Bankole faces 16-count charge, to be arraigned today
A sixteen-count charge of fraud and other corrupt practices has been filed against the former Speaker of the House of Representatives, Dimeji Bankole, by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).
The suit was filed yesterday at the Federal High Court, Abuja, where the commission accused Bankole and others said to be at large of offences of contract inflation put at N894 million.
Bankole will be arraigned at 9.00 a.m. before Justice Donatus Okorowa of the Federal High Court 7, Abuja.
Besides the current charges, the commission plans to bring additional ones against him soon.
The planned charges will cover the N10 billion loan crisis that led to his arrest last Sunday.
The EFCC’s spokesman, Femi Babafemi, in a press statement yesterday explained that Bankole was charged to court to avoid keeping him in detention beyond the time allowed by law.
“More charges will be filed in the coming days when investigation would have been concluded on other fraud allegations against Bankole. The EFCC awaits a date from the court when he will be taken from custody to the dock for arraignment,” he stated.
In the charge cited as FHC/ABJ/CR/47/11, filed by EFCC counsel, Festus Keyamo, on behalf of the Attorney-General of the Federation, Bankole allegedly committed a plethora of financial impropriety and misconduct, ranging from fraudulent purchase of units of Range Rover and Mercedes Benz cars, computer units, scanners to other accessories.
In all the transactions executed in 2008, Bankole and his collaborators failed to comply with the provisions of the Public Procurement Act of 2007.
The agency alleged that on May 28, 2008, Bankole and others now at large, who are principal officers of the House in charge of contract approval, with intent to defraud, “did conspire amongst yourselves to inflate the cost of 400 units of 40-inch Samsung (LNS.3410 television sets) by approving the purchase of the said items at the rate of N525,000 per unit, instead of the prevailing market price of N295, 000 and thereby committed an offence 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.
It also claimed that Bankole and others, during the same period with intent to defraud, rigged the bid for the purchase of 100 units of Sharp Digital Copier 5316, refused 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 Act, No.14 of 2007 and punishable under Section 58 (5) of the same law.
The EFCC further said that Bankole and others now at large, on or about May 28, 2008 as principal officers approved contracts in the House, with intent to defraud, rigged the bid for the purchase of three units of Mercedes Benz S-600 cars by refusing to follow all the procedures prescribed for public procurements in Sections 17 to 56 of the Public Procurement Act of 2007. The action, the commission said, led to a loss of value to the national treasury, which is also an offence under Section 58 (4) (e) of the same law.
Bankole was arrested at 8.00 p.m. last Sunday in his Asokoro, Abuja residence by EFCC operatives after putting up a four-hour resistance.
His arrest was sequel to an intelligence report that he was orchestrating an escape plot out of the country after two invitations extended to him by the anti-graft body were turned down.
Bankole’s arrest was without prejudice to his promise to report to the EFCC office in Abuja last Monday at 2.00 p.m.
Meanwhile, Bankole’s aide, Mr. Idowu Bakare, had accused the EFCC of subjecting his boss to “psychological torture,” claiming that it had refused him access to his team of lawyers and family members.
In a statement, Bakare said “this is against his fundamental and constitutional rights to have access to his lawyers and close family members while in custody of the EFCC.”
Bakare said information available to him indicates that pressure was mounted on Bankole throughout Sunday night to implicate some members of the House.
He decried the manner the EFCC handled his boss’ invitation, alleging that he was given a media trial and prosecution with the commission feeding the public with such fiction of the former Speaker resisting arrest, under house arrest and attempting to flee the country. Bakare said as the No. 4 citizen of Nigeria then, it shows that the agency is engaged in political witch-hunting and vendetta against him.
“So far, the ant-graft agency even without concluding its investigation has portrayed Bankole as guilty from its utterances and selective persecution and is refusing to charge him to court to decide on the case as stipulated by the law within a time limit.
“We understand that not making headway with Bankole, the EFCC has perfected plans to start harassing members of his family starting with his immediate family. As reported in the media yesterday, the EFCC went to search his house where his wife and two children were domiciled and harassed the wife, a trend that is now common with EFCC. We believe that the agency should have isolated the wife from such treatment of a man who is still presumed innocent,” he said.
His intention to hand over on Monday was a mere ceremonial test which is neither grounded in law nor in the constitution. That was why the swearing in of the new Speaker and his deputy went on without him. “