Bankole/Nafada House fraud case: Witnesses facing threat, says prosecution

Dimeji Bankole: Threts to witnesses, prosecution alleged.

It is emerging that certain group of people, especially from the nation’s political elites are pressurizing witnesses not to testify  in the on-going trial of former House of Representative Speaker, Dimeji Bankole and his deputy, Usman Nafada in attempts to stalk the trial and make the outcome ineffective.

The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, on resumption of the case on Thursday, November 24th , 2011, had  tendered 16 exhibits against the former Speaker of the House of Representatives, Dimeji Bankole and his deputy, Usman Nafada before a High Court of the Federal Capital Territory, sitting in Abuja .

The duo of Bankole and Nafada were arraigned on Monday, June 13th 2011, on a 17 count charge of criminal breach of trust, misappropriation, fraud  and theft.

Speaking from the bar as the case progressed on Thursday, Keyamo  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”.

Dimeji Bankole and Usman Nafada

The protest however prompted the  court to issue an  order entitled “summons to witness”, signed  by Justice Belgore to compel the listed witnesses to appear before the court. The judge said the summon was issued based on the complaint by prosecution that the witnesses will not voluntarily appear.

He stressed 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.”.

At the resumed hearing of the case, 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 powerful  witnesses that testified and presented documents, which were admitted in evidence were: Abdullahi Nma, Branch Manager, United Bank of Africa, UBA; Mr. 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 Mr. Lasisi Bukoye, director, Finance and Administration, House of Representatives and Ms. Safiya Musa, the Relationship Manager, First Bank of Nigeria .

This brings to nine, the number of prosecution witnesses that have testified in the case within the last four days.

Documents which were 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.

Code of Conduct Bureau

The court had on Tuesday summoned the clerk of the National Assembly, Alhaji Abubakar Salisu Maikasuwa and his House of Representatives counterpart, Mr. Mohammed Ataba Sani-Omolori to appear before it on Wednesday November 23rd, 2011 over the on-going trial.

The court had issued the order to the two top management officers as well as the Director of Finance of the National Assembly, Mr. Bukoye Lasisi 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..

At the resumed hearing of the matter on Tuesday, a deputy director in the office of the Revenue Mobilization Allocation and Fiscal Commission, Samuel Naziga, revealed the package amounts  approved for the speaker and others members of the House.

He also said that his organization did not know anything regarding any running cost for the lawmakers.

Documents brought by another witness, Ibrahim Ahmed were twice objected from being tendered by the defence counsels, Tayo Oyetibo SAN and Akanni but were however admitted in evidence by the trial judge, Justice Belgore.

The defence had objected to the admissibility of nine bundles of documents which comprise requests seeking information from several government agencies and organizations as well as their responses.

The matter has been adjourned to Tuesday November, 29, 2011 for continuation of hearing .