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Alleged N40bn scam: Court frees Bankole, Nafada •We’ll decide on judgment soon –EFCC

AN Abuja High Court, on Tuesday, freed the former speaker of the House of Representatives, Dimeji Bankole and his deputy, Usman Bayero Nafada, saying that the duo have no case to answer in respect of the 17-count charge of conspiracy and criminal breach of trust preferred against them by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).

In a ruling which lasted about three hours, the trial judge, Justice Suleiman Belgore, held that, there was no contravention of known financial regulations by the former leaders of the House to warrant their being put to trial, even as he stated that the two accused persons could not be vicariously liable, in criminal law, for the action that was taken by the whole House.

Bankole and Nafada had been standing trial sove N40 billion corruption charges preferred against them by the (EFCC).

On the argument by the prosecuting counsel, Festus Keyamo, to the effect that the leadership of the House did not seek approval from the president to source for loans to pay members’ enhanced running cost, which was increased from N27 million per member per quarter to N42 million, the court held that “the House of Representatives does not need approval from the president to increase its running cost and also source for loans from a bank, as it is an independent arm of government, which is not in the category of Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs).”

“The two accused persons did not move any money with the intention of dishonestly taking it. How can borrowed money now somersault to a property that was dishonestly taken for personal use?”

The court further disagreed with the anti-graft agency that by not seeking the approval of the Revenue Mobilisation Allocation and Fiscal Commission, the accused persons breached the extant provisions of the Commission’s Act when it asked: “Is the Revenue Mobilisation Allocation and Fiscal Commission the owner of the money as to make their consent relevant? How can it be relevant that money approved by members need to get the approval of RMAFC before it is disbursed?

“There is, therefore, no evidence that the accused persons moved the money or gave such orders for the movement of the money, as no evidence of taking of any property dishonestly has been established. The accused persons were not among the beneficiaries of the loans, if anything, their running costs were drastically reduced.”
The court also held that the functions of the accused persons, in their capacities as Speaker and Deputy Speaker respectively, did not include any dealings with the funds of the House. Rather, their functions were “purely legislative in nature.”

The court also held that contrary to EFCC’s allegation that, the leadership of the House obtained a loan facility of N40 billion from FirstBank Plc. and United Bank of Nigeria (UBA) Plc., the actual amount of loans taken and rolled over thrice is put at N25 billion only, just as it accused members of the House of being ‘insensitive’ to the plight of those who elected them, as exemplified in the mindless increment in their running costs.

Justice Belgore held that “There was no contravention of any financial regulations by the two accused persons and no prima facie case has been established against them. I find considerable merit in this ‘no case submission’ by the defence.”

Meanwhile, the EFCC reacting to the judgement, said it would decide its next line of action after studying the Certified Copy of the judgement.

The statement issued by the commission’s spokesperson, Wilson Uwujaren, read: “The attention of the commission has been drawn to reports of the discharge of the former Speaker of the House of Representatives, Mr Dimeji Bankole and his erstwhile deputy, Mr Usman Nafada, by Justice Suleiman Belgore of the FCT High Court Abuja.

“The commission wishes to state that it does not yet have the Certified True Copy of the referenced judgment
“The Commission will decide the next line of action only after receiving and studying the Certified Copy of the said judgment.”

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