From the EFCC below –
Justice Okorowa of FHC 7 sitting in Abuja has been transferred to FHC sitting in Taraba. The judge’s absence today stalled the trial of former speaker Dimeji Bankolewho is being tried by the EFCC over a N9 Billion loan Scam. The trial was scheduled for four days (September 24, 25, 26 and 27). EFCC prosecution counsel, Festus Keyamo, says he was waiting to hear from the CJ of the FHC if Justice Okorowa will be coming from Taraba to preside over the trial or if the case will be assigned to another judge. Anyhow it goes, this is part of the problem of corruption trial. It is for this reason that a special court for the trial of corruption cases remains the way out. You may use the details of the case provided below to do your story. Stay blessed my beloved colleagues and do have a fulfilled week ahead.
PRESS RELEASEAS AT DECEMBER 19, 2011,
N9 Billion loan Scam: BANKOLE, LOSES BID TO STOP TRIAL.
A Federal High Court sitting in Abuja on December 19, 2011, dismissed two applications filed by a former Speaker of the House of Representatives, Dimeji Bankole to stop his trial, as the presiding judge, Justice Donatus Okorowa, insisted that there is sufficient evidence placed before the court linking him to the alleged crime. Bankole had lost similar applications at the High Court of the FCT.
Bankole who was arraigned on Wednesday, 08 June 2011, on a 16 criminal count charge of contract inflation and fraudulent embezzlement of public fund, had on June 13 and July 26, 2011, filed two separate motions seeking the court to quash the case against him on the ground that the proof of evidence did not disclose any shred of criminality against him and on another ground that Mr. Keyamo, the EFCC counsel, should be disqualified from prosecuting the case as he has though his previous antecedents, shown that his is biased and impartial towards the accused person.
He had sought the relief of the court to quash the 16th count charge case against him on the ground that the proof of evidence did not disclose any shred of criminality against him. He had also prayed the court to disqualify Festus Keyamo, the EFCC counsel, from prosecuting the case as he argued that he has shown that he is biased and impartial towards him; more so that there was no Attorney General in the office when the charges were filed.
But in his ruling, the judge cited section 4 of the constitution which states that the legislative powers of the House of Representatives shall be vested in the National assembly. He further said that under the Public Procurement Act, PPA, the National Assembly is a contemplation of the Act which makes it culpable. On the question of who should be charged under the act, the Judge pointed out that the PPA had shown in the extended scope of the Act that the National assembly can be charged and it is on record that there is a body of principal officers responsible for awarding contracts. He added that under the Criminal Code, the first accused is liable.
On whether a prima-facie case has been established, Justice Okorowa said there is enough evidence tendered by the prosecution linking the accused and the offences charged against him. He said that the case cannot be struck out because the prosecution filed evidences and that the insufficiency of prove of evidence is immaterial as it is the duty of the court to determine otherwise.
Also speaking on the disqualification of prosecution counsel, Mr. Keyamo from prosecuting the case, the judge said that it is on record that the EFCC blanket permission from the office of the Attorney general, whether or not a substantive minister of Justice and Attorney General of the Federation is on sit. “The office of the Attorney General is a legal creation, and can perform even if a substantive AG is not appointed”, the charges, he therefore said remains valid. Before adjourning the case till February 7 and 8, 2012 for trial, the judge said that the constitution does not question the subjectivity of a prosecutor but it questions the subjectivity of the tribunal or the court. “A prosecutor can be biased in the cause of prosecuting his case; but the biasness of the prosecutor cannot influenced the court as it is the evidence before the court that influences the decision of the court”, he added.
EFCC counsel, Festus Keyamo, had urged the court to dismiss two motions brought by Bankole’s counsel, Adegboyega Awomolo, SAN seeking to quash the charges against him and to disqualify Keyamo from prosecuting the case. Keyamo argued that the former Speaker was in breach of certain Sections of the Procurement Act and stands accused in the 16 count charge over a N9billion loan scam.
While moving his motion, Keyamo pointed out that Sections 57 and 58 of the Procurement Act clearly emphasizes that ‘all other parties’ other than those mentioned such as contractor and procurement officers, can be prosecuted within that provision.
He further argued that parties to the offence can be those that have the authority to stop the commission of a crime as in the case of Bode George and others. “My Lord there is a striking similarity between this case and that of Bode George because the same arguments were made for them stating that they were not procurement officers but board members. Our argument then and even now, is that Section 7 of the criminal Code recognizes other parties who in one way or the other may have aided or abetted a crime.”
He equally noted some loopholes in the defence arguments concerning his disqualification as a prosecutor which he said arises from their inability to support their claim of ‘personal bias ‘from their affidavit. He said that his petition to the national assembly which they cited as a proof of his ‘bias’ was clear on its intention which stated that the former Speaker was not being accused of any financial impropriety but was being asked for explanation to Nigerians on his role in the matter. Keyamo also said that he had written a similar letter to another former Speaker Ghali Na’aba as far back as 2005 seeking an explanation on a national issue which clearly shows that there was no personal interest in the matter,
Keyamo had also stated that the law does not question in explicit language the impartiality of prosecution but that of the tribunal. “The court’s role is to hold the scale. In fact, if a prosecutor does not believe in the guilt of the accused person, there is no need taking the brief. Impartiality in this regard they want to put it means I do not have a mind and this is not correct.” He pointed out that even if they want to ague on partiality or otherwise of the prosecutor, it should not have come now when the accused person has taken his plea.“My lord it is too late in the day to raise this objection because what qualifies the prosecutor to prefer a charge qualifies him also to proceed with the trial why they didn’t raise it before taking of plea or even filing of charge”, he questioned, adding that all the motions by Bankole were subterfuges to truncate the trial.
Awomolo, while making his submissions posited that under Section 58(4a) of the Public Procurement Act, offences can only be committed by specified person namely contractors, suppliers and procurement officers and that his client is none of the aforementioned.
Count one of the 9 count charge against Bankole who was arraigned on Wednesday, June 8th, 2011 reads that “That you, Dimeji Bankole and others now at large on or about 28th of May, 2008, within the jurisdiction of Federal High court, being body of principal officers of the house of representatives for the approval of contracts in the house of representatives, with intent to defraud, did conspire amongst yourselves to inflate the cost of 400 units of 40-inch Samsung [LNS.341] television sets. By approving the purchase of said items at the rate of N525,000 per unit, instead of prevailing market price of N295,000 and thereby committed an offence contrary to Section 58[a] of the public procurement Act No. 14 of 2007 and punishable under Section 58 of the same Act”.