N9billion contract scam: Bankole loses bid to quash charges

Dimeji Bankole with EFCC operatives

The Federal High Court in Abuja yesterday dismissed two applications that sought to quash criminal charges against former Speaker of the House of Representatives, Dimeji Bankole.

Trial judge, Justice Donatus Okorowo, said that the grounds of objection failed and that the prosecution counsel, Festus Keyamo, had a valid fiat to prosecute the case.

He said that section 174 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 as amended and the Public Procurement Act was explicit and illustrative of the Attorney General of Federation’s powers to delegate his power to private legal practitioner and the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission.

Justice Okorowo further ruled that Mr. Bankole’s objection that the AGF, Mohammed Adoke, was not in office on 7 June 2011 [the federal executive council having been dissolved] when the charges were filed, appeared misconceived because the office of the AGF is a legal entity. . “The office of the Attorney General is a legal creation, and can perform even if a substantive AG is not appointed.”

The judge also said that the former Speaker’s objection that Mr. Keyamo had shown bias and as such should be disqualified, has no merit. He said that a prosecution must have element of bias to be able to prosecute cases but added that the bias of the prosecution has nothing to do with the court which must make judicious decision.

Mr. Bankole, who was arraigned on Wednesday, June 8, 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 had though his previous antecedents, shown that he was biased and impartial towards the accused person.

But the court said that the charges have established a prima facie case against the former speaker and that he needed to explain his roles before the court in the light of the provisions of the Public Procurement Act, which makes the alleged offences 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 with the offences he is alleged to have committed.

He said that the case could not  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.

The substantive case has been adjourned till February 7 and 8, 2012 for trial.

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