The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, on Tuesday, November 29th, 2011, rested its submissions against a former Speaker of the House of Representatives, Dimeji Bankole and his deputy, Usman Nafada, who are being prosecuted before a High Court of the Federal Capital Territory, sitting in Abuja.
At the resumed hearing of the case, the EFCC presented three witnesses and one exhibit, bringing to 12 witnesses and 42 exhibits presented before the court. With the conclusion of its submissions against the two accused persons, the EFCC is awaiting the ruling of the court on the charges preferred against them.
The duo of Messrs Bankole and Nafada are being prosecuted by the EFCC for criminal breach of trust, misappropriation and theft.
The witnesses presented before the court include Franklyn Onyesagbe; a civil servant and a principal administrative officer with the Federal Ministry of Finance; he testified that in June 201, his office received a letter from EFCC requesting for the procedures for lending monies by government agencies which he said his office promptly responded to. The response to the letter which was signed by the Director General, Budget office was admitted in evidence and marked A42.
Others that testified include Salisu Abubakar Maikasuwa; clerk of the National Assembly and Rasheed Abdullahi, a Deputy Superintendent of Police on secondment to the EFCC. The clerk of the National Assembly, during cross examination, also confirmed that the House of Representative took the said loan from U.B.A and First Bank respectively.
Maikasuwa disclosed that the National Assembly operates three accounts: Senate account, House of reps account and the Management account. He however confirmed that while the speaker is the approving officer for the House of Reps accounts, no proceedings can take place if the Clerk does not append his signature. The defence, led by Wale Akanni, counsel to the 1st accused person, requested for the court proceedings to enable them prepare for their defence .The judge, however, asked him to apply to the Registrar.
It would be recalled that EFCC, on Thursday, November 24th, 2011, tendered 16 exhibits against the two accused persons. At a previous proceeding of the court, five prosecution witnesses were led in evidence by the prosecution counsel, Festus Keyamo. All the five witnesses gave evidence and tendered documents which the trial judge, Justice Sulaiman Belgore admitted as exhibits and marked Exhibits A25 to A41.
The five witnesses that testified and presented documents, which were admitted in evidence were: Abdullahi Nma, Branch Manager, United Bank of Africa, UBA; Alex Adeyemi, a deputy director in the office of the Accountant General of the Federation; Mr. Jide Adeniyi Adeyemo, a director in the Office of the Accountant General of the Federation. Others are Lasisi Bukoye, director, Finance and Administration, House of Representatives and Safiya Musa, the Relationship manager, First Bank of Nigeria.
Documents which had been tendered by the witnesses and admitted in evidence were; offer letters for the loan from UBA, correspondences between EFCC and the office of the Accountant General of the Federation, bundles of documents from the director of Finance and Administration and the leadership of the House. Others are letters from the House of Representatives to First Bank plc requesting for loan and a certified copy of statement of accounts from First Bank plc. Except for Nma and Adeyemi, all the prosecution witnesses were cross examined by the defence counsels: Wole Akanni and Mathew Bukar who stood for the first and second accused persons respectively.
The court had summoned Mr Maikasuwa and his House of Representatives counterpart, Mohammed Ataba Sani-Omolori to appear before it on Wednesday November 23rd, 2011 over the on-going trial. The court had issued the order following complaints by the prosecution counsel, Festus Keyamo that the NASS officials were under pressure from some powerful interests not to fulfill their initial commitment to stand as witnesses in the case.
Speaking from the bar, Mr Keyamo had said “my lord, I want to put it on record that those who were supposed to come as witnesses are developing cold feet. Specifically, the Clerk of the House who was one of the witnesses you signed their witness summon this morning, from available information they are being pressurized not to give evidence in this court”.
The court order entitled “summons to witness” was issued by Justice Belgore to compel the listed witnesses to appear before the court tomorrow. The judge said the summon was issued based on the complaint by prosecution that the witnesses will not voluntarily appear, stressing that “it appears to me that by the proof of evidence that you are likely to give material evidence therein on behalf of the complainant and will not voluntarily appear for that purpose.”
The duo of Bankole and Nafada were arraigned on Monday, June 13th, 2011, on a 17 count charge of criminal breach of trust, misappropriation and theft.
Count one of the charges against Bankole and Nafada reads, “That you Dimeji Sabur Bankole and Usman Bayero Nafada, being Principal Officers of the House of Representatives of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, on or about the 12th day of May, 2010, in Abuja, within the jurisdiction of the High Court of the Federal Capital Territory, did agree amongst yourselves to commit a felony, to wit: criminal breach of trust by agreeing to approve the allowances and/or “running costs” of Members of the 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 and 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.
Count two reads: “That you Dimeji Sabur Bankole and Usman Bayero Nafada, being Principal Officers of the House of Representatives of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, sometime around January 2011, in Abuja, within the jurisdiction of the High Court of the Federal Capital Territory, being entrusted with House of Representatives’ Account No. 00390070000018 with the United Bank of Africa, Plc, property of the Federal Government of Nigeria, dishonestly used that account to obtain a loan of Ten Billion, Three Hundred and Eighty Million Naira (N10,380,000,000.00) from the United Bank of Africa, Plc, to augment allowances and “running costs” of members of the House of Representatives in violation of the extant Revised Financial Regulations of the Federal Government of Nigeria, 2009 and thereby committed an offence contrary to Section 311 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.”