed to honour the invitation on the rescheduled date, the EFCC, in another letter dated May 27 and addressed directly to him, demanded Bankole’s appearance.
    However, Bankole, in a reply dated May 30, gave an undertaking to honour the commission’s invitation as soon as he was done with handling over formalities to his successor whose election was slated for last Monday. Three days to the election of the new speaker, the EFCC struck. The commission’s operatives in an early morning raid laid a siege to Bankole’s official home to arrest him. It said it was acting on intelligence reports that the former speaker did not intend to honour the invitation and had allegedly concluded plans to flee the country. The EFCC reportedly lifted the siege following “orders from above”. Bankole restated his commitment to appear before the commission last Monday when he should have been through with his national assignment.
    Another Pre-Emptive Strike
    Bankole never had the opportunity to hand over to his successor, HON. Aminu Tambuwal, who was the deputy chief whip under the old order. The EFCC arrested him last Sunday night and took him into custody. The commission said it did not wait until June 6 date that Bankole had promised to appear before it because intelligent reports showed that he was planning to flee the country to evade questioning.
    The manner of Bankole‘s arrest last Sunday had fuelled speculation that there was an underlying political motive to his travails. The former speaker’s aides have been strident in their assertions that EFFC was being used to hound their principal because he was opposed to the emergence of Peoples Democratic party anointed candidate, Hon. Mulikat Adeola-Akande as his successor. His preferred choice was Tambuwal. According to so sources, Bankole, after he lost his return bid to the house had decided on Tambuwal succeeding him before the PDP zoned the position to the south-west
    Twist and Turns
    Contrary to the expectations of the public, the issue of the N10 billion loans did not features in the 16-count charge that the EFCC, through its lawyer, Mr. Festus Keyamo, slammed on Bankole when he was arraigned last Wednesday before Justice Donatus Okorowa. Rather, the EFCC accused the former speaker and other principal officers of the House of hiking the cost of television sets, desktop computers, photocopier machines, and rigging the process for purchase of three Mercedes Benz cars by the House in 2008. He pleaded not guilty to the 16-count charge. However, it was gathered that the charged was just temporary to secure a legal cover for the EFCC to enable it to keep the former speaker in custody when he would be arraigned on proper charges.
    According to sources, Bankole had instructed his lawyers to file a suit for an order of the court to enforce his fundamental human rights. However, EFCC reported got wind of the suit and peremptorily arraigned him before the same court where the former speaker had gone to seek for relief. Bankole, in the suit, is urging the court to order his release pending the hearing and determination of the suit.
    His handlers accused the EFCC’s lawyer, Mr. Festus Keyamo of arraigning the speakers based on old allegations of impropriety in the awards of contracts.
    Bankole’s Special Adviser on public Communication, Chief Kayode Odunaro, said:”it’s for this reason that Mr. Keyamo immediately rushed to the same Federal High court in Abuja to file a 16-count charge on Tuesday, June 7, one day after Bankole’s suit. The charges filled by Keyamo contained nothing about the allegation of N10 billion bank loan which supposedly formed the basis of the arrest and detention of Bankole. All items on the charge sheet were mainly from old allegation of convoy cars and office equipment purchase, which is an indication that he will be facing other charges in the future.”
    Whodunit
    If Bankole is allegedly being hounded because of his perceived opposition to the PDP official candidate, then who is behind his travails? To the EFCC, this allegation beggars belief. Its chairman, Mrs. Farida Waziri, said this much last Wednesday during her interaction with members of the National assembly. She told the law-makers that she had never been told to probe or not probes any politically exposed Person.
    However, the conspiracy theory is very strong in the lawmakers’ camp.
    Investigations by THISDAY showed that at the roots of Bankole’s travail is his perceived reluctance to assist the party in ensuring that Adeola – Akande emerged as his successor. Sources said Bankole backed Tambuwal because he was a high ranked legislature compared to the two persons Hon. Muraina Ajibola and Akande – Adeola – that the PDP had tipped for the speakership in line with the zoning policy.
    One of the sources said that the party had pressurized to maintain the voting system of the House to make it easier for party officials to monitor compliance with the PDP directives. “What the party forgot was that the former speaker could not do this alone. He had tried to do so but it was difficult for him. What, however, decided the vote in favor of the open secret ballot was that the House could not capture new lawmakers in electronic voting system until it held its valedictory session”, a source said.
    The source absolved the presidency of any complicity in the Bankole case and blamed party officials for instigating the arrest of the former speaker. He said the party had expected the former speaker to rein Tambuwal and his deputy, Hon. Emeka Ihedioha, when they had started showing interests in the offices.
    “Having realized that there was no way to make Bankole influence the choice of his successor, the game plan changed to using allegations of the N10 billion to get at the House leadership. The strategy was based on the fact that if Bankole is arrested, he would be under so much pressure to make a statement and there was no way he could do it that without bringing the House leadership into it since the decision to take the loan was taken at extend the probe to other members of the House leadership, including Tambuwal, who was deputy chief whip and Ihedioha, who was the chief whip.
    “The plan was to arrest Tambuwal and Ihedioha so that they would not present themselves for nomination. But the plan leaked. That was why Tambuwal and Ihedioha had to remain incommunicado until Monday. In fact, Tambuwal stayed put in the premises of the National Assembly during the period because under parliamentary immunity, lawmakers cannot be arrested for anything done during session or within the precinct of the National Assembly. Only few trusted people knew where he was hiding.
    “Bankole, on his part, refused to make any statement to the EFCC until Monday when the duo had emerged speaker and deputy speaker,” the source added.
    Disparity Treatment
    A source wondered what the furore was about over the N10 billion loans, adding that the senate had once taken a similar loan and there was no investigation into the transaction.
    “I think the public should ask the right question about this transaction. Was it a crime to take loan? If it was, then, it should be infraction of the constitution. That is not within the purview of the EFCC. When the senate bought Toyota Camry cars for its member for the about N10 million per unit, nobody raised any eye-brow. However, when the House bought Peugeot cars, an offence was committed.
    So you can see that this was not about probity but politics. Nobody is focusing on the senate because there was stability there since the president, David Mark, won his re-election bid and everybody backed him to retain the position. The same thing would have happened in the House if Bankole had not lost his re-election bid”, the source said